In 1946, residents of Brooklyn Village who were Catholic worshiped at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood. Because of rapid population growth during the post-World War II years, Cleveland Bishop Edward Hoban established a new parish, St. Thomas More, on March 8, 1946.
The first Mass was celebrated a month later, on April 7, 1946, in the Memphis Theater. A multipurpose building constructed soon after served as the first church, school and social hall. St. Thomas More School opened on Sept. 12, 1949, with 352 students and six Sisters of the Incarnate Word. In 1954, a rectory was built and in 1961, a convent.
Ground was broken on May 23, 1965 for a new, larger church and the first Mass was celebrated in the new church on June 11, 1967. Its round shape emphasized the unity of the parish, according to a parish history.
St. Thomas More is marking its 75th anniversary this year. A visit from Bishop Edward Malesic on July 24 was part of the parish celebration. Father Michael Feldtz, pastor, and Father Georges Haddad, pastor of nearby St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church, concelebrated with Deacon Don Brandt assisting.
The bishop thanked all who work and volunteer at the parish. “I appreciate that you are building up the body of Christ here in Brooklyn,” he said. “A parish is a family of faith, and you have been that family of faith since you first gathered as a parish in the Memphis Theater. But a parish is not meant just to serve its own needs. That would be rather selfish,” he added.
“You have worshipped God not just for yourselves, but also praying for the needs of many people. You have proclaimed the Gospel for all to hear – the Gospel that saves. And you have served those who need what you can give – especially the poor, the lonely and the outcasts. A parish is a place of worship, evangelization and service for its parishioners and for many others. Thank you for doing that for 75 years,” Bishop Malesic said.
He told parishioners that people formed the parish then handed it on to be taken care of. “And we must hand it on to others, so we make the most of what we have been given, continue to build each other up and make this the best parish we can make of it for the future.”
While parishioners might refer to it as their parish, the bishop reminded them that “it is God’s parish on loan to us for the time we have it.” He encouraged them not to waste the gift of the parish and to let others know they are welcome.
He also mentioned that Pope Francis established the first World Day of Grandparents and the elderly this year on July 25. Being grandparents is a vocation, the bishop said, noting how important it is for grandparents to hand on the faith. “There is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren,” the pope said.
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel, which told the story of the loaves and fish and how Jesus miraculously fed a large crowd with that small amount of food – yet still had 12 baskets of leftovers – Bishop Malesic said we each have something to give, no matter how small it might seem, just as the boy who shared his food.
“Did the people who founded this parish know that you would be here today to reap the benefits of their gift? They gave what they have in trust. And God has blessed their gift and multiplied it for us to enjoy today,” the bishop said. “You give, not just for yourselves as individuals, but for the crowd who come here and those who will come here long after you are gone. That is like the boy giving up what he had for the sake of everyone else,” he said, adding, “but only with the help of Jesus could he do that.”
He said our faith can be used in many ways to help others, by a gesture like smiling at a stranger, giving money to the poor, spending time volunteering, working as a hospice volunteer or even just saying a prayer before eating in a restaurant, which could help someone wonder what our faith is all about.
This is what it means to give everything over to God, the bishop said, like the boy who gave his bread and fish. “We each have something to give, no matter how small it might seem at the time,” he said. “God never squanders what we give to him. May we never squander what God gives to us.”
At Mass, Bishop Malesic said we bring what we have to Jesus – some bread, some wine, our faith and our prayers and we ask him to do something with it – and he will.
“He will take that bread and make it his body. He will take that wine and make it his blood. And that bread and wine represents us. We ask the Lord to transform us, too. And we, the hungry crowd, hungry for God, will be fed for another week of worship, evangelization and service for God has done great things for us so we can go back and give to others what we have received in here from God himself.”
After Mass, the bishop, Father Feldtz and Father Haddad spent time talking to parishioners and posing for photos.
Father Feldtz said the parish is in the midst of an anniversary renewal fund to help with projects around the parish, including infrastructure and other improvements to help St. Thomas More better meet the needs of students and parishioners in the future.
The parish will have an anniversary celebration after the 11 a.m. Mass on Aug. 1 on the parish grounds with food, games and entertainment and an anniversary raffle.