Monday, May 21, 2018


This past Christmas, owing to a two for one sale, I bought Fr. Simone and myself a DNA test kit.  It took us awhile to send the samples in and get the results back but finally we did.  Fr. Bearer from St. Francis was visiting the other night and I shared with him the results:

Mom always said that when you get 4 Europeans in a room, you either have an army or four political parties, with the exception of Slovenians.  When you have four Slovenians in a room, you have a choir.

Friday, May 18, 2018


It is a busy end of the year!  Apologies for no posts this week!


The Second Vatican Council closes and in the next city over, a baby named John Anthony Valencheck was born at Barberton Citizen’s Hospital.  Forty three years later he would become the fifth pastor of St. Sebastian.


Forty years had passed since the founding of the parish.  It had weathered many storms and stood up against crippling debt, one of the worst economic downturns in history, a word war, and a huge reduction in its boundaries, but it still stood out as a shining example of the very best in Catholic parishes.  Monsignor Zwisler was the mighty captain at the wheel for the entirety of those four decades, but now, at 80 years of age, it was time to retire and The Rev. Charles Byrider to be named the second pastor.

It is generally thought that this year marked the beginning of the Byrider era and in many ways it did.  But the influence of Monsignor Zwisler was far from over.  He would continue to live at the parish and his shadow of influence would continue.

Friday, May 11, 2018



The Catholic world begins to change dramatically as we enter this year.  It is the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  From religious habits to the way Mass is celebrated, many aspects of the Church went through dramatic alterations.  This would include architecture.  But the original integrity of St. Sebastian church remains largely intact to this day.  Built with the same foresight as the rest of the campus and falling on the cusp of the Council, the building seems to have had a sense of the changes that were to come.  So the when the changes did occur, very little was needed at all by way of alterations.  In fact, besides the addition of a second free standing forward altar donated by the Wendelken family, there were no changes necessary, all other adjustments to the space being made later and for different reasons.


This was an unusual year for the parish.  It would be unusual for any parish.  St. Sebastian prides itself with a long line of sons ordained to the priesthood.  But in 1964, FOUR of her boys would be ordained on the same day, the Rev. Francis LaRocca, the Rev. Joseph Kraker, the Rev. William Karg, and the Rev. David McCarthy. One of them, Fr. Karg, would later become the fourth pastor of the parish.  Another, Fr. Kraker, would become pastor of the parish’s mother parish, St. Vincent.

A picture appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal concerning this rare event.  Monsignor Zwisler stands, holding an oversized clock normally used in the school to teach children how to tell time, while the four men who are about to be ordained point to the times each chose to celebrate his First Mass of Thanksgiving at the parish.

In a Beacon Journal article dated May of 2004 covering the 40th anniversary of these men, Marie Thomas tells a story about how mischievous they were in school.  “We had a front door and a back door in our classroom.  They would sneak out the back and rap on the front door.  When the nun went to the front door, they would sneak in the back.”
Having four priests ordained in the same year was quite an exciting thing but Monsignor was not out of tricks yet.  In 1964 a group of Catholics saw a need for a retreat facility in Summit County. On the first board were many prominent persons from St. Sebastian Parish as well as Monsignor Zwisler himself.  After appealing to the Jesuits for their sponsorship, the board raised the money needed and acquired a parcel of farmland overlooking Nimisila Reservoir near the Portage Lakes in southern Summit County.  Today it is known as Loyola Retreat House.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


“‘If God had not been on our side.’  This is Israel’s song.”  (Psalm 124)

This little ditty from the Psalms is a great example of why it is so important to contemplate, reflect and meditate.  Often when all we look at is where we are going, we only see the challenges ahead.  (Pharaoh wont let us go, the Red Sea is in the way, we are running our of food . . .)  But in reflecting back they can see how God has been with them every step of the way, through miracles, releasing them from their slavery, parting the Red Sea and removing the Roman soldiers as a threat, gaving them manna in the desert.

Parish life can be like this too.  We can get caught up in all of the work that needs to be done, all of the challenges ahead, all of the programs that the diocese wants implemented and it can be overwhelming.  But as pastor of this parish, I can look back over the past ten years and realize that we have been seen through everything that set us back on our heals when they first appeared.

You can see this with older and wiser priests.  Fewer and fewer things ruffle their feathers. Something comes down the pike - something new that must be implemented immediately or else the end of the world will happen, and priests and parish staffs and volunteers start going wild like chickens who have a wolf knocking at the door of their straw houses.  But the older priests take it in stride.  Most things will pass.  Many will be replaced by the latest and greatest before the old is even fully implemented.  All that it takes is a new person in political office or a change in Church administration.  So the older pastors roll with it not getting too excited following gate advice of  Alexander Pope, “Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”  This can only come by experience and by reflecting/mediating on that experience.

The spiritual life is the same.  The one who doesn’t meditate sees each new trial as the end of the world and wonders why God has abandoned them.  The one who sees God acting in his past knows God will see you through one way or the other - even if that is saving you at death and bringing you into heaven.

In opening the new Catholic school in Akron we hit a lot of walls and often thought the project was over.  Feeing sad at that but entrusting it to St. Sebastian or St. Julie, we would go our way wondering what would happen next.  Every time, seemingly impossible obstacles were removed and we could only attribute that to God and the intercession of our saints.  “If they had not been on our side,”  This is our song - and our encouragement to face the future.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "In matters of dogma, faith places all intellects on the same level, the learned man and the ignorant, the genius and the common herd must all subscribe to the same details of belief; rich and poor must follow the same observances, and it imposes the same austerities upon the strong and the weak; it makes no compromise with any mortal, but applying the same standard to every human being, it mingles all classes of society at the foot of the same altar, just as they are mingled in the sight of God . . . Thus, American Catholics are both the most obedient of the faithful and the most independent citizens."  Alexis de Tocqueville as found in Archbishop Chatput's, "Render unto Caesar"


Hope to see you at the next Theology on Tap:  Better parking and good food at the Barely House in downtown Akron, but the room is a little difficult to locate!  We should have more signs this time.
 Today's construction progress:  The destruction of the old plaza is going quickly:
 Now it is ready for testing to make sure we are building the new plaza on a good foundation:

Work on the shield continues.  Say hi to Lindsay way up there.  (Did you know the child is about 9'?
Just found out that our painting of St. Julie Billiart was used in a video about her feast day:

Sunday, May 6, 2018


Saturday started off inauspiciously.  I was walking the dogs in the morning and Marcy, who just dropped off some groceries at the rectory, hailed me from across Schneider park:
WHY do these things always happen on the weekend?  WHY?  Our maintenance guy said on Friday that he was looking forward to having a whole weekend off so I was not going to call him in.  We would find a way to deal with it ourselves - helpless as we are.

Unfortunately it was a very busy weekend and the project of the refrigerator would have to wait until later in the day.  That meant that when it was time for lunch, careful calculations had to be made so that the door would be open the least amount of time possible in order to retain as much cold air as possible.

Friday's meal was DELICIOUS (thank you M.W.) and it was an emergency situation so . . .
So, yes, I ate the whole thing.

Finally, everything with an immediate deadline was completed and so it was time to address the problem of the refrigerator.  I went to go tap Fr. Simone on the shoulder to help but encountered him running frantically through the house:
So he was stressed and I thought to leave him alone until I figured out a solution to our problem and  so use his time as efficiently as possible.

I checked the breakers (fine) and made sure everything else that plugged in was working (they were.)  What now?  There is another refrigerator in the basement of the rectory.  So at the very least, with the help of some boxes all the food could be taken downstairs and stored there, other things could be thrown away, and I gave the dogs all of their refrigerated treats so we wouldn't have to deal with them.

Then I thought (not knowing a lot about refrigerators) before I get too much more deeply into this, I better pull the beast out and make sure that there isn't a fuse or a breaker or a switch on the back of the refrigerator that just needs to be flipped.
And that's when I made the discovery.

Friday, May 4, 2018


The stained glass windows were made of baked glass by Francesco Marcione over a period of a year. These windows are dedicated to Our Blessed Mother as Queen, and depict her titles taken from the Litany of Loretto. 

Fourteen hand carved wooden statues carved by artisans in the Tyrolean sector of Italy surround the nave of the church. The eight side altars have two stained glass windows each that depict the lives of the saints to which they are dedicated.

The building of the new church did not end the services of the old church as a worship space.  For many years the new church would only be used for Sundays and other special events such as weddings.  Other Masses, especially the school Masses would still be held in the original church building.  The church was eventually turned into the parish hall (Zwisler Hall) and all Masses moved to the new church save for a Sunday contemporary Mass with banquet chairs and a temporary altar.  When the priest shortage began to hit in earnest and the pastor, The Rev. William Karg became the sole priest at the parish, all Masses were moved to the new church. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018


This painting is over the tabernacle in the church.  I never quite understood it.  Fr. Pfeiffer and I sat ourselves the task of figuring out all of the symbolism.  This is what we came up with:

The main part of the tester is a painting.  In the center is the “IHS” monogram and flowing from it are four wavy objects that almost look almost like bed sheets.  There are three birds drinking from pools of water and some branches with leaves on them.  The sources for this painting largely come from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel and the Book of Revelation.  

From Revelation 22:1,2: “Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, down the middle of the main street of the city. On either side of the river stood a tree of life, producing twelve kinds of fruit and yielding a fresh crop for each month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be within the city, and His servants will worship Him.…”

A similar scene is portrayed in Ezekiel 47:12: “By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food.  Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail.  They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.” 

The reference to the river being “as clear as crystal” gives reason to why the artist painted the four flowing streams as white.  The leaves for the healing of the nations are the green leaves that appear in the painting.  

In Ezekiel (39:17):  "Tell all of the birds and wild beasts, "Come! Gather together and participate in the sacrifice that I'm going to make for you. This great sacrifice will take place on the mountains of Israel, where you'll be eating flesh and drinking blood.”

This excerpt from Ezekiel tells about the birds (us) are called to gather and participate in the sacrifice; to eat flesh and drink blood.  In the Christian era we clearly see this as a Eucharistic reference.  Jesus has become the Temple in the Holy City (John 2:19-21) “Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.’ ‘This temple took forty-six years to build,' the Jews replied, ‘and You are going to raise it up in three days?’ But Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body. . .”  Jesus is the Temple and the Sacrifice (the Lamb from Revelation) that feeds the world and gives life.  In the context of the faith, all of this is referencing the Sacrifice of the Mass and the many graces that flow from it, an interesting tie in to the fact that the tester is designed to show the importance of the altar, the sacrifice of the Mass, and the healing nature of the Eucharist.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "I guess what concerned me most about the small lie was the danger of it becoming a habit. I've seen many times over the years how liars get so good at lying, they lose the ability to distinguish between what's true and what's not. They surround themselves with other liars. The circle becomes closer and smaller, with those unwilling to surrender their moral compasses pushed out and those willing to tolerate deceit brought closer to the center of power. Perks and access are given to those willing to lie and tolerate lies. This creates a culture, which becomes an entire way of life. The easy, casual lies--those are a very dangerous thing. They open up the path to the bigger lies, in more important places, where the consequences aren't so harmless."  from James Comey's, "A Higher Lyoalty"  (Thanks B. S.)

QUOTE II:  Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.”  Flannery O'Connor  (Thanks Deacon S.)


Here are some events coming up:

 K. S. sent in this picture of Chester that is just awesome.  Thanks
 Here is progress on the church restoration:  This is the machine that grinds down the terrazzo.
 This is the little grinding machine that gets into the smaller areas.
They started removing the grouting and railings at the front of the church today.
 Here is a clean vs the dirty pew shields.
This is over 2 hours but if you want something on in the background . . . 

Sunday, April 29, 2018


I was wondering this week, after seeing the headline in the Saturday Plain Dealer, "CAVALIERS TRASHED IN INDIANAPOLIS," what if newspapers reported on homilies the same way?
And what if the annoying pop-ups on your computer that try to get you to click on them focused on Catholics?
And what if radio talk show hosts took faith life as seriously as they take the national debt . . .

Friday, April 27, 2018


The new church was dedicated in May bringing the total amount of floor space on the campus to 100,000 square feet. The architecture of the new church is modern Romanesque; the exterior construction is cream-colored brick supplied by the Belden Brick Company of Ohio, the company that has supplied the brick for all of the buildings on the campus including the pavers for the new brick parking lot that would come 50 years in the future.  (The bricks for the lot incidentally were given the name Sebastian Red.)  The interior construction contains mostly Travertine marble accented by nine other marbles imported from Italy.

The space is presided over by a large-mosaic depicting the scene of the Last Supper behind the main altar. The altar is made of Giallo Doro marble and the mosaic scene features Jesus Christ in the center, holding a large chalice, and reverent apostles (except Judas in the lower left hand corner) are depicted on each side of Him.  The high altar and the tabernacle provide the “table” around which thy are gathered and the Eucharistic Bread in the tabernacle is the “bread” missing from the scene.

The sketch for the mosaic scene was chosen from several submitted by DePrato Studios in Chicago. This sketch was then sent to Venice where it took one year to make the 175,000 pieces of Venetian glass that make up the complete scene. It took six weeks for four Italian workmen to piece together and cement the mosaic to the wall.

The artist was painter and sculptor Albert E. Henselmann, born in Offenburg whose work tended to reflect the complexity of social and political upheavals of the 20th century as well as the growing importance of abstract forms of expression in art.  According to an online biography, “He received his education at the Kunstakademien in Karlsruhe and Munich and settled in Mannheim in 1925. There followed years of artistic prosperity: the painter and sculptor disassociated himself from a style of composition influenced by the art of the academy and successfully turned to the New Objectivity.  With the take-over of power by the National Socialists in 1933, a process of exclusion began, which ended with the flight to Switzerland in 1938.  In 1950 he decided to venture to a new beginning in the United States.  In the late 50’s, after his artistic work had been subject to the constraints of economic survival, Henselmann connected his work with his earlier developments and pursued his own, abstract-constructivist approaches.”  It was around this time he designed our mosaic.

According to a biography supplied by Mr. Thomas Powers who was the Cleveland agent for DaPrato Studios, Mr. Henselmann was well known for his work of modern design in churches, schools, hospitals, and industrial buildings.  His sculptures and paintings are represented in museums and are in many private collections in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


While doing some research for a project concerning the upcoming 90th anniversary of St. Sebastian Parish, I came across this bit of information:  The first known Mass ever celebrated in the city of Akron was in a log cabin owned by James McAllister who was a contractor in the early years of the city.  The priest who celebrated the Mass was named the Rev. John Martin Henni.  He was born in Switzerland but was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Cincinnati of which this area was a part.  It would be a number of years yet before the Diocese of Cleveland would be established.  

One of his passions was to take care of the scattered Catholics in this part of the diocese which consisted largely of Germans and Irish.  It was in the year of 1833 that there is a record of him saying that first known Mass in that log cabin, four years before the mission church of St. Vincent was founded.  That makes this year the 185th anniversary of that Mass.

The pastors in this area are going to do something (yet to be determined) to mark this event.  It probably won’t be huge (the number 185, while significant, is not a number like 200) but in making it, hopefully we will be able to remember more significant anniversaries in the future.  If you have an idea on how to celebrate this event, please let me know (soon.)   

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


FINDING TRUTH WHEVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "When you have something to say, silence is a
lie - and tyranny feeds on lies."  from Jordan Peterson's, "12 Rules for Life"

QUOTE II:  "What you aim at determines what you see."  same source


M. W. sent in THIS letter written by a young Catholic.  Thanks.

One of our parishioners, Adam Bernard, has one of his photos in a show.  See the story HERE.

M. S. sent in THIS article for 9 practical things to do to stay focused at Mass.  Thanks.

Here are some photos from this week's restoration projects:

The floor is being cut in order to install the sound loop.  
 The altar crucifix which normally stands about as tall as a 4th grader is disassembled for restoration.
 There are some places that the cherrie picker does not reach and so this guy had to have a loooooong pole.

Here's a laugh for the day:

Sunday, April 22, 2018


People bring Sebastian bones all of the time - mostly those rawhide bones and he does not eat or chew them.  He stores them away (somewhere) in the house and then when it is time to go for a w-a-l-k it is suddenly in his mouth.
The scenario is always the same.  He looks for THE best place to bury the bone.  This can take FOREVER.  He tries digging, decides that the soil conditions are not quite right, moves on, almost buries the bone, changes his mind and digs it back up, moves to a different spot and then finally buries it.

Weeks, and sometimes even months later - after the fermentation process has set in just so - he goes right back to the spot and digs the bone up.  At this point, the rawhide has turned to a soft, pliable, wet, dirt encrusted substance that makes him happy as all get out.
There is nothing to be done once it is in his jaws.  And INVARIABLY when he gets it in the house he drops it on the floor (usually on an oriental rug) and a TON of dirt and gross wet stuff are spilled all over and the vacuum needs to be brought out (did I mention that this part only happens at night?) just when you thought you were gong to bed.

So after a few years of this I learned the trick of catching the darn thing as he dropped it, taking it to the kitchen sink, washing it off with super hot water, and giving back to him.
This turned out to be a rather satisfactory solution to a rather nasty problem that was not going to change.  Sebastian now waits for me to catch it and then sits next to the sink waiting and wagging his tail for his gourmet grossness.

So this past week, the day Fr. Simone was on his day away, I took the dogs on their last airing out of the night and Sebastian came trotting up with the typical limp thing in his mouth.  A former bone I figured but it was dark.

We came into the dark house and I placed my hand under his chin and he dropped it.  We went over to the sink and I started running the hot water over it.
I reached over and turned on the light.
It was a rabbit.