After months of renovation, St. Michael the Archangel’s newly remodeled parish hall was blessed by Bishop Edward Malesic during a celebratory dinner program on Dec. 3.
The hall, across the street from the historic church on Scranton Road on Cleveland’s West Side, also serves as the new location for the Hispanic Senior Center, a ministry of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland.
During a monthslong campaign called “Repairing Our Wings,” parishioners pledged funds to pay the parish’s $200,000 portion of the $800,000 renovation project. Catholic Charities also contributed to the project.
(See above for a photo gallery of images from the event.)
The bishop joined Father Mark Riley, St. Michael’s pastor, parishioners, volunteers, partners in the renovation project, Catholic Charities representatives and some staff from the Hispanic Senior Center for the celebration that included prayer, music, remarks by the bishop, the blessing, a meal and presentation of awards to many who assisted with the project. The newly remodeled space was decorated for the upcoming Christmas season, adding to the festive atmosphere.
Throughout the evening, which was recorded and is archived on the parish Facebook page, a slide show played showing the transformation of the old hall into the new, brighter and more functional space. Father Riley said the hall had served the parish well for many years but was in need of repair. Slides showed damage done by years of parish youth playing basketball in addition to the normal wear and tear of frequent use. The heating and air conditioning systems were antiquated and kept running by the innovative efforts of some parishioners, Father Riley said. He noted additional issues with plumbing, the parking lot and roof that were corrected in the project. A new kitchen, space for the parish’s food pantry, storage space, a new art therapy room and much-needed office space for the Hispanic Senior Center also were part of the renovation work.
Father Riley said the newly repaved parking lot, a new fence and a new façade on the front make the building more appealing.
“Thanks to all of you, we have reached 60% of our (parish) goal for the project,” Father Riley told those gathered for the celebration. He thanked those who prepared the meal and the Hispanic Senior Center for collaborating by providing the decorations and table settings, as well as those who donated items for the dinner including beverages, those who set up and the clean-up crew.
“What a great day of joy this is for all of us because God the Father has blessed us with the resources and the ability to renew and restore this parish hall,” the bishops said.
He recalled when someone from Catholic Charities and his vicar general, Father Don Oleksiak, came to him and suggested moving the Hispanic Senior to this location.
“I said, ‘Great idea,’” the bishop said. “Usually in the Church, it takes about 10-20 years for an idea to happen. And this happened much more quickly,” he said, referring to the approximately eight to nine months it took to complete the project.
For more than 140 years, St. Michael the Archangel Parish has welcomed people from various countries, beginning with the Germans, the bishop said, noting his ancestry is half German. Now, the parish is the spiritual home for many people of Hispanic descent.
“Our country has been, is and will be built by immigrants,” Bishop Malesic said. “This restoration of the parish hall provides something beautiful, modern, safe and stable a place for prayer, a place for meetings, for education, social gatherings and fellowship. And so, this Hispanic Senior Center truly strengthens St. Michael Parish as a hub of hospitality and a magnificent, important resource for Cleveland’s Hispanic community.”
He thanked the parish staff, Father Riley and the faithful for their work on the project, as well as Patrick Gareau, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, the Catholic Charities’ staff, diocesan facilities services team and the construction crew for all they did to make the idea become a reality.
“We need places like this to gather because if we consider ourselves to be like sparks of a fire, we burn better together than alone. I feel the energy of this celebration to celebrate what God has done through us.”
Romanita Johnson, Hispanic Senior Center program director, called the project a labor of love. “It turned out beautiful. We are so grateful to you, the diocese, the parish and the foundation (Catholic Community Foundation) for making this possible. Thank you again for your blessing,” she told the bishop/
The senior center, which previously was located in space on the first floor of St. Augustine Tower on Detroit Avenue in Cleveland, was closed for a week in September for the move. Its previous space was needed to allow for expansion of Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services.
The Hispanic Senior Center, which began in 1984 in storefront on the West Side, reopened on Sept. 13. It serves about 60 people daily and had a waiting list of more than two dozen people when it opened in its new space. Rodriguez Johnson said programming runs from about 8 a.m. until after lunch Monday through Friday. Attendees enjoy arts and crafts, attend workshops, receive health screenings, participate in dancing and get a hot lunch each day. Other resources are available, as well. Transportation to and from the center and medical appointments is available for participating senior citizens.
“Our seniors love our center and we love servicing them,” Rodriguez Johnson said.
After dinner, Father Riley offered his appreciation to many people who helped make the project happen. Each was presented with a token of his appreciation such as a statue or painting. Among those thanked were those who operate the parish food pantry, including longtime volunteers Randy and Mary Ann Balog, the McGinty sisters who donated a great deal of equipment and furniture – valued at about $100,000 – from their now-closed restaurant Taste Buds, Fredy Robles from Catholic Charities. Rodriguez Johnson and Gloria Martinez of the Hispanic Senior Center, Father Oleksiak, representatives of the construction company, parish staff and volunteers and Bill and Mary Pat Ellert. He called Mary Pat Ellert an “unofficial staff member,” noting the amount of work she did to keep the project on track. The Ellerts received a large St. Michael the Archangel statue.
“Many, many hands helped with this project. We all have many gifts to give. In giving to the parish, we get back double what we give. It’s been a pleasure working on this project. We can’t just go to church and get blessings. We have to give something back,” she added.