When St. Adalbert Parish was founded in 1873, Berea – established in 1836 -- was a young and growing community. The area was rich with sandstone and labor was needed to extract the stone, which resulted in a thriving industry by the early 1840s. German, Irish and Polish stonecutters from Europe – many Catholics -- made the long trip to settle in Berea.
After attending St. Mary Church, which was primarily Irish and German, the Polish immigrants wanted their own worship site, so on Dec. 4, 1873, St. Adalbert Church was organized by Father Victor Zareczny. About 100 families were members of the new parish.
(See photo gallery above.)
According to a history of the parish, construction of the first church began on April 1, 1874, with the cornerstone laid on June 29, 1874. The church, which cost $6,000, was completed later that year. Schoolchildren attended classes in the choir loft beginning in December 1874. The hand-carved altars, which came from Poland, are in the current church building.
The first baptism was Dec. 8, 1873.
In 1874, the parish paid $520 for four acres of land on Bagley Road in order to establish cemetery.
The church was dedicated on Sept. 26, 1875. It is the oldest Polish Catholic church in the state.
The first school was built in 1876, followed by the first rectory in 1878. The church spire and sacristies were added in 1886. In 1891, a new brick school was built at a cost of $11,000 and in 1892, a convent was built. The current stone rectory was constructed in 1898 for $6,000. In 1902, the current church organ was bought for $1,500.
During the ensuing years, the parish enjoyed growth and increased or modernized its facilities. In keeping with its Polish heritage, Polish classes were provided after school hours in 1977.
Construction on the existing church began in 1937 at a cost of $55,000. The first Mass was celebrated on Easter Sunday 1938. Keller Hall -- named after the 19th pastor, Father Gerald Keller, who served 1974-2008 – opened in 2003 with 7,000 square feet of multipurpose space, including kitchen and meeting rooms. The hall is used frequently for parish events, including the popular fish fries and the 150th anniversary reception that followed Mass on Dec. 2.
Over the years, St. Adalbert has had 21 pastors, including the current one – Father Charles Butkowski, who was installed in 2018. A dozen men from the parish have been ordained to the priesthood, including Father Christopher Zerucha, pastor of St. Mary and St. Bernard parishes in Akron – ordained in 2011 – and Father Cameron Popik, parochial vicar at St. Hilary Parish in Fairlawn – ordained in 2021.
In addition, 32 women of the parish entered religious life.
Bishop Edward Malesic visited St. Adalbert on Dec. 2 to celebrate the parish’s 150th anniversary. In addition to Father Keller and Father Michael Brunovsky, OSB, who has provided weekend assistance at the parish for 30 years, about seven other priests with connections to St. Adalbert concelebrated the liturgy. Deacon Ed Gardias, who has served the parish since 2008, assisted. In recognition of the parish's Polish heritage, the choir sang two hymns in Polish during the Mass.
“I can feel the excitement and love here,” the bishop said. “It is great to see all the enthusiasm, the explosion of love for this parish.”
He noted the weekend marked the First Sunday of Advent, which is the beginning of a new Church year. “That gives me a chance to say happy new year,” the bishop said, offering his congratulations for the parish’s 150-year history and for those -- including Father Butkowski and the staff -- who keep things running.
“Parishes don’t run themselves,” he quipped.
Admiring the beauty of the church building, the bishop told the congregation that “Our challenge is to make ourselves – our souls and our lives – more beautiful than this building. We are living stones. The church is a building; a parish is people.”
He also reminded them that Mass is the highest form of worship and the transformative words of Jesus in the Gospel can change people. The parish also must be a place of service. “Worship, evangelize and serve. A parish must do these things and this parish does,” the bishop added.
He said we must continue to long for God’s coming, as noted in the first reading. But we need help from the Lord to be “fixed,” he said.
In the second reading, St. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to reach out and embrace their gifts. “You lack no spiritual gifts. You are made in the image of God and the Lord will work in us,” Bishop Malesic said.
“If we don’t know we need a savior, we won’t ask for one; and if we don’t ask for one, we won’t receive one. The good news is that the savior has come,” he said, adding that Jesus will come once again, so we must be watchful and patient.
“Stay awake. Be on watch for Jesus. He’s coming in glory and he will bring us to meet the Heavenly Father one day, so be ready.”
The bishop also reminded the faithful that whenever they see someone in need, Jesus is there. “He always goes to the peripheries … Open your heart and let Jesus pour his love in so you have lots of love to give.”
God put us here for a reason, he said. “He has a plan for us. Pick up your cross. Don’t just stand still, follow Jesus.”
The Advent wreath is like a four-week alarm clock, the bishop said, serving as reminder that Jesus is alive and among us now. Advent is about his coming to take us home.
“May this parish never be a ‘sleeper parish.’ Be alive for Christ. Proclaim the Gospel, evangelize. The God of love is present among us. Serve those in need because they will know we are Christians by our love,” he added.
The bishop blessed the parish’s Advent wreath during the Mass.
After Mass, all were invited to reception in Keller Hall. The special guest was Adrian Kubicki, the counsel general of the Republic of Poland in New York. Kubicki told the gathering that he was a former church organist and was happy to attend the anniversary celebration.
“It is so important to pass this on,” he said, speaking of the parish’s Polish heritage.
The bishop echoed those remarks, once again reminding the group that “You must be good stewards of what you’ve been given. In 150 years, probably no one will know who you are, but you will leave something here – this parish.”