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.

Pastor's Blog for January 27, 2019

Though we seemed to have our regular crowd at the 4pm Mass last weekend, we had so few people here for 8am & 11am on Sunday. I’m glad that most of you chose to stay home rather than risk driving on the unplowed streets. Of course, it is not a sin to stay away on such a weekend so don’t feel that you need to confess it, the same being true when you are ill or on vacation with no possible way to attend Mass. The best option under those circumstances is to take a little bit of time to pray at home and perhaps read the scriptures for that weekend (citations are included in our bulletin every week and can be found easily online). I often suggest that people who cannot attend Mass on the weekend due to their work schedules can always attend a Mass during the week. We have Mass at 7:30am Monday through Thursday & 8:30am on Fridays (as the parish school children attend that Mass twice a month). Other parishes might have a late afternoon or early evening Mass as well during the week. My only plea would be for you to either sign up for our online giving option called “WeShare” which can be done through our rectory office (stop in or give us a call) or online at our website (www.leothegreat.org). This allows us to receive your weekly donations even when you can’t be here. But for now, if you’re able to give what you would have given last weekend, it would be very much appreciated so that we can stay on budget.

As I type this on Tuesday, January 22nd, we commemorate the sad anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion in our country. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have declared this to be a “National Day of Prayer and Penance for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.” Though the day will be passed by the time you read this, I ask that you take a moment to pray for a change in that unjust law, to pray for the unborn, and also to pray for those who are faced with an unplanned or unexpected pregnancy. On the website of the USCCB it wisely reminds us: “Decisions against human life are often influenced by feeling afraid, unsupported, pressured or alone. We need to love both the unborn children and their parents providing concrete support to help those in difficult pregnancy situations welcome their children before and after they are born.” Our love must be for all those involved.

I received the welcomed news that due to a cancellation, my surgery date was moved up from February 25th to February 11th which is 2 weeks away instead of 4. I am so grateful for the cards and pledges of your prayers. It makes me all the more conscious of our need to minister to the sick among us. May God bring health and wholeness to us all.

One of our school students came up to me last week and said, “You look just like that guy we see over in the church!” I just told him that I hope that guy is as nice as I am. He smiled & assured me he is.

Pastor's Blog for January 20, 2019

Congratulations to the parents of Thea & Carissa Harris and to the parents of Leo Seminitore, all of whom are being baptized this weekend. It’s always a joy to bring children into a relationship with Christ and the Church. May the parents be blessed too as they raise these children in the practice of the Faith.

From time to time I like to review the Church’s under- standing of the Sacrament of Anointing so that you and/or your loved ones can take full advantage of this gift of Christ to us. So often we do not hear from someone until their loved one is near death. This likely comes from an older under- standing of what was called “Extreme Unction” which is when a priest was called to anoint a Catholic when they were near death. In recent years, the Church began to refer to this Sacrament as the Anointing of the Sick in order to emphasize that it is meant to be offered to someone as soon as they ex- perience a serious illness, instead of waiting until a person’s illness is so far advanced that death may be imminent. Since this “Extreme Unction” (the word “unction” means to anoint) was given so close to death, it also became known as the “Last Rites” for indeed the anointing included final prayers of the Church for the one who was dying. So these two things were separated when the Church dropped the term “Extreme Unction” and so intended the Anointing of the Sick (a sacrament) for someone who is ill and the Last Rites (official prayers of the Church) for someone who is dying. Though someone can receive both the Anointing and the Last Rites at the same time, the preference is to separate these so that the Church may pray for the healing of a person who is ill and can offer final prayers for someone who is in the dying process. Therefore, we would encourage you to contact us for the Sacrament of the Sick when you first learn of someone’s serious illness so that we can accompany them with our prayers & support as we pray for their healing. Of course we also wish to pray for someone who is dying by giving them the last rites, but we hope to offer them our support long before that process begins, if possible. If you’re ever unsure what you should ask for or when, please don’t hesitate to call me or see me in church & ask. We want to reach out to those who are sick and to those who are dying so that we can offer to them the grace that comes from Christ through the Church.

I began watching a new show called “The Kids are Alright” which is about a Catholic family (of 8 boys) grow- ing up in the 1960’s. In one scene the children are hurriedly eating breakfast on a Sunday morning when the mother says “One hour until Communion...spit out whatever you haven’t swallowed.” That really made me LOL. If you lived in the 60’s, you’d get that “one hour fast before Communion” ref- erence. It’s good that we can laugh at ourselves.

Pastor's Blog for January 13, 2019

I met with our former Principal Sister Erin last weekand she gave me a tour of Cleveland Central Catholic High School where she is now Vice-Principal. It is on the campus of St. Stanislaus, but I wasn’t able to go into the church as it was locked, but hope to see the inside sometime because the outside of the building is beautiful. Sister Erin asked me to send her greetings to all of you. She is doing very well there and really enjoys her ministry to the high school students. Please keep her in your prayers.

All parishes received a letter from Bishop Perez regarding the St. Vincent de Paul Ministry in the Diocese, which as you know is very active here at St. Leo’s. He writes: “I remain grateful for the wonderful work the St. Vincent de Paul Society does in so many parishes to help those most in need. Through our common efforts, we faithfully respond to Christ's invitation to feed, love and tend His sheep. Thank you for all you do to attend to our brothers and sisters who are most in need. Your kindness, charity, love and respect for them manifests the Incarnation of Christ in a very real way.”So let me echo his words and take this opportunity to thank all of you for your generosity to this ministry at our parish, either through food or money donations, and let me thank especially those who work collecting the food, putting it in bags & dispensing it to those who come to us. They work behind the scenes but I want you all to know how much they do. Thanks to each of them!

I would also like to encourage your participation in our Gift Card Program. You can purchase gift cards for everyday purchases, gifts or as a simple thank you. The cards are available for purchase in the Rectory Office or at the Information Desk in the vestibule of the church after Mass. Your purchases are an excellent, easy and convenient way to help support our Parish.

I had my first appointment with the surgeon on January 4th. I have great confidence in him. He gave me the choice of having the surgery done at St. John Medical Center (formerly St. John Westshore) in Westlake or at the Main Campus of University Hospital in downtown Cleveland. I chose the former as it’s small and is a Catholic Hospital. The surgery will be on February 25th, which means I can take my planned vacation to Florida at the beginning of February.

I’m so grateful for the prayers and support & know it will help a lot in my healing. My thoughts turn especially to the ill members of our parish as I ask your prayers for them. May St. Peregrine, patron of cancer patients, pray for us.

Pastor's Blog for January 6, 2019

I anointed Dan Pisaneschi just a couple of days before he died on December 26th. We extend our sympathies to his wife Sandy and to his 3 children. While I was visiting Dan in his home, his children gave 3 pictures to their parents which were taken just a few weeks earlier by a professional photographer. One was a picture of Dan & Sandy, one was of their grandchildren, and the 3rd was a picture of the whole family with in-laws, etc. Those pictures will capture forever the love and joy that Dan & Sandy brought to each other and to so many others. May he rest in God’s peace.

We also celebrated the funeral of Diane Soler who was a longtime parishioner of St. Leo’s. I remember visiting her a couple of years ago when she was recovering from a fractured hip at Broadview Multicare. She was a regular at the 4pm Saturday Mass & I’m grateful to her sister Kathy for keeping me informed regarding her whereabouts and giving me updates on her health. I saw her in her home a couple of days before she died and she received the last rites of the Church. She offered her dialysis for the poor souls in purgatory so we can now offer our prayers for her that she may rest in the kingdom of heaven.

Congratulations to Gillian Halusker & Patrick Cooley as they are married in our church this weekend. May they be blessed with many years of happiness together.

After the 4pm Mass on Christmas Eve I could feel a certain strain in my voice but I enjoyed visiting with friends after that Mass. But then just minutes before the 10pm Mass on Christmas Eve, I heard Mickey Stitt playing a Christmas song on the organ that I liked so I started to sing along and nothing came out except squeaks & squeals. I knew immediately something was wrong: I got laryngitis right before the 10pm Christmas Mass! I couldn’t even preach (much to the delight of the congregation I’m sure) and as the Christmas song “The First Noel” says, “and so it continued both day and night”. But again, nothing happens by coincidence with God so again we were blessed by the presence of Deacon Pat who preached at the 11am Christmas morning Mass & then at the funeral I had a few days later and at the following weekend Masses as well. I finally got my voice back on New Year’s Day, just in time for the new year. So thanks to Deacon Pat for his generous availability & help when I was struck mute.

I told you that I was praying for a white Christmas when everyone else was praying for the weather we actually got. So you may be hesitant to ask me for prayers but I know I can depend on you for yours and thank you for your words of concern & for the pledge of your prayers. I should know more about the surgery by this weekend & will keep you in- formed. Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us.

Pastor's Blog for December 30, 2018

Fr. Vesely, Deacon Berigan and myself wish you all a very Happy & Blessed New Year. Appropriately, we begin the new year by celebrating the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. Mass for the Holy Day of Obligation will be at 4pm on Monday, December 31st and Mass on New Year’s Day at 11am. These are different times for our usual holy day Mass- es but given the circumstances of new year’s celebrations, I believe they will work better for most.

A week before Christmas we had a funeral Mass for Dolores Maras. She was a woman of faith who always carried the rosary and had a devotion to Mary. She had 5 children, 7 grandchildren & 2 great-grandchildren. Though confined to a wheelchair for several years, her family knows that in the glorified body God will give to us in the resurrec- tion, she will no longer be restricted in any way. We trust that she who had much faith will walk the halls of heaven.

A word of thanks for all the cards, cookies & other Christmas treats we received over the holidays. I guess people like to have a plump priest. No worries here.

It was on January 1st five years ago that I began as Pas- tor here at St. Leo’s. It’s unbelievable to me that that much time has passed already! But because of your support and faith, it has been a most joyful five years. So I will trust in your continuing support and prayers especially during the month of January. I learned a couple of weeks ago that I have prostate cancer. I have heard it said many times that prostrate cancer is very slow growing, but unfortunately I have the fast growing kind. But after a CT scan and a bone scan, it appears that mine has not yet metastasized. Because there is always the risk that it will spread however, the doctor has recommended that I have surgery as soon as possible to have it removed so that will likely be in January. I have a consultation with the surgeon on Friday of this week so I will learn more then. I don’t know how long the recovery period will be but it will be at least for a couple of weeks. Even in my Advent homilies, I have tried in my preaching to focus on the joy and peace we can experience even during challenging times, so now is the time for me to practice what I preach. I can tell you that already, God has given me the grace to receive support from many people and things have happened in such a timely way that I know it is more than coincidence. As St. John Paul II said, “In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences”. I can see the hand of God behind all of this and I remain hopeful that I can let faith lead me. My biggest hope is that I can use this experience to become more understanding and compassion- ate to all those who are afflicted with illness of any kind. May the Divine Physician heal us all.

Pastor's Blog for December 23, 2018

Since we don’t have a separate bulletin for Christmas Day, allow this Fourth Sunday of Advent bulletin to double as our Christmas bulletin. With that in mind, I want to welcome all who will be with us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Whether you are a regular at St. Leo’s or not, we are so glad you are here! God’s love and mercy is extended to all. Indeed, that is the very message of this great feast. As the priest pours a drop of water into the wine that has been poured into the chalice at the Preparation of the Gifts (the “offertory”) at every Mass, he prays “Through the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled him- self to share in our humanity.” So we remember this great mystery of the “Incarnation,” God’s coming in the flesh to share fully in our human nature. On behalf of Deacon Pat & Joan Berigan and in the name of Fr. Vesely, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. And the parish wishes Fr. Vesely a happy belated 64th Anniversary of his ordination which we celebrated on December 18th.

As I type this on the Monday of the week before Christmas, I am preparing to watch the Nativity Play put on by the Kindergarten children of our Parish School. There is such joy in watching them act out this incredible story as they show in such a simple way the profound mystery of this feast. I also look forward to the School Christmas concert where we can enjoy the sacred music of this season.

What I do not enjoy, however, is the blue sky and warm weather that is evident outside of my office window right now. I know that some of you Grinches will rejoice in the absence of the white stuff that usually falls from the heavens at this time of year. But not me. While I am done with winter by February or March at the latest, I still remember the snowy days of my childhood which meant we stayed home from school, went sledding down hills & got away with throwing snowballs at our enemies under the ruse of just having some innocent winter fun. Of course I have no idea if we will be blessed with a white Christmas when you read this, but you can be sure that I’ll be praying hard for one while you pray for spring. We’ll see who’s prayers the Lord listens too!

Once again we want you to go home on Christmas with the gift of a book that I’ve read & enjoyed. I’m sure that God will speak to you through it too so read it with your eyes & listen to it with your heart.

Pastor's Blog for December 16, 2018

Our St. Leo’s Seniors really know how to party. They had their annual Christmas Party at Copper Stone Catering & Event Center & it was a wonderful meal accompanied by a DJ who provided the expected Christmas music. Everyone seemed to be enjoying each other’s company and I was happy to be a part of it. If you are a Senior, you may want to consider joining them. They meet twice a month in our Parish Community Center and it’s a time for companionship and mutual support. And of course every gathering includes food to enjoy. They have guest speakers and entertainers from time to time & seem to have a lot of fun. Please call Barb Mudrey if you’re interested (216-398-7709) or the Rectory Office (216-661-1006).

Several people have been coming to the video series on Monday evenings during Advent where Bishop Robert Barron explains the parts of the Mass. It really helps us to engage more in this central act of Catholic Worship when we grow in our understanding of what it’s all about. We’ll have our last viewing this Monday at 7pm so feel free to join us even if you haven’t seen the other 2 videos. This one will be on the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the 2nd part of the Mass. If you would like to view the videos at home, you’re more than welcome to come to the Rectory Office & request them (they’re DVD’s). We’d be very happy to have people watch them on their own time & perhaps can even invite some others over to view them with you.

This week my cousin Father Dan Schlegel will be joining my sister and I in making homemade ravioli & soup noodles, the staple of the Schmitz Christmas (& Easter) family meals. My mom was the real expert at these Italian dishes though & even though she taught us how to make it before she died, we still can’t get them to taste exactly like hers. Of course her recipe was typically Italian which means they don’t use measuring cups or worry about ounces or and of those details. It’s pretty much “a dash of this & a dash of that.” Maybe it doesn’t call for a bottle of wine but we’re trying to be as creative as she was. Better to just stick to the ingredi- ents she gave us, even if we’re not sure of their exact measurements. But I’m glad that the recipe and the tradition has stayed with the family all these years & that my cousin wants in. We should probably charge him for the privilege since it is proprietary information but it is Christmas after all. Of course he’ll have to do the kneading and the more tedious parts like forking the raviolis after the cheese has been placed between the layers of dough. But that’s the cost of being included in secret family recipes. Hope he’s up to the task.

Our 4th week of Advent this year will be very short since the final week of Advent which begins with our Masses next weekend is interrupted by Christmas Eve next Monday. That also means we have less time to get our Christmas shopping done. I’m glad I have a lot of elves to help with mine.