Bishop Edward Malesic spent March 12 -- the Third Sunday of Lent -- with parishioners at St. Patrick Parish in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood. He celebrated Mass opening the yearlong celebration of the parish’s 175th anniversary. The event included pipes, drums, and a brunch after Mass attended by about 300 current and past parishioners. A recording of the liturgy is archived on the parish website.
Principal concelebrants were Father John Pfeifer, pastor, and Father Clyde Foster, senior parochial vicar. Also concelebrating were Father John Carlin, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Parma; Father Joe Hilinski, pastor of St. Barbara Parish in Cleveland and diocesan delegate for ecumenical and interfaith affairs; Father Rob Wisniewski, pastor of St. Bridget Parish in Parma; and Father Greg Schaut, chaplain for the Lake Hospital System. Father Jim Ols, retired pastor, was unable to attend. They are former parochial vicars at the parish and sons of the parish.
Bishop Amadeus Rappe, first bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, celebrated the parish’s first Mass on March 17, 1848 in a farmhouse in what then was called Rockport Township. The area was inhabited primarily by Irish and Germans.
Over the years, St. Patrick Parish has been an anchor in West Park, which became an independence city before residents voted in 1923 to annex to the city of Cleveland.
The bishop told those gathered for the liturgy that he was delighted to be with them for the celebration. He noted that the parish grew despite difficult times including wars, the Depression and even diocesan reconfiguration, when St. Patrick’s was closed for two years before successfully appealing the closure and reopening.
“If we look back through history with eyes of faith, I’ll bet everyone here today would agree that 1848 was an absolutely wonderful year,” he said, referring to the parish’s founding.
“Today’s major milestone also serves as a reminder of our love of God because, as we know, all good things come from God,” the bishop said. He also credited those throughout the years who contributed to the building up of the faith community.
“May the worship, service and study that flows from St. Patrick Parish continue to be a beacon of faith and hope for the people of the Rocky River Drive community and surrounding areas here in Cleveland. And may all our lives reflect a deep and abiding love of God through our service to others, carrying on the tremendous parish legacy started on that beautiful day back in 1848,” Bishop Malesic said.
“Never fail to be ambassadors for Christ. So pray to God, serve your neighbors and proclaim Jesus as Lord,” he told the congregation. “You’ve done that for 175 years. Now look to continue in the great tradition of the faith: pray, serve and proclaim.”
The bishop recalled his time as pastor of a parish in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They made candy Easter eggs as a parish fundraiser and he said it lifted his spirits to help make the chocolate covered peanut butter eggs.
“Every time I made my way into the kitchen, one of the workers would say, ‘Father, you need to put on a hair net.’ I always thought those were the kindest words I could ever hear,” he quipped, noting that Lent brings back good memoires for him.
Reflecting on the day’s readings, the bishop said the Jewish people were wandering in the desert after escaping the clutches of Pharaoh. Instead of being grateful, they grumbled about the difficulties they faced. “We are sometimes like that, too, wandering and grumbling,” he said.
Even worse, they began doubting the presence of God. However, the bishop said, “God can and does use our doubts to strengthen our belief in him.”
Looking at the Gospel -- which told the story of the Samaritan woman at the well -- he explained she likely was an outcast which is why she came alone in the midday heat to get water. Jesus engaged her in conversation and by the end of their talk, she knew he was special, that she was loved “and that God was within her like a fountain that welled up to eternity,” the bishop said. The woman told all her friends and neighbors about Jesus. “She became an evangelist,” he added.
“All of us are like the Israelites wandering in the desert as we journey through this life. We want to know whether the one who created us still loves us. Jesus tells a hardened woman today that she is not far from God’s love. All she needs to do is drink it in,” he said.
“I assure you, Jesus is standing right in front of you. Certainly, he is in our Eucharist ready to feed you. He is in our Scriptures ready to speak to you. He is in your heart read to love you. Open the eye of your soul and see him looking at you with eyes of love, just like he looked at the thirsty woman at the well,” Bishop Malesic said. “He is never far from you.”
After Mass, Father Pfeifer presented the bishop with a gift from the parish.
“Every time we celebrate Mass here we see a parish that is alive in Christ,” Father Pfeifer said, adding that all are always welcome at the parish.
The bishop greeted parishioners and posed for photos before enjoying brunch and a performance by the Cleveland Firefighter Memorial Pipes and Drums in the parish’s Thorpe Hall.