“They are really looking forward to this gathering,” said Father John Manning, delegate for senior priests. The event was one of two summertime lunches planned for senior priests in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.
“We’re calling this one a Polish picnic,” Father Manning quipped.
About 30 priests gathered on July 8 at Keller Center at St. Adalbert Parish in Berea for the first informal get-together – in air-conditioned comfort. A second event is planned for later this month in Akron. Father Manning said some of the priests enjoy the events so much that they attend both.
Senior priests are age 70 or older. Some are retired, while others remain in active ministry.
To glance around the room, it would be difficult to tell that it was a gathering of priests. They were dressed casually and chatted collegially, talking about their hobbies, trips, physical ailments and other topics. It was a chance to catch up with old friends and to visit with some fellow priests whom they don’t often see. For a few priests who travelled by van from Regina Health Center in Richfield, it also was a chance for a short excursion away from the center on a beautiful summer day.
As they arrived, some priests went into the hall and selected a table while others stayed outside, enjoying the weather and chatting with brother priests as they arrived.
Serving as the greeter was Father Gerald Keller, pastor emeritus of St. Adalbert, after whom the Keller Center is named. He stood inside the hall near a red eagle with the Polish word “witamy” painted on it. One priest asked what it meant.
“Welcome,” replied Father Keller.
As the group filed into the hall, they took their seats and Father Keller offered a brief prayer before the meal and a thank-you to those who prepared and served it.
Then it was up to the buffet line to enjoy a home-cooked ethnic feast of potato and cheese pierogi with onions and sour cream, sausage and sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage, bread and butter and watermelon cubes prepared and served by a group of women from St. Adalbert.
Father Chuck Butkowski, who is nearing the first anniversary of his appointment as St. Adalbert’s pastor, joined the group for lunch.
The dessert table was lined with more homemade goodies, including pies, cake, brownies, donuts and more.
After lunch, the priests continued their conversation, some moving from table to table to catch up with old friends.
As they prepared to leave, Father Manning reminded them to sign up for the second lunch, if they planned to attend. And their hosts offered them to-go boxes full of extra goodies.
“What a great time and a delicious meal,” one priest commented.