Despite the frosty Sunday morning weather, a pair of Garfield Heights parishes warmly welcomed Bishop Edward Malesic for his first pastoral visit to their churches on Feb. 4. Each parish has served Garfield Heights for nearly a century. St. Therese is marking its 97th anniversary this year. Both parishes served a predominantly Polish population for many years.
The bishop celebrated 8:30 a.m. Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Church, where he told the faithful, “Our faith is like a boat. It gets us to the other side – heaven.” He also praised the music, including the choir, noting the church has great acoustics.
At nearby St. Therese Church, he presided at the 10:30 a.m. liturgy in the newly renovated church. Concelebrants were Father Norm Gajdzinski, who retired 16 years ago after serving as pastor for 15 years; Father Ed Janoch, in residence at St. Therese; and Father John Schneider, pastor of both parishes. Deacon Robert Bugaj, who ministers at both parishes, also assisted at the two Masses.
(See a photo gallery with images from each parish above.)
Father Schneider welcomed the bishop to each church, noting it had been several years since either had received a pastoral visit from a bishop.
Before Mass, the bishop reminded the congregation that a parish isn’t just buildings, it’s people. Jesus gives himself to us in the liturgy. He asked what do we – or can we – give to him? His answer was simple: “Ourselves.”
Reflecting on the Old Testament reading, he asked what we are grateful or thankful for. Job, although a man of faith, had lost everything, including his family, his property and his health. He had a right to be unhappy and without hope, Bishop Malesic said. But God restored him. “We always can look to the joy of the Gospel,” he said.
The day’s Gospel told the story of Jesus visiting the home of Simon Peter and Andrew. Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever and confined to bed. He went to her and cured her. Then she began serving him and the others.
“After encountering Jesus, she changed. She became a servant. We should do this, also,” the bishop said, noting that we must be different or changed after encountering Jesus. “The sign that we are healed is to go outside and to be different.”
Prayer connects us to God, the bishop explained. “Even Jesus prayed,” he added,
“He worked, healed, cured and then rested and prayed to regain his strength for the next job or ministry. You and I must go out and preach God’s word. His word must not be kept a secret. The Good News of Jesus was told and passed on to us and we must do the same,” the bishop said.
“Be living Gospels so people will say, ‘There goes a Christian.’ Don’t be like the rest of the world. Jesus died to save us and he rose again. Is anyone looking for unhappiness?” the bishop asked. “No. We are looking for happiness and his name is Jesus.”
He reminded the faithful that a health parish does three main things: serves the Lord, worships the Lord and proclaims, shares his love.
“May we never give up on Jesus,” he added.
The bishop also reminded the faithful that the 2024 Catholic Charities Appeal is beginning. The appeal supports dozens of ministries serving those in need throughout Northeast Ohio, he said, thanking both parishes for their support.
Father Gajdzinski spoke briefly after Mass at St. Therese, giving a short history of the parish and expressing his gratitude for the many faithful who have supported the priests throughout the years.
“Our perseverance in the priesthood is due in part to the people we minister to and St. Therese Parish has always been very gracious,” he said. “Open year heart and God will always be there to champion your faith. Thank you for your faith, your support and always being behind all we do.”
A combined reception featuring a variety of homemade bakery was hosted by St. Therese after Mass.