Several months ago, Bishop Edward Malesic celebrated Mass to mark the centennial of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish, the first parish in Ohio founded by and for African American Catholics. The church and school, which had been located nearby, outgrew their facilities and merged in 1961 with St. Adalbert Parish, a primarily Bohemian parish where membership was declining.
A new school was built in 1962 and an additional building was built in 2018 to accommodate the growing school enrollment, which is almost 500 in pre-K through grade 8, according to James Smith, school president. Jaimie Smith (no relation) is the principal.
He made a second trip to the parish on Oct. 25 to visit the school and celebrate Mass for grades K-2. Father Gary Chmura, St. Adalbert/Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish pastor, concelebrated the Mass.
(See photo gallery above.)
The pupils practiced songs and responses for the Mass for a few weeks before the liturgy.
“Wow! You are good singers,” Bishop Malesic told them.
His homily, tailored to the young people, focused on rules.
“We all want what is best for you. We want you to grow up and be good men and women. But don’t grow up too fast,” he said.
The bishop asked if there were any rules at St. Adalbert. A few eager students raised their hands and said yes, telling him they can’t wear hoodies and there is no hitting.
He told them there are rules in the Bible, also. “Be kind to one another. That’s a good rule,” he said. “Be compassionate and loving and be forgiving as God forgives you. There are lots more words, but those are the three most important things. Do those things and you’ll be good,” he said, repeating, “Be kind, be compassionate and be forgiving. Those are the three rules from God.”
He asked the children if they knew his name.
“Bishop?” one asked.
“I’m Bishop Ed,” he told them. He also asked if they knew what made him a bishop, who is like a shepherd. He showed them his crosier, a staff with a curved top, his “special hat,” called a miter, his ring, signifying his “marriage to the Church,” his pectoral cross and his zucchetto, which he described as a beanie. He told them those things show that he is a bishop.
“I am so glad to be here with you today,” the bishop told the children. “Remember the three rules from God: be kind, be compassionate and be forgiving.”
After Mass, the bishop and his master of ceremonies, Father Eric Garris, visited both buildings of the school, stopping in most classrooms to chat with the students and offer a special blessing.
He asked them what they liked best about their school. Replies included the teachers, learning, math class, the family atmosphere and their friends.
The students asked the bishop how he got his job, did he want to be a bishop, how long it took him to become one and what was his name. He explained that he didn’t apply for the position, he was chosen by the pope. He said he has been a priest for 38 years and a bishop for seven and he is happy to be in Cleveland.
Smith and Smith explained how the school helps ensure the needs of students and their families are met, noting they will make arrangements to get clothing, supplies and other things they might need as well as to help with transportation, if necessary,
“We are a community, a family and we treasure these children,” Jaimie Smith said.
Before leaving, Bishop Malesic received a gift bag containing a St. Adalbert Black Jacket shirt.