Pastor's Column for January 21, 2018

Before I forget, may I ask you to pray for Stella, Rose, Mildred, Fran, & Mary Jane? These are all parishioners whom I have anointed or visited recently & I promised your prayers for them.

Gail Ryan was a longtime member of the parish who had been living in the home of her son and daughter-in-law for several months. She passed away on January 7th and we celebrated her Funeral Mass on Saturday, January 13th. She was a devoted Catholic who held bible study’s in her home, prayed the rosary daily and would never miss Mass when she was physically able to attend. Her son Jay spoke beautifully about her at the funeral and we extend to him and to his wife and 5 children our sympathies and our prayers.

Here’s a bulletin correction: I misspelled the name of one of the twin girls who were baptized last Sunday. Both parents and both girls have names that begin with K (now I keep thinking of the jingle in that commercial for Kay Jewelers that goes, “Every kiss begins with Kay.” I bet that jingle will be in my mind the rest of the day now!). Anyway, I typed “Karson Joan Wheeler” instead of “Karsyn Joan Wheeler.” It was spelled that way in the bulletin because it was spelled that way on the registration form and it was spelled that way on the baptismal certificate. At least I’m consistent. When I’m wrong, I’m wrong everywhere.

So in last week’s bulletin I spoke about why we have parish boundaries and I said I would point out the advantages to being registered in a parish (or parishes). First, being registered (which simply means we have basic information about you in our files like your address, family members, etc.), allows us to know who officially “belongs” to our parish community. This census information helps us to know the size of the parish so that we can plan accordingly. It also helps you because if and when you are asked to be a sponsor or godparent for someone being baptized or confirmed, it is required that you be registered in our parish in order for you to receive a sponsor certificate which gives the assurance that you are a full-fledged, practicing member of the parish & so qualified to act as a sponsor. Being registered also helps when someone is getting married or is requesting another sacrament or when it is time to plan a funeral. You can do this in the rectory office or after Mass at the Information Desk in the vestibule or even online at our website. It’s just a short form to fill out and it will help you and us to know that we are responsible for your spiritual care. So make it official and we’ll make sure that we spell your name right. 

Pastor's Column for January 14, 2018

Ralph Young was married to his wife Mary Ann for 56 years and they have 2 children: Jim & Lisa. Ralph died on New Year’s Day and we celebrated his Funeral Mass last Saturday. He was honored by his son’s words who learned so much from his dad. Ralph also served in the Army and so received military honors. We commend him to the Lord who has promised to raise us up to new life. May he Rest In Peace.

We return now to the Ordinary Time of the Church year until we enter Lent on Ash Wednesday, February 14th. The colors of white, green & violet signal what liturgical time we are presently in. So we’ll be seeing green for a few weeks...at least inside. I don’t suspect we’ll be seeing green outside for a couple more months. Green inside, white outside.

Congratulations to Kevin & Karyn on the baptism of their twin girls, both of whom have first names that also begin with...K: Kamryn & Karson. My mom used to use the wrong name for us when she was flustered and upset with one of us. She would either call me by my brother’s name (fine with me if I was the one causing the trouble!) or even by the name of her brother “Nunzie (from the Italian “Nunzio.”) Either way, I’d just pretend she was talking to someone else. But I hope that Kevin & Karyn will keep Kamyrn & Karson straight. God’s blessings on these two beautiful children and their wonderful parents.

I mentioned in last week’s column that we are celebrating our 70th Anniversary as a parish this year. You will see a logo to this effect on the front of our bulletin and on our website. So here’s a little information that I got from our 1988 anniversary booklet (when the parish celebrated it’s 40th anniversary): The first Mass of St. Leo’s was celebrated in the Ben Franklin School Auditorium (since there was no church yet) on Sunday, October 17, 1948. There was a simple announcement made in the bulletin of the former Our Lady of Good Council parish which said that St. Leo’s was a new parish in the area & then it gave the territorial “boundaries” which determined if you were to belong to this parish or not. In those days, it was expected that you would register and attend the church that was determined according to where you lived. Today, Catholics are still encouraged to attend the church in whose boundaries they live, but they are also free to register and attend whatever church (or churches) that is of their choosing. The reason for territorial boundaries is more for the Pastor than it is for the people. It tells the Pastor: “You are responsible for the spiritual and pastoral care of the Catholics who live in these boundaries, on these particular streets.” There are also parishes which are meant to serve not those in a certain territory but those of a particular ethnic background. Next week I’ll suggest reasons for why it’s a good idea for you to be a registered member of the parish. 

Pastor's Column for January 7, 2018

Debbie Staskiews lived in a house on Silverdale, just behind the fence on our property. Debbie fell about a week before Christmas and was not able to recover. We celebrated a Mass of Christian Burial for her on Saturday, December 30th and we remember her daughter Lexy in our prayers as well. Debbie’s husband Daniel had been in Parma Nursing Care for several years and she was faithful to visiting him. Daniel died this past June and now we pray they may be together again where they can give praise to God in their new heavenly home.

This past Wednesday I had the funeral for Edward Steadley, a 96 year old parishioner who died peacefully with his family at his side. Family was the center of his life. He was married for 68 years, had 6 children, 17 grandchildren, 37 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great grandchildren! The love of Ed and his wife Mary Ellen (who died in 2010) bore great fruit. He attended Holy Name where he made All Scholastic in Football, Basketball & Baseball & was inducted into their Hall of Fame. May he and his wife Rest In Peace.

Along with those who decorated the church so beautiful- ly for Christmas & all of our faithful liturgical ministers who serve throughout the year, I must also thank Mickey Stitt, Julie Slattery, Rick Wiegand and all the members of the choir who really gave Glory to God in the Highest through their many hours of preparation for our Christmas liturgies. After a couple of the liturgies, many members of the congregation applauded as an expression of their appreciation so let me applaud them as well for using their gifts to help us pray on so great a feast.

This year we are celebrating our 70th Anniversary as a Parish. We were founded in 1948. Of course our bigger celebration will be in 5 years when we celebrate our 75th anniversary but we wanted to acknowledge this milestone as well. You’ll see a special 70th Anniversary logo on our website and on the front of the bulletin during the year. And in the vestibule of the church, we will have a couple of display cases in which you can see photos and other objects that recall the history of our parish (you can enjoy these especially when we serve coffee & donuts). We want to remember all those who have made St. Leo possible over the years. Someone suggested that we add a comma after the name of our church so that instead of reading “St. Leo the Great Church,” we would instead see “St. Leo, the Great Church!” That works for me! You are a great Church, a great people who make St. Leo what it is today, as we add to the great people who made St. Leo what it has been since its founding 70 years ago. May God bless us in what we hope will be many years ahead of us. 

Pastor's Blog for December 31, 2017

As we are about to embark on a new year, Father Vesely & I offer you our prayers and wishes for a very Happy & Holy New Year. On January 1st the Church always celebrates the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. It is usually a holy day of obligation but since it falls on a Monday this year, we will celebrate the feast without the obligation to attend Mass. So Mass on Monday morning will be at our usual time at 7:30am.

While most of us end this year with gratitude and joyful hearts, we remember that some people are experiencing sadness and loss. Such is the case with a parishioner, Chuck Rooks, whose wife Denise passed away on December 15th. I spoke with Denise about a year & a half ago and anointed her when she learned of her cancer. Last Christmas I received a card from them letting me know that the cancer was in remission so they were of course very grateful and relieved. But the cancer returned and became untreatable. I visited with Denise before I left on vacation and anointed her and gave her the Eucharist. She was a delightful person who worked at our parish festivals a few years ago along with her husband Chuck. Please remember her and Chuck in your prayers as I promised you would at her funeral December 21st.

I’m sorry it’s taken so long to give you a report on the festival but it takes several weeks before all invoices are in and all of the expenses have been paid. But I’m really happy to report that we net $25,872! Last year our net profit was $19,475 which means we made $6,397.00 more than we did last year. That’s incredible. We can only attribute this to the sacrifice of time and the hard efforts of everyone who participated in the festival this year, whether as a planner, worker or spender! I know how much time and effort this takes and so am very grateful to everyone who made it happen in some way, but especially to the Festival Team who were able to plan not only a profitable event but an enjoyable experience by many in our parish and by visitors to our parish. May God bless everyone who contributed in any way to this annual event.

And before we officially end this year, I want to thank Fred Borkey for the delicious donuts he provides for us at the end of (almost) each month from his business Jack Frost Donuts. He gave me a plaque expressing gratitude for all a Pastor does for the Parish but I wish I had one to give all of you for all you do for Father Vesely & I throughout the year. This is a good time for me to let you know how much we appreciate your prayers, support and the sharing of your gifts. Now back to the donuts that gave me the energy to write this last column of the year... 

Pastor's Column for December 24, 2017

First things first: Father Vesely & I welcome all of you here today, especially those who are visitors to our parish. We want you to know that we are always happy to have you join us in the praise of God. May the love from God and the love for God be the reason for your joy today.

Many people expressed to us the joy of reading a book that we gave away last year to everyone who joined us for Christmas Mass. They found it inspiring & thought provoking. We decided to do the same again this year so please be sure to receive a copy of the book entitled “Perfectly Yourself” written by the same author of the book “Resisting Happiness” which we gave last year. It is written by a Catholic family man named Matthew Kelly. I read the book myself during Advent and found it to be full of practical wisdom as it challenges us not to be perfect but perfectly ourselves. And there is a difference. I encourage you to underline or highlight passages you find especially interesting or helpful and to make notes in the margins. But also feel free to pass it on to someone else when you’re finished with it. I know you’ll find it full of insights.

In our rectory office we also have available a DVD (part of a whole series) in which Bishop Robert Barron shows us why Michelangelo has been one of the most influential people in Church history. Bishop Barron is a popular and interesting speaker who uses social media to help people better understand & appreciate the riches of Catholicism. Since we have limited copies, please stop by the office and ask for one if you have a DVD player at home. You can also find much of his great work online at wordonfire.org, YouTube, etc.

Of course it also brings us great joy when you express your kindness to us through cards and holiday treats. Between the graying hair and the expanding belly, I’m looking more & more like Santa every year. At least you help me to be jolly in the process.

I also received word from parishioner Jeanne Sabol that once again you have manifested your generosity in our annual Adopt a Child for Christmas program this year. We distributed over 500 gifts and collected a total of $2890! Plus the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association will contribute an additional $600 in matching funds. Jeanie suggested that we add at least 2 more charities to be the recipients of such generosity this year, such as The Malachi Center & the Backdoor Ministry of St. Malachi Parish. Both of these serve the homeless with meals every day and offer a shower program and after school care plus other services. Like last year, we also split the funds between Providence House, Womankind, St. Colman’s and our own St. Vincent de Paul Outreach organization. As Jeanne expressed, our parishioners are most generous & we hope that bringing joy to others will bring joy to you as well. 

Pastor's Column for December 17, 2017

Today is the 81st birthday of Pope Francis. We didn’t get him a cake but the next time we have donuts we’ll eat them in his honor. May God bless the work he does as Chief Shepherd of the Church.

Our school and PSR students will be celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Monday. Confessions will be heard for any one else this Friday, December 22nd from 6-7pm and Saturday, December 23rd from 2:45 until 3:30pm (our normal time for confessions). It’s always a good opportunity to prepare for Christmas by allowing God to cleanse us from our sins and to welcome us back into His grace.

We were recently informed by the Diocese that we need to change our procedure regarding the collection for assessments. Each parish in the Diocese is required to give a certain percentage of it’s collection income back to the Diocese in order to pay for the services that the Diocese provides to each parish. Some may think that the Diocese pays US. That would be nice but it’s quite the other way around. It is “right and just” for us to pay for the many services that the Diocese provides for us so we return about 16% of the contributions we receive from you through the weekly collection. We have had an envelope included in the packet you receive which is marked “Assessments” & this money was used to pay back that percentage that we owe to the Diocese. However we were informed that we may not use a separate envelope for this purpose. Therefore we will no longer be including this Assessment envelope in the future (starting some time in 2018). In order to work around this, we would ask you instead to contribute to the envelope marked “Capital Improvements.” Either way, the money donated is still going into the same “pot” but it helps us to clean up our accounting procedures. Besides, due to the large capital expenditures that we are making this year with the repair of our HVAC systems in the church & school buildings, and to our church roof in the near future, we could certainly be helped by your generosity to these particular financial needs. As always, I am so grateful for your faithful and generous contributions and I work diligently with the Business Manager & Finance Council to make sure we save and spend money responsibly toward the repairs and upkeep of our parish buildings and property.

Thanks again to all those who take advantage of the opportunity to use our online contribution program known as “WeShare.” It is an easy and convenient way to make your weekly (or monthly) contributions, including to our special collections, flower fund, St. Vincent de Paul, etc. Just click on the WeShare icon on our website or ask for help in our rectory office. It saves us the money from sending envelopes to you each month & helps you to automate your charitable giving. 

Pastor's Column for December 10, 2017

We celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial for Clare Belcher on Saturday, December 2nd. When speaking to her son at the cemetery, he told me how he never once heard her use bad language and lived her life helping others. Her obituary described her as a “dear daughter”, a “beloved wife”, the “kindest mother” and a “loving grandmother.” What a great way to honor someone who honored the im- portant relationships in her life. May she know how she is God’s beloved daughter.

The “Mary” that I asked you to pray for in last week’s bulletin was Mary Hillman, a parishioner who was in hospice at the time but who has since died. I prayed the last rites for her with members of her family and one of the Sisters who ministers at Holy Family Hospice, and we had her funeral Mass this past Tuesday. Mary would have been 104 this Wednesday! Every year since I’ve been here I’ve mentioned her birthdays in December since she reached her centennial birthday. But Mary is known for much more than her longevity . She has always been a very devout Catholic  who has lived in an apartment directly across from our school building. She would walk to church even in very inclement weather and would take the bus when going longer distances. May she find rest after a long, prayerful life.

This Tuesday is my step-mother’s 98th birthday and gratefully she is doing as well as my dad is health-wise. Dad’s only 90 so he has a way to go before his 98th but I hope they both live to be centenarians. (I had a hard time finding out how to spell that word...my spell checker kept changing what I typed to “centurion.” That was a professional officer of the Roman army and are spoken of in the Bible...not quite what I was looking for!). Happy birthday to Mildred.

We received a number of very small pamphlets called the “5 Keys to Freedom from Sexual Sin” which address the very large problem with pornography in our world today. They are available on the tables of the church.

You probably knew this already, but Bishop Perez is now on Twitter! (If you don’t know what Twitter is, you can disregard this news). If you’d like to “follow” him, he can be found at @BishopNPerez in the Twitterverse.

I won’t be with you this weekend as I will be visiting some friends (and if she’s lucky, even my sister) down in Florida this week. I can tell you that their Christmas trees look so out of place in such a bright, sunny and warm climate. As for me, I say (or sing) “Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!” Yes, I actually like snow. Lots of it. But only until February. Then I want the sun back. Here’s hoping I see the white stuff when I return. In fact, I may as well stay in Florida until it starts to snow in Cleveland. Will I be home for Christmas? 

Pastor's Column for December 3, 2017

Thank you for your prayers for my sister’s husband, Mike. His bypass surgery was successful and he is now at home recuperating for a few months. May I also ask you to remember Mary, Mary Lou, Chuck, & Denise, all of whom were or will be anointed soon? There are so many who are ill or homebound whom we need to be mindful of, especially during the holidays. We trust God will be at their side as we lift them up to Him.

At the funeral home, I prayed with the family and friends of Joseph Stawicki who died after a battle with cancer. May he rest in the peace of Christ.

Congratulations to the parents of Amarelis Merced who is being baptized this Sunday after the 11am Mass. Amarelis is in the first grade at our parish school and is very excited to become a part of our Catholic family. May this beautiful child of God know that she is loved without limit.

I adopted Michaela 5 years ago, just a day before Thanksgiving. We celebrated this anniversary along with dozens of her stuffed animals (yes, she has a whole ark of them!). If you ever walk in the rectory office & hear her gentle bark, that’s her way of welcoming you (and warning us of potential danger). I’m grateful that she keeps an eye on us (and you).

We are now in the month when we will be celebrating Christmas after a short 3 week season of Advent. Since December 25th falls on a Monday this year, we will celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent with our regular weekend Mass schedule (4pm on Saturday, December 23rd and 8 & 11am on Sunday, December 24th). Then we will have our usual Christmas Eve Masses later in the day on the 24th: 4pm, 7pm & 10pm. Since the majority of people celebrate Christmas Mass on the Eve at one of the 3 Masses, we will have just one Mass on Christmas Day at 11am. Since the feast of Mary, the Mother of God on January 1st falls on a Monday this year (technically NEXT year), it will not be a holy day of obligation as it usually is. Mass will be celebrated at 7:30am as usual that Monday morning.

This Friday, December 8th, is the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a holy day of obligation. Mass will be celebrated at 8:30am (with the School children) and at 7pm. This feast celebrates the singular gift of God to Mary by which she was conceived without original sin, and according to our long tradition, remained without sin throughout her life. May she who was prepared to be a worthy vessel of God’s Son, be for us an example of single-hearted love for the God who frees the rest of us from sin. 

Pastor's Column for November 26, 2017

We prayed for Janet Rosby during the funeral services for her last week. And we continue to extend our prayerful support to the members of her family. She was very religious and was able to spend her last days at Holy Family Hospice on State Road. She was anointed by the chaplain there and I prayed the last rites for her. She was grateful to be helped by these prayers of the Church. May they speed her to God’s peace.

While the repair work on our HVAC in the church is completed, there is still some work to be done on the computer system which controls it so the temperature in the church may fluctuate a little bit but hopefully you will find it to be neither too cold nor too warm. Personally I like the cooler temperatures of the low 60’s but I know that the thinning of blood for some people makes those temperatures feel like they are in Alaska. But I try to get just the right balance to make as many people as comfortable as possible. At least we know that the repairs will allow us to stay warm as these cooler days approach. I’d hate to have a bonfire in the church to keep us from freezing. They can be really messy.

I was very grateful to be at the retreat for priests which took place at the Jesuit Retreat House on State Road in Parma. That has been one of the treasures of the Diocese for many decades. Amazingly, they have several acres of land which are hidden in the middle of Parma where many deer can be seen living in the woods. They just added a new wing which is both practical and beautiful. You may want to check out their website at jrh-Cleveland.org. They host the PreCana program which engaged couples participate in as part of their premarriage preparation and they hold several retreats and conferences there throughout the year. You may want to just take a reflective walk through their woods or just sit in the quiet & peaceful atmosphere there. But do take advantage of this place of prayer and spiritual refreshment if you get the chance.

I ask you frequently to remember the sick and homebound parishioners in your prayers and today I would ask you to especially pray for my brother-in-law Mike. By the time you read this (as I type it on November 15th), he will have had quadruple bypass surgery. His very serious heart disease took him and my sister by surprise and I know many of you are aware of how illness affects so many different aspects of our lives. It brings fear and worry as we are reminded of the fragility of life. Would you say a prayer for him right now so that I can tell him of your support? My sincere thanks. 

Pastor's Column for November 19, 2017

Our next Faith Formation Session will be on Sunday, November 26th at 9am in the Parish Community Center. Please join us as we watch another wonderful video by Bishop Robert Barron on the life of Michelangelo & his tremendous influence on the Church.

We currently have 10 people signed up for the Tour of Italy trip for next October and we only have 4 spaces left. Please see me if you’d like more information on this great opportunity to get a taste of Italy (from a priest who has tasted a lot of Italy!).

We extend our sympathies to the family of Georgianne Mroczka whose Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on November 11th. Georgianne would drive long distances to be with her family for a special occasion or just to offer support to a friend. As we prayed for all the Faithful Departed on the feast of All Souls November 2nd, we continue to remember her and all deceased members of our parish who died, especially this past year.

The Knights of Columbus will be joining us for the 11am Mass this weekend so we welcome them and thank them for their good work in the Church. They are offering a scholarship to a seminarian & asked if I knew one that could use their support and so I recommended that Ryan Arto be the recipient as he spoke to our parish 3 weeks ago about his own vocation to the priesthood. Please be sure to thank the Knights for their generosity to the Church and for their sup- port of seminarians. They also put on a Reverse Raffle last Saturday in Lux Hall which was enjoyed by many. Thanks to the parishioners who supported them in this fundraiser.

You may have heard that there is a Catholic radio station called “The Rock” and can be found at AM1260. You can get more information about it and listen to it live on their website found at http://am1260therock.com. We’re very fortunate to have this Catholic station in the Diocese of Cleveland. In fact, Bishop Perez has already utilized this medium in order to speak to the people of the Diocese. You can support them on WeGiveCatholic on #GivingTuesday, November 28th. Again, more information is available on their website.

Since we’re still paying some bills from our parish festival, we don’t yet have numbers to share about our profit but will make that available to you soon. In the mean time, I give thanks to all those who organized, planned, worked at or enjoyed the festival last month. It was good to be with fellow parishioners & to enjoy the great food & entertainment. Looking forward to next year.

Please join us for our Thanksgiving Mass this Thursday at 9am. It’s a great way to begin the holiday season and to put ourselves in the right frame of mind as we prepare for Advent & Christmas which are following close behind.