In 1922, the first issue of Reader’s Digest was published. The United States commissioned its first aircraft carrier. The USSR was formed and the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated.
Closer to home, St. Vincent de Paul Parish was established in the city of West Park, which later was annexed to Cleveland. The new parish was under the care of Father Michael Flanigan.
The parish began the celebration of its 100th anniversary on Sept. 26 by welcoming Bishop Edward Malesic, who celebrated Mass. Concelebrants included the current pastor, Father John Pfeifer and former pastors Father Ken Wallace and Father John Manning, as well as senior parochial vicar Father Clyde Foster and former parochial vicars Father Don Dunson and Father John Schneider. The bishop wore a special vestment featuring St. Vincent de Paul’s image that was made for the centennial. Father Pfeifer and Father Foster wore stoles with the same image.
Speaking about the parish’s early years in his homily, Bishop Malesic said it had small beginnings and several significant growth spurts over the years. “The school was opened and thrived with the presence of the Sisters of St. Joseph. As this parish matured over time, things changed, but you have not lost sight of the parish’s mission,” the bishop told parishioners.
“It is still a place to worship God, especially in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. It is a place to serve the Lord, especially in taking care of your neighbors. St. Vincent de Paul, as your patron saint, would have nothing less. And this parish is a place of formation in the faith and a center where the good news is proclaimed. The very building is a testament to the Catholic faith of its founders and its current parishioners,” he added.
The bishop encouraged parishioners to ensure that they “Take what you receive in here and give it out there. The faith that is proclaimed and received in this church must not be confined by the walls of this building. No. Go out into the world and proclaim that Jesus is Lord, risen from the dead, the medicine for what ails our society, he is peace for troubled hearts and he will return to judge us according to our deeds. When he returns, may he find great faith in all of us,” Bishop Malesic said.
He noted that Sept. 26 was Priesthood Sunday as he welcomed back two former pastors and parochial vicars. “Let’s honor their vocations,” the bishop said. “All of us stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. But it is not only the former pastors and priests and others who ministered here who gave us much. We also remember and thank the people who initially came together to form this parish and build this church. They have all left us a great gift. Like every gift, this parish is meant to be used well and always appreciated. Thank God for the people of this parish who were inspired to build up this parish of faith. And I thank God for all of you who continue to do the same.”
In addition to celebrating the milestone parish anniversary, Bishop Malesic the liturgy was an opportunity to hear God’s word.
He shared an anecdote about a man who went into a pet store and heard a strange rustling noise. As he walked toward the sound, he discovered two white doves fighting. The sign over the cage indicated they were the “Sacred Doves of Peace,” the bishop said, drawing laughter from the congregation.
“Sometimes Christians go at it. The church parking lot after Mass in many places is often an occasion of sin,” he quipped.
“Some say that we tried the Gospel and it didn’t work; others say we never really tried the Gospel. The Gospel calls us to love one another as we have been loved by God. We must even love those who aren’t part of our group and learn to see how God can work his good even through them,” he added.
The bishop said we’ve probably heard that another church/parish does something better than we do in our parish. Perhaps it’s hospitality or a better preacher. “This kind of jealous competition of course is also true when we compare ourselves to churches outside the Catholic Church.”
But this is an envy that can begin to eat away at us, he warned. “Don’t be so upset when God does good things with other people. That’s the lesson from today’s readings,” he said.
In the Gospel, John told Jesus they saw someone driving out demons in his name and they tried to stop him because he wasn’t a follower. Jesus told him not to prevent him, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” He also told them that anyone who is kind to them, even if not part of their group, will receive God’s reward.
“Now I will never deny the fullness of faith and truth that I have come to know in the Catholic Church. But God does not always draw within the lines,” the bishop said.
“Let us not be jealous when we find the spirit of God working great good in unexpected places. We can celebrate what God does everywhere and ultimately use that good to draw all people, including ourselves, closer to the heart of Jesus himself,” he added.
The bishop mentioned the death earlier in the week of Bishop emeritus Anthony Pilla, noting that he was known for his work among people of other faiths and Christian denominations. “He was not afraid to find evidence of the Spirit working among all people of good will. He used what he found in them to build bridges of peace and justice in our community. That was something he believed he was being asked to do by God. Perhaps we can all learn from his example as we heed the call of Jesus to be as one, as he is with the Father.”
Bishop Malesic also said that as we walk together, sometimes we have to give up what we want in order to give people what they need, explaining that’s what St. Vincent de Paul did. He encouraged parishioners to be more like their patron saint, pointing out he “loved his neighbor because he loved his God. In fact, let’s use some of that spirit that has been given to all of us and be with and for Jesus in all things at all times.”
Father Pfeifer thanked the parishioners for their contributions, noting, “It would be a boring place without the people. We did that for a few months,” he said, referring to celebrating livestreamed/recorded Masses in an empty church as the pandemic spread.
The actual 100th anniversary of the parish will be on Easter Sunday 2022. As the anniversary celebration begins, Father Pfeifer asked parishioners to make a “100 Challenge” – to give or do “100 of something” that is a personal choice. It could be saying 100 rosaries, donating $100 to a cause, or something else as a way of thanking God for the ways he has blessed the parish during the past century.
After Mass, the congregation was invited to pose on the front steps of the church to recreate a photo taken when the church building was dedicated. A brunch followed in the church hall.