The gymnasium at Incarnate Word Academy in Parma Heights drew a crowd of IWA parents, students, alumni, benefactors and supporters of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament on Sept. 9 for a liturgy beginning the third annual Legacy Week celebration.
Alexis Flinn, IWA assistant principal, said Legacy Week evolved from a desire to ensure that IWA students understood who the Sisters of the Incarnate Word are and the legacy they have. IWA is a ministry of the SIW.
“We thought the students needed to know more about the sisters,” Flinn said. The order began its work in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 8, 1927, when seven Irish-born Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament arrived in Cleveland. The order was founded by the Venerable Jeanne Chezard de Matel in 1625.
Locally, the sisters founded IWA in 1935. They also served as teachers at several other Catholic elementary schools in the diocese, including St. Richard in North Olmsted; St. Patrick in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood; St. Thomas More in Brooklyn; the Academy of St. Bartholomew in Middleburg Heights and Assumption Academy in Broadview Heights.
In addition, the sisters have served through ministries of prayerful intention, hospice, health care, community outreach, food distribution and evangelization.
Auxiliary Bishop Michael Woost celebrated the liturgy. He called Venerable Jeanne Chezard de Matel “one of the greatest mystics of the Church,” comparing her to St. Teresa of Avila, the first of only four women doctors of the Church.
Referring to the readings, he said God tells Ezekiel to be attentive, to listen to his word so he can guide him in his life’s journey. He also warns Ezekiel that he must proclaim what God tells him, noting there will be trouble ahead if he doesn’t follow God’s commands.
“It’s a tall order to be a prophet,” the bishop said, adding that by baptism, we all are called to be prophets, “to be attentive, to listen to God’s word and to put it into action. If we fail to do so, our lives won’t be what God wants us to be.”
He said this aligns with what a Catholic education should provide, and with what the sisters have tried to do at IWA. “They want to help the students grow in faith, to allow the presence and word of God to influence them, to form them in the faith, to thank God and to allow them to live it out in their lives.”
In the Gospel, Bishop Woost said, "We see a great educator (Jesus) instructing his disciples on how they are to live and to guide the community.”
He urged those gathered to give thanks for the SIW, the faculty and staff at IWA, calling it “a community of faith helping to form them. But to do that, first we must be a community of prayer because prayer helps us grow in our relationship with God.”
The bishop also invited all “to be living signs of Jeanne Chezard de Matel,” and follow her desire to do what Jesus invites and wants us to do.
Mike Wisnor, IWA president, thanked the SIW and those who organized the Legacy Week observance. “The legacy of the sisters is so great. The pure love they share on a daily basis is how their legacy will live on.” He also thanked them for all the people they have touched and will touch.
“I hope we as laity will do well to carry out your charism,” he added.
Throughout the week, IWA students have been learning more about the SIW foundress, who died on Sept. 11, 1670 and left a large legacy of writing. She was declared Venerable on March 7, 1992 by Pope St. John Paul II.
Students spent time in religion class focusing on her virtues and learning ways to make themselves a temple where God can dwell, Flinn said.