Since its establishment on Oct. 15, 1946, Holy Family Parish in Stow has experienced tremendous growth. As the parish marks its 75th anniversary, Bishop Edward Malesic took time to celebrate Mass and visit with parishioners.
He expressed gratitude for the opportunity to celebrate Mass on Nov. 28 with Father Paul Rosing, pastor; Father Andrew Gonzalez and Father Michael Denk, parochial vicars; and Father Dennis Kristancic, a retired priest of the diocese. Deacon John Green assisted.
“Here Jesus gives himself to us completely in his body and blood, soul and divinity. Here we give ourselves to him, as best as we can – as much as we can,” the bishop said. “Jesus thirsts for our faith in response to his love Let’s lift our hearts to Christ.”
He told the congregation to think about all who have gone before them, those who built the church, school and family of faith at Holy Family. Much of what they have was a gift from others, he said, reminding them they also should leave it as a gift for future generations.
“More important than our building is the faith. Buildings will come and go, but it is our faith that is the pearl of great price,” the bishop said. He told them to never be shy about their relationship with Jesus Christ. “It is a personal faith, to be sure. I hope we have all come to know the person of Jesus, his love and his forgiveness. But our faith in him must never be a private faith; we must share it,” he said, adding they should not let the walls of the church building keep the message of salvation in Jesus from the rest of the world.
“The faith of this parish is what is of supreme importance,” he said. “Your faith is a blessing to me and to this community. It is the faith of the first members of the parish 75 years ago that allowed them to gather around a simple, raised table in the Stow Workman High School cafeteria for the first holy Mass offered by Father Howard Sammon. It is the same unchanging faith that we hold today s we gather around a consecrated altar in this much large space. It is our faith that allows us to hear the words of Jesus, ‘Come follow me.’ And we have followed him here because he says, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.’ Ours is also a Eucharistic faith – a faith that calls us to believe that bread becomes the resurrected and glorified body of Jesus Christ and the wine becomes his blood.”
The bishop continued, noting that Jesus tells us, “’Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day.’ That is what keeps me coming back – the hope of eternal life – a life that is richer and fuller, happier and more peaceful than the life most of us experience every day as we make our journey to God.”
At the end of the day, he said the parish exists to save souls and to point us and others in the direction of heaven.
“Continue to be the best that your parish can be: a beacon of light in a dark world, a place of refuge for sinners, a ship that is sailing to the shores of salvation, and a place where the wounds of human life are given over to the healing touch of the Divine Physician,” Bishop Malesic said.
Reflecting on the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, he said Jesus was trying to be honest with his followers about the future, preparing them because the world as we know it will someday come to an end.
“After all this doom and gloom, however, Jesus tells us that God will win. He gives us hope. Perhaps that is why we read about the end of the world at the beginning of our Church year. Despite his dire predictions, Jesus is giving us hope for a brighter future,” the bishop said.
He told the congregation that Jesus always will be near us in our suffering and if we follow him, he will lead us forward, moving from the cross to the Resurrection. “Even in the midst of this long-term pandemic, we have every hope that we will overcome. The Lord asks us to have faith in him and to use the brains and science that God gave us in order to move forward. And we will. We have hope. We are Christians, after all.”
The bishop recalled times when Holy Family Parish struggled after serious flooding in 2003 and 2013. “No one was harmed, but the buildings were damaged. Did the parish give up? Of course not. You simply rolled up your sleeves and did what needed to be done, hoping with the eyes of faith that all could be restored. And it was – even better than before. This is how God sees our lives too, that we can be restored, even if we are sometimes damaged by the harshness of life. Even if we are hurt to the extreme, God can heal us.”
Bishop Malesic said we have to make a choice. We can either focus on the gloom that may come our way and become downcast, walking darkness, or focus on the glory of Christ, revealed to us at the first Christmas, and have the hope that he will come again to us on clouds of glory.
“God always fulfills his promises. Just wait and see,” he added.
“I ask you to be people of light in the darkness. If you do that, Holy Family Parish will continue to be a blessing to this community, to our diocese and to me.”
Click here to read a history of Holy Family Parish.