As he makes his way throughout the diocese visiting parishes, Bishop Nelson Perez reminds the faithful that perseverance allows parishes like St. Peter’s in North Ridgeville to thrive and continue to pray the “perfect prayer,” the Eucharist.
In 1838, the first Catholic families began settling in North Ridgeville. As time passed, many people of German heritage began moving into the area.
But just as Mary and Joseph couldn’t find a place to stay on their trip into Bethlehem, these families struggled to find a place to attend Mass. Without a church nearby, they were forced to travel in order to attend Mass.
After years of perseverance, they raised enough money to buy a piece of land and build a church. On Christmas Day 1875, the first Mass was celebrated in what is now St. Peter’s Church.
Peter Meyer donated the most money for the church, so the parish was named in honor of St. Peter. A year after the church’s dedication, a parish school opened. Today, St. Peter School has more than 200 students enrolled in grades K-8.
The parish continued to grow, but in 1914, a fire destroyed the church. Within a decade, the current church was built. It was dedicated on May 27, 1923.
The bishop made his first visit to St. Peter’s on Sept. 9. He celebrated the noon Mass with Father Bob Franco, St. Peter’s pastor; Father Andy Hoover, the parochial vicar; and Father Angelo Zonta, CSJ as concelebrants.
Just before Mass, Bishop Perez greeted the deacon, who recently was released from the hospital. The bishop stopped to visit him while he was ill and the parishioners applauded to welcome him back.
In his homily, Bishop Perez talked about signs, explaining that they always point to something else. For example, he addressed a married couple and noted their rings, which are a sign of marriage. He also described his episcopal or bishop’s ring, which includes a symbol of Christ. The bishop said his ring is a sign of his conjugal marriage to the Church and Christ.
He cited another kind of sign: a stop sign. We immediately recognize this red and white sign and know that it means we should stop, Bishop Perez said. He further explained that the miracles Jesus performed were also signs — signs that point to the kingdom of God.
In the Gospel, the bishop said there were a few things that should be noted. First, Jesus healed a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. He explained that because you cannot hear, you really can’t “see” what the Lord is trying to tell us. Also, prior to healing the man, Jesus took him away from the crowd and away from the noise.
“Why is that a sign?” he asked. The answer is simple: because we do the same in prayer. We step away from all of the noise so that we can hear and listen to what Jesus has to say, the bishop explained.
He also talked about the hardships facing the Catholic Church today and asked the congregation, “Where are you grounded? In which aspect of the church are you grounded?”
There are two parts to the Church, he said. One is the institutional aspect that comes and goes. That part is comprised of human beings who are sinners and hypocrites. And just like the founders of St. Peter Parish are no longer here, one day we, too, will be gone. But there is one aspect of the Church that is constant: the Eucharist, which is the mystical body of Christ. Bishop Perez reminded everyone that during these difficult times, we need to step away from the “noise” – just as Jesus took the deaf man aside – so that we can pray and talk to God.
After Mass, the bishop greeted parishioners and posed for photos. He even gave one parishioner a special blessing.