It was fitting that Archbishop-designate Nelson Perez celebrated his last school Mass in the Diocese of Cleveland on Jan. 31, the feast of St. John Bosco, at St. Mary School and Parish in Elyria. Known for working with underprivileged youth, St. John Bosco’s philosophy continues to inspire Catholic schools by focusing on combining the teachings of the faith with work life, studying and free time.
The Mass coincided with the conclusion of Catholic Schools Week 2020.
Making the event even more special was the fact that concelebrants Father Charlie Diedrick, St. Mary Parish’s pastor, and Father Tom Hagedorn, a retired diocesan priest and pastor, both were baptized and attended school at St. Mary’s. Father Diedrick told the congregation that his great-grandparents were baptized in 1867 in the original St. Mary Church.
As is his custom, Archbishop-designate Perez asked the students what they liked most about attending St. Mary’s School. Answers ranged from the teachers, the staff, their friends and participating in sports to singing Mass songs and going to church.
The archbishop-designate reminded those gathered that going to church and the ability to learn about God and our faith distinguish Catholic schools from other schools. He continued by saying that all schools nurture the mind by teaching math, English, science and a host of other subjects; however, a Catholic school nurtures the heart by allowing God to be present. A nurturing heart is what allows us to think of others and put others first which is so important in today’s society, he said.
Before they leave school for the day, Archbishop-designate Perez asked everyone to read and reflect on what is written in Philippians 4: 4-9, which begins: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again, rejoice!” The archbishop-designate said the reading has such meaning and value to him that he it is inscribed on the crosier he uses for confirmations.
After Mass, the congregation went to the school gym for the blessing of the Guardian Angel Bell, which had been a part of the church and the school since its inception. When it needed repair, the bell was put into storage.
The Minnich family, who were farmers in the area, asked the parish if they could have the bell to use for calling their farmhands. Since then, it was in the family and was handed down through the generations, finally winding up with a relative in Catawba.
When the family called the parish to see if they wanted the bell returned, they said “yes.”
Kevin O’ Connor, head of maintenance for St. Mary’s, went to Catawba to pick up the bell which he then restored. He built a wooden platform for the bell that also serves as a time capsule. People and organizations have placed items in the time capsule/platform that is to be opened in 100 years. O’Connor registered the time capsule with the International Time Capsule Society as he has done with others he’s put together.
This will be O’Connor’s last time capsule since he is scheduled to retire on Feb. 28.