Father Jim Lynch, a Maryknoll missioner, who is the order’s procurator general and was elected vicar general, told the faithful at St. Angela Merici Parish on Aug. 27 that they were a community of people – past and present – who contributed to the Fairview Park parish, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
A Cleveland native, Father Lynch arrived at St. Angela as a parochial vicar in 1974. Father Michael Lanning, current pastor, called him “one of the most beloved priests ever to serve here. His agreement to give the homily for the centennial is a great gift.” Father Lynch has been a Maryknoll missioner for 27 years.
Father Lanning, Father Rich Samide, St. Angela parochial vicar, Father Don Dunson, former parochial vicar, and Father Lynch were among the concelebrants at the centennial liturgy celebrated by Bishop Edward Malesic.
“This is a time to celebrate and to thank God for all the gifts we have received,” Father Lynch said. He noted there have been eight pastors guiding the parish through its first 100 years. “Many memories were made in this church,” he said, mentioning baptisms, first Communions, confirmations and weddings, as well as time of loss and funerals.
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“St. Angela Merici is a community of believers, of faith who gather around the table of Christ. This is a worshiping community that finds its strength when gathering together. That is clear in today’s Gospel where Peter made a profession of faith,” Father Lynch said. “He believed because he was gifted with faith by a God who loves us. The same is true for us.”
He told the congregation that faith is connected to the prayers of others. “It is a gift to be lived out and shared,” he added. The faith of St. Angela Merici Parish is shared and shown in many ways, he said, mentioning support of Catholic Charities, the West Side Catholic Center and many other social and religious ministries.
“United in faith, we unite our light to the light of Christ and let our light shine. St. Angela Merici’s faith light shines brightly,” he said. “We also celebrate the great gift of the Eucharist and share it together each time we celebrate the Eucharist. We remember that God wore our flesh, was born, lived and died on the cross because he was faithful. We remember our dignity and who we are in God’s eyes. Each of us is a person of value in God’s eyes.”
Through baptism, we each receive a call to holiness and what God has in store for us remains a mystery, Father Lynch said. That mystery becomes known through the gift of family and friends and the use of the talents we received as they are used for good and the common good.
“God promised never to abandon us or to forget us. And we believe God is faithful to his promises, even if we are not faithful to him,” he said. “Mass doesn’t end with Communion. We are sent forth when we are united to Christ in the Eucharist. We also are united to those throughout the world and those who are suffering.
“A parish is where the Church lives and the Church lives at St. Angela Merici Parish. Let us allow the body of Christ to permeate our lives as we begin the next 100 years. And do it with gratitude,” he added.
At the end of Mass, the bishop thanked the parishioners for being “a faithful, participating, contemplative parish. You have many gifts. Be thankful for them. We have so much and yet we may forget to be thankful, to be grateful. Why are we so blessed with this parish, this school, catechists and more? We do we have all these blessings? So we can be a blessing to others,” the bishop said. “Go out and share your faith with others.”
Father Lanning noted the weekend celebration included the parish centennial as well as Welcome Back Sunday, when the schoolchildren meet their teachers and see their new classrooms. There also was a uniform exchange and information tables. Outside there was a picnic lunch, a climbing wall, games and fellowship opportunities.
During the parish’s first 100 years, Father Lanning said there were eight popes, eight parish pastors, Fairview Park grew from a village to a city and St. Angela experienced tremendous growth.
“The world of today is vastly different from 1923 when our parish was established. Father Francis Stanton, the first and founding pastor, had his work cut out for him. His picture looks down on me every day in my office and I often think about him and the adventure he began in this community. Was it difficult? For sure. Was it exciting? For sure. But as in every decade, he had wonderful men and women from loving and faithful families on whom he could count to build what has become one of the most beloved parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland,” Father Lanning said.
“This parish is more important than ever before. It may look different at times; it may have been rocked about by the waves and storms of history and human follies but it is truly holy ground. It is the clay that is molded by our Lord, in Jesus, and through the power of the Spirit. We are the hands of Christ for this time and this place,” Father Lanning said.