In 1872, Parma – then known as Parma Township – was a bucolic community with less than 250 families living in its 36 square miles.
Eleven of those families yearned for a parish of their own with a church and a school. Times were tough and money was tight as the nation recovered from the Civil War. Priests were scarce and often ministered as missionaries across the 36 counties in Northern Ohio that comprised the Diocese of Cleveland at that time.
But they persevered and chose the name Holy Family for their fledgling parish. Since its establishment, Holy Family Parish has built four churches – each larger than its predecessor – three school buildings, a rectory, a convent, a community center, a chapel and a small cemetery. The current church was renovated recently in time for the anniversary celebration.
Bishop Edward Malesic was welcomed by the pastor, Father Richard Evans, and the parish community when he celebrated the anniversary Mass on Oct. 18.
He told the parishioners one of his greatest joys is to get out and visit the people of the parishes on special occasions such as this one.
“A parish is its people. And a parish must be people of faith. That is what we are: people who believe that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. We worship him. We serve him. We proclaim him,” the bishop said.
He pointed out their parish has been a center of worship, service and evangelization for 150 years, just 25 years shy of the 1847 establishment of the diocese.
“With such a long and rich parish history, no doubt there certainly were years with challenges and difficulties,” he told the congregation. “That’s true for every family. So it’s truly important that we gather together today to celebrate the legacy of this special place, the grit of its founders and the faith of those parishioners upon whose shoulders you continue to be a beacon of hope and charity in this community here on the corner of York and Pleasant Valley roads in Parma.”
Calling to mind the priests, religious sisters, parishioners, staff and volunteers who helped the parish grow, the bishop said the parish history is filled with examples of service to God and others.
“Word does get back to me on the wonderful job you’ve been doing shepherding the parish with hard work and dedication, love, kindness and devotion to the people you serve,” the bishop told Father Evans.
He pointed out that parishes don’t run themselves. “It takes many talented people – clergy, religious and most importantly, lay people – all working together to make the parish a vibrant place with a sharp focus on bringing people closer to Christ.”
Referring to the day’s readings, the bishop noted they focus on “praying to God for something that we need, urging us to pray unceasingly – persistently – with hope.” The Scriptures remind us that sometimes we need help from others, even people to pray with and for us.
“Pray for each other. Sometimes life gets difficult and it is hard for us to pray for what we need. We need others to pray for us,” he said. “We can’t always face the battles of life alone. In a parish, we support each other, we sometimes do battle for each other. We give each other hope that God will give us what we need – not always what we want – but always what we need.” The bishop said prayer has a way of expanding our hearts, pointing out the more we pray, the larger our hearts get. And the larger they are, the more love God is able to pour into them. The more love we have, the more love we are able to give to others.
“Prayer leads us to action,” the bishop said. “God gives himself to us as we pray, we give ourselves to those most in need as we share what we have received. Find the space to pray. Find the silence to speak to Jesus, your friend.”
And prayer is effective, he added, pointing out Mass is the Church’s highest form of prayer. The Mass is the exchange of love between God and all of us. It is a sacrifice of love, a gift of self, a gift to each other. We do this together, not alone,” Bishop Malesic said.
“Don’t be afraid to tell someone else that Jesus is alive here at Holy Family Parish in Parma,” the bishop added.
After Mass, parishioners heard a presentation on the Angel Scholarship Fund that allows Ohioans to a portion of their state tax obligation for a school of their choice, including Holy Family School. The new tax program costs nothing and provides critically needed funds to schools.
A reception in the community center followed the liturgy.
Click here to learn more about the Angel Scholarship Fund.