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St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor

News of the Diocese

August 17, 2022

St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor
St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor
St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor
St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor
St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor
St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor
St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor
St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor
St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor
St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor
St. Vitus Parish celebrates official installation of new pastor

In its 129-year history, St. Vitus Parish in Cleveland has had only seven pastors.

Father John Retar, the seventh, was installed by Bishop Edward Malesic during a Mass on Aug. 13. Five other priests with connection to the parish concelebrated: Father Joseph Boznar, the previous pastor who retired last summer, Father Loy Nacorda, Father Greg Neuzil, Father Johnathan Zingales and Father Retar.

As the oldest American Slovenian Parish in the diocese and the state, St. Vitus parishioners treasure their heritage and work to ensure it is passed on to future generations. That heritage was front and center during the pastor installation liturgy as many attendees wore native Slovenian garb. Parts of the Mass, including songs and prayers, were sung or recited in Slovenian. An estimated 500 faithful attended the celebration.

(See photo gallery above.)

The entrance procession began across the street from the church at the new parish hall. Servers led other participants and the clergy across the street and into the church. Tony Leksan directed the servers. Many people representing the parish and dressed in colorful Slovenian costumes also participated in the procession, followed by ushers, parish staff and members of the pastoral and finance councils. The clergy, followed by Bishop Malesic and his emcee, entered the church last.

Father Retar’s mother Laura and his brother and sister-in-law Jeffrey and Kimberlee Retar, also attended the liturgy.

Brad Morsch spoke on behalf of parishioners, friends and parish benefactors of the parish. He said they are willing to support the new pastor’s ministry as he listens and works with all in peace and goodwill to further the mission and work of St. Vitus Parish as a Catholic presence in the immediate neighborhood and the broader American Slovenian community in Northeast Ohio. He presented Bishop Malesic with a book of religious sites and centers in Slovenia.

Bishop Malesic, who himself is of partial Slovenian heritage, spoke at the end of the Mass point out the unique religious artwork and appearance of St. Vitus Church. Paul Kosir Sr. and many volunteers worked to restore the interior of the church during the parish’s centennial year in 1993.

Father Retar offered some brief remarks at the end of Mass, expressing his thanks for the opportunity to serve as the parish’s seventh pastor. He presented Bishop Malesic with a check for $15,000, the first of three such donations to the Heart of a Shepherd diocesanwide campaign. Two more donations will be made in 2023 and 2024. The campaign helped finance needed renovations at Borromeo and Saint Mary seminaries in Wickliffe as well as helping seminarians with their educational debt and bolstering the priests’ retirement fund. Parishes also received a percentage of the funds they raised to help them address their own needs. St. Vitus is using its HOS funds for repair work on and around the parish campus. Some of the paint and plasterwork already was completed.

More than 300 people then processed from the church to the new parish hall for a reception and photos with the bishop.

Joe Tavcar and his crew for prepared the food. Those preparing the hall and serving included Marge Kuhar, Maria Lees, Mike and Maggie Milakovich, Matt and Michelle Plecnik, Sherri Stidham, Betty Svekric, Andrew and Brandon Uzl, JJ Zaklej, and Ann Zitko.

Others who assisted with the event included Mark Celestina, John Cugel and Millie Gonzalez.

Father Retar was ordained to the priesthood on May 17, 2003 by Bishop Anthony Pilla. His previous assignments included serving as parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish, Berea and St. John Vianney, Mentor. He also served as pastor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Lorain and was administrator of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Elyria Township.

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