Bishop Edward Malesic is quick to say that celebrating Mass is the best part of his priestly ministry. And one of the most joyous activities of being the shepherd of the Diocese of Cleveland is celebrating Mass for special occasions, he adds.
That was the case on May 1, when he traveled to Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in South Euclid to celebrate 100 years of a Catholic Parish in South Euclid. The celebration coincided with the 100th anniversary of St. Gregory the Great Parish, which was established in 1922. During the diocesan reconfiguration in 2010, it merged with St. Margaret Mary Parish at the St. Gregory worship site to form Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish. Seven parishes grew from St. Gregory the Great, including St. Margaret Mary which was founded in 1948.
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The centennial celebration also included six young people from the parish making their first holy Communion. Music for the liturgy was provided by students from The Lyceum, a school housed in the former parish convent. It offers a classical Catholic education for students in grades 7-12.
While welcoming the bishop, Father Dave Ireland, pastor, said Sacred Heart Parish continues to celebrate the legacy of each parish.
“We gather together today to celebrate the legacy of this special place through the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the hard work and dedication of so many people over the years,” Bishop Malesic said. “Despite the challenges that come to every group of people, this parish remains today as a beacon of holiness and hope here on Green Road in South Euclid.”
St. Gregory the Great was established on April 17, 1922 by Bishop Joseph Schrembs. That was two years after the influenza pandemic subsided, the bishop noted. “And my dad was 4 years old,” he added.
In its early years, St. Gregory the Great served the growing number of Catholics who worked in the Bluestone Quarries and settled in South Euclid. Parishioners attended Mass in the former South Euclid Village Hall until a church was built and dedicated in 1924. The next year, the parish school opened.
The parish grew rapidly and in April 1960, ground was broken for a larger church building, which was dedicated two years later and still serves the parish.
“Think of all the parishioners whose time, talent and treasure went into this parish community over the decades,” Bishop Malesic said.
During the diocesan reconfiguration in 2009-2010, St. Gregory the Great and St. Margaret Mary merged to form a new parish community, Sacred Heart of Jesus. “What a parish legacy of worship, teaching and service over the past century. Your faith, patience and hope meant so much,” the bishop said, noting it takes many people working together to make a parish a vibrant place with a sharp focus on bringing people closer to God.
Bishop Malesic was pleased to learn that the parish has fostered several vocations to the priesthood and religious life, including two sisters who are religious sisters: Sister Praxedes and Sister Carole, both of whom attended the Mass and reception. They even posed for photos with the bishop.
Priests and deacons who are sons of the parish or served at the parish also were invited to participate in the celebration.
In his homily, the bishop talked about how the parish has proclaimed its love of Jesus for a century. The Gospel tells the story of Jesus feeding his disciples with bread and fish at the seashore 2,000 years ago. Today, he does the same thing, the bishop said, “Feeding us with his resurrected body and blood, soul and divinity with the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation. In return, we show our love of the Lord with our lives, but sometimes it helps to say it directly to him,” he added.
The bishop used the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” to illustrate the expression of love. Tevye and Golda had been in an arranged marriage for 25 years, but had never expressed their love for each other and he was wondering if Golda actually did love him.
Through a song, they finally express their unspoken love and admit it doesn’t change anything, “But after 25 years, it’s nice to know.”
As Jesus said he would, Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed prior to the Crucifixion. After the Resurrection, while at the seashore, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, counteracting his three-fold denial of Jesus. Peter answers affirmatively, saying he loves Jesus and Jesus knows that.
“It always amazes me that Jesus rose from the dead and didn’t desert those who deserted him,” the bishop said.
“Then Jesus Peter the commission. ‘Because you love me, I have something I want you to do for me, Peter. Go and feed my sheep.’ Peter, the first pope, would spend the rest of his life fishing for souls of men and women and feeding them with word and sacrament because he loved Jesus,” the bishop said. Eventually, Peter was martyred for his beliefs. He was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die the same way as Jesus did.
Jesus asks all of us if we love him and he reminds us that despite our sins, he always comes back to us. The bishop asked if we return his love, give our lives to him and put our faith in him. “And once in a while, in the recesses of our hearts, do we tell him, ‘Yes, Lord, I love you.’”
Jesus has a plan for each of us and we must be willing to embrace that call, which could be religious life, single life or married life. “He asks all of us to do the work of an evangelist in the life that he asks us to live for him. He blesses us with so much that we can be a blessing to others,” he explained.
“This parish has existed as a family of faith in love with the Lord. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,” the bishop said, adding if we do that, we will not lose our way.
After Mass, the congregation moved downstairs to Knights Hall for a reception that featured memorabilia and information about the parish history.