The nearly 1,100 families of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Valley City had a lot to celebrate on Nov. 6.
It was Bishop Edward Malesic’s first pastoral visit to the parish, the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the current church, they burned the mortgage after paying off the debt incurred to build the new church and parish facilities and their patronal feast day is Nov. 11.
(See photo gallery above.)
“This is a beautiful area,” the bishop said, noting it reminded him of his native Pennsylvania – minus the hills. St. Martin’s campus consists of about 100 acres that includes the parish buildings and a cemetery.
Father Dan Reed, pastor, welcomed the bishop and thanked him for visiting to see the accomplishment of the people of the parish.
“Today’s celebration wouldn’t be possible without the faithfulness and fortitude of a small group of German Catholics from the Abbeyville area who in 1840 – seven years before the Diocese of Cleveland was founded – rode to Strongsville to meet with Bishop John Purcell who was returning to his Diocese of Cincinnati. Those strong souls requested that a parish be established for the Catholics in this area,” he said.
Over the years, the parish grew and by the 1990s, more space was needed so the decision was made to build a church that would seat 900. The new structure was completed in 2002, along with new parish offices, a parish hall and meeting rooms. On Nov. 3, 2002, the late Bishop Anthony Pilla dedicated the buildings.
“Today’s milestone serves as a reminder of the love of God for all of us because, as we know, all good things come from God,” Bishop Malesic said.
He told the congregation that their current church – the fifth church building – includes an altar that is a special table for the parish family. “It’s a unique table where earth rises up, heaven comes down and they kiss on this altar where Jesus comes to us.”
The day’s readings focused on the heart of the Church – the Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives as disciples of Jesus, the bishop said. He noted that Jesus told the Samaritan woman that there would come a time when people will worship in Spirit and in Truth. “We are living in that time right now. The Spirit we received in baptism gives us the eyes to see Jesus present under the signs of bread and wine. And we believe in the truth of the Gospel that Jesus proclaimed to us. He remains with us who eat his resurrected body and drink his resurrected blood. We enter into an intimate communion of life and love as Jesus shares himself with us and we share our lives with him when we come to the altar of his sacrificial love,” he added.
The bishop recalled a pilgrimage he took recently with a group of people from the diocese. They visited holy sites in Poland, Prague and Germany, where they saw the famous Oberammergau Passion Play. The group also went to the former Auschwitz concentration camp, a place associated with the deaths of nearly a million Jews and thousands of Christians, including Catholics and Catholic priests were exterminated.
“As we know, the Mass is the representation of the offerings of Jesus on the cross. It is where the gift of Jesus’ love comes to us in a most effective way,” he said, adding, “Here Jesus wants to replace the emptiness of our hearts with the life of his presence. Here, Jesus wants us to receive him so that we can take him out into the world.”
The bishop encourage the faithful to take Jesus wherever he sends them “into a world that needs its darkness to be replaced by the light we have found here in the Spirit and in the Truth.”
He again offered his congratulations to the parish on the special anniversary of the church and parish campus, “which is the place of your worship and the home of your family of faith. A light for all to come and see.”
Bishop Malesic also encouraged the parish’s young people to be open to God’s call, wherever he may lead them. He said there are “many lanes on this highway. The widest is marriage, but all lead to sainthood and heaven, which are the goal.” He told parishioners it is their job to develop a culture of vocations to help the young people hear God’s call in their heart.
After Mass, the congregation processed outside where a ceremonial mortgage burning took place followed by a reception in the parish hall.