Pastor's Blog for April 21, 2019

I must begin this column by welcoming all of you who are with us today to celebrate this great feast of the Resurrection. To those who are faithful parishioners throughout the year and to those who are visiting with us from another parish or anoth- er place, we want you to know how good it is to have you here today. And most especially, we warmly welcome those who may have been raised Catholic and/or those who live in the area but who no longer practice the faith with regularity. We extend to you the peace of Christ, who extended his peace to his apostles the first time he appeared to them after he was raised from the dead. We speak of “practicing Catholics” because all of us, even the best of us, are still (& always will be) practicing how to relate lovingly to God and to each other. Together we offer this prayer of thanks for the hope given to each of us by the death and resurrection of Christ. It is that hope that allows us to live in a world that is so rife with conflict and despair.

Last week we invited everyone to take home with them a free book we have purchased called “What I love about being Catholic.” It’s not the kind of book you need to read cover to cover, but one you can just open and read one page or two at a time as it offers reflections on how the Catholic faith has helped people in the struggles of life. I hope it inspires you as it has me, to appreciate more deeply what Catholicism has to offer us. If you did not receive one last week, please be sure to take one (or more) home with you today. Perhaps you know of a family member or friend who may benefit from it.

Every year many parishioners work hard to make Lent and Easter special times for us here at St. Leo’s...those who provide opportunities for almsgiving such as through our Have a Heart, Lend a Hand program (thanks to all for your great generosity!), those who practice many hours in the music ministry, those who make our beautiful church even more so by flowers, the children who acted in the Passion Play, and those who minister in some way, in any way, quietly but faithfully throughout the year. Our gratitude to all of you.

In the midst of joy and gratitude, I must also acknowledge the sadness of many who are grieving the loss of a young (32 year old), faith-filled woman named Caitlin Kacher, the daughter of Tim Soucek of our parish. She fought a battle with cancer for many months and did so courageously. She and her husband Todd were married here almost 4 years ago and she spoke of how it was the happiest day of her life. We were especially touched to see so many students from Avon High School (where she enthusiastically taught Spanish) who were here at her funeral last Monday to grieve and pray with us. But our grief reminds us, most especially on this particular day, that we always have hope because of how Christ accept- ed his death for the sake of us all. May Caitlin rest in joy and peace.

Pastor's Blog for April 14, 2019

A funeral Mass for John Pahn was celebrated on April 5th here at St. Leo’s. John attended Mass regularly until he became ill and prayer was important to him. He was also described as thoughtful and generous. John enjoyed being around family, especially his nieces & nephews. He served in Vietnam after joining the Navy. God’s word reminded us: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” May John and his family know the comfort and peace of God.

Another reminder that the Athletic Department will be holding their annual Pancake Breakfast today (Sunday) in Lux Hall from 9am until 1pm. It’s always a great meal so I hope to see many of you there supporting our athletic program and those who volunteer many hours in it.

As we begin Holy Week today with our celebration of Passion (Palm) Sunday, a good way to prepare for the liturgi- cal experiences of the week is by celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So confessions will be heard on Monday, April 15th at 6:30pm and on Wednesday at 11:00am.

On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7pm. Lent officially ends with the beginning of this Mass as the Church enters into the “Sacred Triduum” or the sacred three days which commemorate Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. It is at this Mass when feet are washed in imitation of Christ who said that we should do as he has done: to humbly serve each other as he came to serve us. It is on this day when we remember the institution of the Priesthood and the Eucharist. So after we have received Holy Communion, there will be a procession of the Eucharist to the side chapel which symbolizes how we are emptying the church, even of the Lord’s sacramental presence, in preparation for the liturgy of Good Friday. You are welcome to remain in the chapel area for private prayer. The Blessed Sacrament will be reposed (removed completely from the church) at 10:00pm.

The prayer of the Church continues with the Solemn Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday at 3pm, the school children will perform their annual “Passion Play” at Noon and Stations of the Cross will be at 7pm. At the 3pm Service (which is not a Mass but a continuation of Holy Thursday’s liturgy), we will have a Liturgy of the Word with the proclamation of the Passion, the Adoration of the Holy Cross and Holy Communion. It is a most sacred day for us to reflect on the meaning of the Lord’s suffering and death.

The climax of the Sacred Triduum is the Easter Vigil which will be at 7:30pm on Holy Saturday. It begins with the blessing of fire and the lighting of the new Paschal Candle which is processed up the center aisle of the still darkened church.

And of course we have 3 Masses on Easter Day itself at 8am, 9:30am and 11:00am. The more we are present to these liturgical prayers, the more we will be touched by their mean- ing. We look forward to a week of prayer with you.

Pastor's Blog for March 31, 2019

Congratulations to parishioner Arielle Calvillo, daughter of (Fire Chief) Angelo & Maria Calvillo, who is getting married next Saturday, April 6th to David Pike. We wish them the best as they begin this new chapter in their lives. May the Lord grant them many healthy and happy years together.

The photos in the display case in the vestibule have been changed to reflect past activities here at St. Leo’s such as Ethnic Day, Holy Name Sweetheart Balls and Spaghetti Dinners. Be sure to take a look as it will bring back memories for many of you and will show others how large and active St. Leo’s has been over the years. Our thanks again to John & Jeannie Sabol who have done a great job arranging these pictures for us.

Over the centuries (20 of them to be exact), the Catholic Church has had a liturgy (our main worship, also called the Mass) which has developed and changed. While the two main parts of the Liturgy have remained intact (The Liturgy of the Word and The Liturgy of the Eucharist), the way we celebrate the great Sacrifice of Christ on the cross has seen many revisions, based upon the needs of the current generation. While the structure of the Mass will always remain the same, things like our postures, gestures, prayers, songs, ministries, etc. will always be undergoing adaptations. We saw a major change in the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council in the mid 1960’s when we moved from Latin to English (or whatever the vernacular is for those celebrating). The priest began to face the people instead of facing in the same direction as them (making it look like he had his back to the people). The congregation or assembly was encouraged to take a more active and conscious part in the prayer instead of being simple spectators of what the priest is doing.

Our last smaller modification came a few years ago when many of the prayers were revised to attempt a more faithful translation from the Latin. For example, we began to reply to the priest’s greeting of “The Lord be with you” with the words “And with your spirit” instead of the former “And also with you.” We have become so accustomed to these smaller modifications that we probably don’t even remember the “way we used to do it.”

Bishop Perez has had the opportunity to visit a great number of parishes in our diocese and has observed that there is a variety of postures used by people in the pews, especially during the Communion Rite. Some kneel, some stand, & many parishes (such as ours) wait to change posture until the Blessed Sacrament is placed back into the tabernacle. The Bishop would like to return to the normative postures for Mass that the Church has had in place since 2003. This simply means that we will stand during the distribution and reception of Holy Communion until the last person has received. At that time, the Communion Hymn will end and you may kneel or sit for private prayer. This change will take place on the Sunday after Easter. More reflections on this in the bulletins prior to that time.

Pastor's Blog for March 24, 2019

We express our sympathies to Mina Rolando whose mother, Virginia Rescina, entered eternal rest and whose funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Rocco church where she had been an active member for many years. Mina is a recep- tionist in our rectory office and Coordinator of our Parish Community Center which we rent out during the year. Mina’s involvement in our parish follows in the footsteps of her mother who was active in hers. Mina was her loving caregiver and Virginia was so blessed to have such a giving daughter. Our prayers are with the family.

There are still some “Little Black Books” available at thedoors of the church which have short daily reflections for each day of Lent. Feel free to take one (or more) home with you or give one to a Homebound relative or neighbor.

This week we are privileged to have 3 speakers for ourLenten Mission. Each of them have a personal story to tell of how a cross in their life has allowed them to experience a new life of grace. Phillip Keller (widely known as “Trapper Jack”) will be here on Monday and will touch us by his story of how the deterioration of his vision sharpened his eyes of faith. On Tuesday, David Petrovic will speak about his struggle with Asperger’s. And Wednesday we will hear of Robby’s struggle with drug addiction. Monday’s talk will be in the church but Tuesday & Wednesday’s will be in the Parish Community Center. All of them will begin at 7pm. I am anxious to hear their stories which I pray will give us all hope as we each face the crosses and struggles of our own lives.

The spring issue of our wonderful News & ViewsNewsletter will be out soon (if not already). It has great articles & pictures which include the story of our church’s renovation several years ago and what’s going on in our parish school today. Our sincere thanks to John Sabol and to all who contribute to these interesting stories.

Last Friday, my cousin invited me to dinner with theBishop and 2 other priests. I had already had a wonderful meal at our Fish Fry (delicious lobster tails!) but I said I would join them for some priestly fraternity. After we all shared a cheese pizza for an appetizer, I ordered just a bowl of wedding soup & a salad instead of a full meal. The follow- ing day, Deacon Pat asked what I had for dinner & then made mention of the tiny meatballs in the wedding soup. Of course he was trying to make me feel guilty for eating meat on a Friday of Lent (it worked). Three priests & a bishop didn’t point it out to me at the time (or at least were kind enough to let it pass without saying anything). I hope I did not cause scandal to the Bishop. But it could have been worse as I could have been wearing my Roman collar while ordering a big plate of spaghetti with meat sauce! I wondered why the tiny meatballs hidden in the soup tasted so good. So just in case you have forgotten about not eating meat on a Friday of Lent, it happens to the most Catholic of us!

Pastor's Blog for March 17, 2019

Fran McLaughlin had been a parishioner of St. Leo’s for many years. She had a gentleness about her and a soft smile that made you feel comfortable in her presence. As she asked me frequently to keep her husband Bob and her son Dale in my prayers as they struggled with illness, she herself succumbed to cancer as she was taking chemo treatments. A Memorial Mass will be offered for her next month. Please keep Fran and her family in your prayers.

This past week we celebrated the funeral Mass for Helen Canitano who had been a parishioner here at St. Leo’s before moving to Twinsburg. She was devoted to Mary and to many of the saints and prayed the rosary often. She and her husband gave life to 5 children who had 12 children who had 24 children, one of whom had 1 great-great grandchild. Amazing how much life comes from the love of husband & wife. Through the intercession of Mary, may she rest in peace.

We also remember in our prayers Jason Ayala whose two children, Jamie & Emily, are students in our school. A funeral service for Jason was held this past Thursday by Deacon Berigan. May Jason rest in God’s peace.

In last weekend’s bulletin, I said I would be offering a blessing to John & Irma Zappitelli for their 66th wedding anniversary. But once again, my sense of timing was a bit off (remember how I announced throat blessings in November instead of February?). But this time I was only off by a week as they will receive a blessing this Saturday.

And here’s another date I missed (though this one was not my fault): February 22nd was the birthday of Deacon Pat Berigan. We are so happy to have him and his wife Joan as members and ministers in our parish. Happy Belated Birthday.

Deacon Pat baptized Abigail Elizabeth Breitmeyer last Sunday. May she know the joy of an active faith.

Due to the inclement weather, it’s been a while since Fr. Vesely has celebrated Mass with us but now that spring will be sprung this Wednesday, March 20th, we hope to have him back soon. In the mean time, you may see him at one of our Fish Dinners first.

As you know we have purchased a new hymnal called Breaking Bread (a name used for the Eucharist in the early church). Our older hymnals have been in use for about 15 years & so were missing much of the music that has become popular since then. This new paperback book will allow us to update them every year (before the beginning of Advent). You can also call it a missal as it provides the prayers and readings for Mass. It also allows us to remove the Mass cards from the pews as it conveniently contains the words of the Gloria and Creed on the inside front cover.

Finally, I will be enjoying my fair share of corned beef this Sunday on the feast of St. Patrick (though we still have to wear purple vestments instead of green at Mass). But I will certainly pass on the usual accompaniment of cabbage. Why ruin such a good meal with that?

Pastor's Blog for March 10, 2019

Sarah Geier had been in Broadview Multicare for many years. During the past few years, she was confined to her bed. Our parishioner Ron Kollar brought her Holy Communion every week for several years and she was always delighted with his visits. Sarah passed away about an hour or two after Ron & I had prayed the last rites for her and her funeral was held on March 1st (which would have been her 92nd birthday). What struck so many people about Sarah was her ability to be joyful and giving despite the constrictions and suffering that came from her very long illness. She colored pictures which hung on the walls around her bed, along with religious pictures and those of her family. Even when we saw her for the last time, she was able to say “thank you” for the prayers we were offer- ing for her. I trust her reward will be great in heaven.

Alfred Golias suffered from MS for a number of years and yet he too held on tightly to his faith. He watched Mass daily on TV and his children remember well how often he prayed the rosary, especially when the family was going on trips or vaca- tions. Al laid down the burden of his years and was buried from our parish on March 2nd. We extend our sympathies to his two daughters, Linda & Sharon, and to his brother Wendell & sister Mary Rita. He also lost a son who died at the age of 2. We trust he will embrace him again in God’s kingdom. He will be given military honors as he is a veteran from World War II. May Al rest now in the peace of the Risen Christ.

Thanks to all those who prepared our young people for the Sacrament of Confirmation which they received from Bishop Perez last Saturday, and congratulations especially to Nikki Dickinson who was received into the Catholic Church, received Confirmation from the Bishop and then received her first Communion. She is a welcome addition to our parish.

This weekend at the 4pm Mass, I will be giving a blessing to John and Irma Zappitelli who are celebrating 66 years of marriage. They have been members of our Seniors for many years and always sit in the first row in front of the pulpit (so as to make sure they don’t miss a word I am saying from there? Probably not...). Irma has been undergoing physical therapy since the beginning of November and we really miss seeing her at this Mass so we’re happy she can join us this weekend & pray for her continued recovery. With a name like Zappitelli, you know that they are the real (Italian) deal. I admire them both. We also welcome their children who are so devoted to them.

The 2nd graders made their first reconciliation last week. Many of them said they were so nervous about that. I was so surprised to hear that because it’s us older folks who had some- thing to be nervous about when we made our first confessions! We entered a dark, small box where we couldn’t see the priest (no face to face in those days to see the priest smiling at you... and I doubt they even smiled in those days). You’d better re- member your Act of Contrition & know when to make the sign of the cross. Those were the days...

Pastor's Blog for March 3, 2019

Rudy Dejelo and his wife Cora were one of the couples who journeyed with me to Italy this past October. While there, Rudy complained of stomach pains and it was discovered very shortly after we arrived back in Cleveland that he was suffering from liver cancer. Just after they began to give him Hospice care, Rudy went home to the Lord. Having seen how much Rudy & Cora cared for each other in Italy, I know how blessed they both were in their marriage and in their family. They have wonderful children & grandchildren and are people who have been very actively involved in the parish for many years. In fact they still host a prayer group at their home which has been meeting for years. God has blessed them and they in turn have blessed us. May Rudy now receive the reward promised to those who are faithful.

I can’t say much about another man named Ronald Yurich who passed away as he was only with us here at St. Leo’s for a few months. He was originally from the east side and had 5 children and several grandchildren. His funeral service was presided over by Deacon Pat when I was away. Whether a parishioner is well known or with us only a short time, we remember them with gratitude in our prayer and entrust them to the loving hands of God.

As we enter the holy season of Lent with Ash Wednesday this week, I invite you to join us for Mass at either 8:30am (with our school children) or at 7:00pm. This Friday of course begins our wonderful Fish Fry which so many people, parishioners & neighbors, come to enjoy. I would like to encourage you to come to our Stations of the Cross which will be held after each Fish Fry at 7pm in the church. Deacon Pat or myself will be leading them this year and we will include some music as we want more people to take advantage of this wonderful prayer opportunity which helps us to unite our sufferings to those of Christ, whose Passion helps us to make sense of our pain and brings us hope and meaning and strength. Please consider experiencing this unique prayer that has such a long tradition in our Church.

I am also looking forward to hearing three different people speak on their experience of personal struggle and how their faith has given them great insight & strength. They will be with us on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday of the last week of March. Please mark the date of this Lenten Mission in your calendar.

Finally, I received a call from my surgeon letting me know that no cancer was found in my lymph nodes and that it seems to have been contained in the prostate, so that was good news for me to hear. I will still have regular check ups but I know that your prayers for me helped me tremendously through this and I only pray now that this experience with cancer will help me to become more understanding of those who are sick and struggle with illness of any kind. That would be the best way I could thank you for your support these last few weeks.

Pastor's Blog for February 24, 2019

With my gratitude to Deacon Pat & Joan for writing last weekend’s column for me, I am happy to say that I made it through surgery and am on the way to recovery. Though I have not spoken to the surgeon yet, he told my sister after the 2 1⁄2 hour procedure that everyone went as planned and that he did not see any other signs of cancer. My follow-up appointment with him will be on Tuesday, March 5th, when he will give me the results of the pathol- ogy reports. I remain so very grateful for all your prayers, cards and words of support. I can assure you that they brought me comfort and encouragement as I faced all the unknowns of this medical situation. I was in the hospital for two days following the surgery and was off my feet for almost a week. While I’m able to walk now, I do so slowly and carefully as I’m still trying to regain my strength and let the soreness heal. One of the most difficult parts of my recovery was trying to keep Abby (the cat) from leaping onto my lap or chest where she likes to curl up & sleep. As I hold my hands out to protect myself from her potential pounce, she stares at me as if to say, “What’s up with you?” A card I received from her (you didn’t know that cats can send cards?) put it pretty honestly. It said “Welcome back...but you’re in my chair.” I also had to be careful with Michaela as she too loves to take that leap of faith into my lap after she (or I) have been away for a while. But we’re all together again & taking it one day at a time.

I’m grateful that Fr. O’Grady was willing to double up on his weekend help and that you were able to meet Fr. Klein whom I spent a year & a half with when we were both assigned to St. Bernadette in Westlake. He’s enjoying retirement now and promising me that it’s worth the wait (though a very long wait yet for me). I’m also thankful that Deacon Pat has been generous in assisting these visiting priests and know that he lead you through the Catholic Charities Annual Pledge last weekend. Every year we have always been able to meet the pledge goal that the Diocese gives to us (based upon our parishioner count) because you have recognized the many needs in our own Diocese that call out for our compassion and generosity. I will join you in committing to this worthy cause and thank you for your response.

I look forward to seeing you next weekend as I expect to return to work. I want to be able to welcome Bishop Perez back to our parish (he was last here on September 1st as we celebrated the 70th Anniversary of our Parish). The Bishop will be celebrating the Sacrament of Confir- mation for our 8th grade students at next Saturday’s 4pm Mass (March 2nd). I am looking forward to celebrating this special occasion with our young people and in their name welcome Bishop Perez as he confers on them the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor's Blog for February 10, 2019

Our Parish Council met recently and I reminded them that we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the building of our church. If you recall from our 70th Anniversary of the Parish last year, Mass was first celebrated at Benjamin Franklin School, starting on October 17, 1948. Then the following year some men of the parish began building the first church on the parish property at what is now the entrance of the church off of Broadview. It took just a few weeks to build as it was a very simple wooden structure. Then a couple years later, a new church was built made of bricks and the first Mass in that church was celebrated on December 24, 1950. This is the church which was at the south end of the school building and which later was moved to the north end of the school building where it is now & was made into Lux Hall, our current gym. Many of you have told me how you were married in that church or had children baptized and receive their First Holy Communion there. Finally, the first Mass in the church we now use was celebrated exactly 19 years later on December 24th, 1969. At the northeast corner of the church you will see the cornerstone which says “St. Leo the Great 1969.”

At this meeting with Parish Council in late January, we discussed how we might celebrate the 50th anniversary of our beautiful church. The church has seen several renovations over the years. The sanctuary floor which had green carpeting was replaced with the beautiful marble floor we have now. A daily Mass chapel was added in the right wing. Stained glass windows were installed in the nave, on the back wall of the sanctuary, in chapel areas of the church, as well as on the doors by the back vestibule. The tabernacle has moved from the center of the sanctuary to the chapel area and now is on the right side of the sanctuary. The pulpit and altar were changed, and a few months ago we re-stained the wood in the sanctuary to match the wood in the rest of the church. Church buildings, like the Church community, is always changing.

So in next week’s bulletin I’ll suggest some modest renova- tions which we discussed as a way of celebrating our 50th Anni- versary of worshiping in this church. I would appreciate your feedback as the goal is to make this a better space for you to pray and for us to celebrate the sacraments together.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the cards and promises of your prayers for my surgery on Monday. The weekday Mass people have offered a novena (9 days of prayers) for me to St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer patients. I have received a St. Peregrine medal to carry with me, blessed oil, and holy water from the springs at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in France. These small symbols of our faith keep us united in prayer with each other and with our companions, the saints. But may I ask that we all turn those prayers around now and offer them for those whose cancer is much more serious than mine? These are the people I have been praying for and my health concerns are rather small compared to theirs. I know who they are so pray with me for them who are in much greater need of God’s help than myself. That would be my grateful request to you.

Pastor's Blog for February 3, 2019

Remember back in November that I announced in the bulletin that we would have throat blessings after all the Masses? Somehow I was thinking we were celebrating the feast of St. Blaise on November 3rd, but everybody knows it’s February 3rd, this Sunday. I was having some kind of time warp in my brain. But I’m better now & know that this weekend really is the feast of St. Blaise, so Deacon Pat & I will start blessing throats during the closing song. Here’s the prayer we say: “Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other evil, in the name of the†Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The JourneySong music books in the pews were pur- chased over 15 years ago. Though hardbound and sturdy, they prevent us from singing songs that have been written since that time. So we have ordered annual paperbound books called “Breaking Bread” hymnals that are in use in many parishes. They also include the Mass prayers & read- ings which may allow us to eliminate the Mass cards that are in the pews. I am hoping to keep the JourneySong books in the pews along with the Breaking Bread hymnals but I’m not sure if both books will fit. Let me know what you think of the new song books when they arrive & are put into the pews.

I was asked by one of our school teachers to show the “Reconciliation Rooms” to the 2nd graders who are prepar- ing to make their first confession. Most of us know these rooms as the “confessional” but I used to think of them as the torture chambers when I was a kid. At that time, in the 1960’s, there was no “face to face” option. The confessionals were typically very dark and small and you knelt before the screen waiting nervously for the priest to open that screen door. How times have changed. It’s not scary anymore. I’ll say more when the Diocese has our annual “Evening of Confession” next month.

I will be visiting with friends & my sister down south this week and I’m glad I’ll have a chance to thaw out after our below zero temperatures this past week. I was visiting a nun friend of mine who is having cancer surgery this Wednesday (please say a prayer for her!) & she reminded me that the date of my surgery, February 11th, is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, a title for Mary who appeared to St. Berna- dette in Lourdes, France. Millions of people have made a pilgrimage there seeking healing of their illnesses, so I couldn’t think of a better day for me to seek healing than on this feast day. So we pray, Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for all the sick.