Friday, August 18, 2017

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: 1928 INSTALLMENT III: A PLACE TO CALL HOME

Immediately a search was begun for land on which to build the new parish.  Land prices were soaring in the 20s due to an economic boom and great consideration was given to waiting for the right place at the right price.  An original site was considered at the south end of what is now known as Schneider Park but what was known then as the Sunset View Estates.  The price would be $50,000.00.  A certain amount of anti-Catholic sentiment kept the transaction from going through.  There were protests and appeals were made to the zoning commission in order to halt construction of a church.  Monsignor set out to have the zoning changed and 600 persons signed a petition to this effect.  (If you look up from the tire in this picture, you will find the current location of St. Sebastian.  To the mid-right of the photo is the proposed original location.  This picture was taken by Fr. Allan Corrigan.)

More land was located in the Elmdale Estates property in a triangle of land between Mull Avenue, Hawkins Street and Elmdale Avenue.  The land in the area, consisting of lots of open fields, was as of yet relatively undeveloped and in some places swampy.  It is reported that in the  early 1920s the Klu Klux Klan held late night rallies and cross burnings in these fields.  Directly across from the Mull Avenue property was a wooded area known as Elm Hill Park.  At one time there was a cabin that sat on the shore of a pond on this property that Author Marks, the original owner of Elm Court, used for hunting.  The pending sale on Delia and the possibility of zoning changes drove down the price on this property.  So on February 10th, 1929 the 8 acre property on Mull Avenue was purchased along with a bit of swampy land across South Hawkins Avenue in hopes that a future high school might be constructed there.

It was at this time that Father Zwisler’s childhood companion became part of the history of the new parish.  While Father Zwisler’s life path led him to the preisthood, his friend from St. Bernard Parish School, Robert Kraus, went on to become an architect eventually opening his own architectural firm in Akron.  The new pastor contracted the services of Kraus and Helkamp to begin plans for the new parish.  Kraus and Helkamp had already developed a reputation for building fine Catholic structures. Now they designed a combination church, school, convent, and recreation hall for the newest parish in Akron.  As they worked on the plans the firm was kind enough to offer Father Zwisler office space in their place of business from which he might manage the parish.  The offices were a short walk from St. Vincent Parish on West Market Street and as the of the architect, Robert Kraus Jr., said, “We were planning the new parish practically in the shadow of the bellower of the church!”

In short order the plans for the new building were finished and approved by the bishop.  The blue prints were hung up at all the exits of the Rankin School Auditorium so parishioners could have a look at what their future church would look like.  


A shrewd man, Fr. Zwilser put out for bids for the building.  He hired the lowest bidder and then hired the second lowest bidder to keep an eye on the lowest.  If they did not like the arrangement he was content to go with the second lowest bidder and then hire the next bidder up to keep an eye on them.  Apparently C. W. & P. Construction found the terms acceptable and a ground breaking date was announced for April 28th.  The Most Rev. James A. McFaddedn, then auxiliary bishop of Cleveland, laid the cornerstone after a delay because of a severe rain storm.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

JULIE BILLIART SCHOOL AT ST. SEBASTIAN, AKRON

I have family who are public school teachers and they are not always kind about Catholic schools accusing them of accepting “typical students” while turning more challenging students away - particularly students who learn differently.  Now, I know there are some Catholic schools that do more.  For example, St. Adelbert has the Steps Program and other schools enroll students on a limited basis such as St. Francis de Sales.  But these wonderful programs were not meeting the great need.

Returning to school after Thanksgiving, I was telling the principal of the day school about this dilemma and how I wished we had the capability, space and resources to help these children and their families.  She said, “The principal from the Julie Billiart School in Lyndhurst is downstairs helping us with our accreditation.  You should talk to her.”  The Julie Billiart School (JB) is a Catholic school in Lyndhurst, Ohio founded by the Noter Dame Sisters that serves the population of students we had failed to serve.


I told Jodi Johnson, the principal, about my thoughts and her eyes widened.  “The school just decided that we should expand our mission and open new schools and we were looking for a way to do that!”

From there on it has been a rollercoaster of activity.  As soon as it got out that we were opening the school we were receiving phone calls asking when we would start enrolling.  (We didn’t even have a building yet.)  Numerous stories came out about how people moved from our area because they we didn’t have the resources that they wanted for their children.  It seemed we were on the right path.

There was lots of prayer and soul searching.  Many people stepped forward to help out.  Building were looked at.  Recognition from the state as well as the Catholic Church (no easy thing!) were sought.  Through it all we trusted both St. Julie and St; Sebastian (with a little extra help from St. Joseph when we were looking for a building.)  Every couple of weeks or so we would come up against a seemingly monumental and impenetrable stone wall and say, “That’s it!  We really tried.  But I guess it’s just no meant to be!  St. Julie and St. Sebastian, if you want this to go forward, you are going to have to do something!”  And I kid you not, the next day it was if the wall turned to wet tissue in a rainstorm and we marched ahead.


It may be years later with many interesting stories, blood, sweat, and tears - valiant work on the part of many hands, but this Tuesday we will open our doors to the first classes of K - 3 with the goal of being a K - 12 school in a few years.  If it is successful, it is hoped that it will be a string of schools helping children all over our diocese and beyond!  I am so thankful.  Please keep this project and all of its people in your prayers.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCC

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  Lying is easy.  But it's lonely."  Victoria Schwab in "The Archived"

QUOTE II:  "The liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else."  George Bernard Shaw

IN OTHER NEWS:

I love it when the Knights of Columbus turn out for a special Mass.  (I keep telling them that they can come every week if they wish!)  Things are going to change going forward now.  Gone will be the feathered hats and the capes.  There is a new uniform.  See more HERE.

I had the opportunity (and need) to go up into our bell tower this past week.  Below is a view of part of our campus and the bottom picture is of the flower garden in front of the church as planted and maintained by our volunteer grounds crew!



M. K. sent in THIS great article: "Advice to a Young Priest."

E. P. sent the following articles in for our students going back to college:
10 Rules for Campus Dating HERE.
Tips for Keeping Your Faith Alive in College HERE.
A Check List for Growing Your Faith HERE.
A Happy and Successful Student: Sober and Chaste.  HERE.

ONE WEEK FROM TODAY the newest Catholic school in the diocese will be opening in Akron: The Julie Billiart School at St. Sebastian, Akron.  HERE is the website.

Last week I told you about the St. Julie Billiart painting that is about to be hung in the JBSS school.  HERE is a video of the painting in progress.

You must go to Youtube to see THIS WEEK'S VIDEO.  Eric Armusik painted this portrait of G. K. Chesterton (above) for me as a gift.  Views of this painting online is in the 10s of thousands.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

MONDAY DIARY: ALMOST EXCRUCIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: LIGHTENING NEVER STRIKES IN THE SAME PLACE TWICE IN FAIRY TALES

A few years ago I wrote a Monday Diary about a horrendous trip I took from PA to Ohio entitled, "PA Is All Wet."  If you desire a refresher you may find it HERE.  Basically it was about the fog, torrential rain, standing water, and hail that I went through to get a painting of St. Sebastian by Eric Armusik to St. Sebastian Parish.

Two weeks ago I was in New York with my sister and we took a side trip on the way home to pick up some new paintings from Mr. Armusik: most importantly, one of St. Julie Billiart that will be in the new school.  So we loaded up the car and contemplated going home the same way I had last time.

So we are driving along and - you can ask my sister - this happened:
Then we see these light up signs that say, "Danger: limited sight distance."  No kidding.

It wasn't quite as bad as last time but it was still harrowing.  But PA was not going to give up without a fight.  Storm warning signs came up next and then the rain started.  There needs to be another name for this rain.  It wasn't nice, water your garden rain.  This was I HATE YOU AND PLAN ON WIPING YOU OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH rain.  It was rain with a vengeance.  

A couple of times I hydroplaned and so slowed way, way down.  It was obvious that we were going to be very late getting back now and I was supposed to meet a fellow priest and so had my sister text him and say that I was going to be late.  He texted back:
So we are going a long, already tense, when the phone makes that loud jarring sound that it makes when it about to give an Amber Alert.  We jump and yell.  Then I ask my sister. . .
Seriously PA?  Do you really dislike me that much?
Perhaps not the wisest thing to do.  But I feared if we stopped we would have to stay forever.

Friday, August 11, 2017

FRIDAY POTPOURRI: 1928 - INSTALLMENT II: "BRIDGE" BUILDING

Four Mass times were scheduled for that first Sunday and 1,200 people were in attendance.  Precious Blood Priests from Cleveland and Canton assisted with Masses (and did so until 1940).  The very first collection was $475.37.  Monsignor wrote a personal thank you note to everyone who contributed.  The first parish baptism, Marie Catherine Boesart, was held that day at St. Vincent Parish at 2PM.  Office hours for the parish began at St. Thomas Hospital in the evenings from 7 to 9:00PM and an appointment could be made by dialing LIncoln 734.  During this same period, in exchange for his lodging, Father served as a chaplain for the hospital and a “moral medicine teacher” for the first class of nurses.


At the end of the first month of the parish, Monsignor wrote the following letter to the St. Sebastian parishioners:

“The first month of the new parish has passed into history.  With sundry difficulties which were not without anticipation the month revealed many encouraging facts.  From the very first, people, almost without exception, heeded the call of their Chief Shepherd, the Rt. Rev. Bishop, enrolled under the banner and the patronage of St. Sebastian.  The attendance at Mass has been excellent and the moral support accorded to your pastor has been praiseworthy.  For the first month of the trying period of the organization the financial support has also met with approval.  The total for the four Sundays of August was $2,003.74, approximately $500 per Sunday.  So far approximately 1200 adults are registered.”

At the Sunday Masses of September 5th it was announced that on Wednesday there would be a meeting at the Rankin School auditorium for the women of the parish for the purpose of establishing the Sanctuary Society, an organization that exists to this day, which makes it the oldest organization in the parish.  100 women were in attendance at that meeting.  A committee was set up to plan some gatherings.  They met at Mrs. Jas. Flynn’s home on October 7th to plan a First Card Party.  It was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall and was a combination bridge party and dance hosted by the Sanctuary Society ten months after its founding.  500 people were expected to attend.  A second card party was held by Mrs. Stowe.


The card game played was Bridge.  There have been continual Bridge Flights since those founding games making it the official card game of the parish.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

ART MATTERS

It was interesting seeing St. Patrick Cathedral transformed from grey and black to this brilliant white color as the structure was cleaned and repaired.  However, it is one thing to see such a building transformed, it is quite another to witness it being built.  There are opportunities to do this however.

The Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York began construction in 1892 and still has quite a ways to go.  But that is what makes it fascinating to visit.  Uncompleted towers are stunted.  Interior stonework simply ends.  The beautiful finish work exteriorly gives way to rough stones and bricks.  Still it is one of the five largest cathedrals in the world.    It is simply magnificent.  Read more HERE.

Historically a church of this size would take about 500 years to build.  For a contemporary peer comparison, recall Sagrada Familia in Barcelona which began construction in 1882.  Both of these structures have only been under construction for a little over a century.  While there is hope that it will not take another full century complete either structure, compared to their elder equivalents,  are going up at lightning speed.





I was visiting St. John Cathedral with a non-Catholic, unchurched architect who marveled at the building even more than I did (and I was pretty awed.)  What was equally as fascinating to me however was the perceived shift in the direction of those in charge of the cathedral from its inception to the modern day.  Granted, I was only there one day and did not engage anyone in deep conversation, so take this with a grain of salt.  But if the art and architecture’s first impression spoke for itself, it was captivatingly interesting.  From what appeared to be a very traditional Christianity, there are contained within its walls one of the earliest modern depictions of “Christa,” Christ as a woman on a plexiglass cross.  Read more HERE about it.  

Speaking with other Catholic sensitive persons, we discovered that we had similar experiences.  Approaching the building, it gave off a welcoming feeling.  In fact, it looked more Catholic than most modern Catholic churches (if I may be so bold.)  It takes a while of being there and taking in the art that a Catholic steeped in religious art will start to feel a little bit unbalanced.  Not that it is bad but that it is different.  It is like being in a parallel universe where everything is just a little bit off as in the Mandela Effect (read more on that HERE.)  One can see clearly in stone, paint, and other mediums how very similar we are, and how very different we are and as time goes by how that divide seems to deepen.  


If you get the opportunity to visit both St. John and St. Patrick, make many mental notes on theme, topics, theological emphases, and philosophical groundings.  It becomes clear how important the arts are and why the Church needs to take seriously her role as patroness of the arts and, in general, stop buying all her mass produced art out of catalogues.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK CCCLXLIX

FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Unless we live with art, we cannot understand it." On a sign in the Guggenheim 

QUOTE II:  "Art is one of the great resources of my life.  I believe that it not only enriches the spiritual life, but that it makes one more sane and sympathetic . . . " Abby Aldrich

QUOTE III: "I feel like playing a sad song for that guitar collecting dust in your closet."  Dan Smith, guitar instructor.

IN OTHER NEWS:

So last week I was in New York.  Here are a couple of things of interest for you.  Here is a shot of St. Patrick from on top of the Rockefeller building.  Those who took one of my architectural symbolism classes or read it here can easily see the blatant Cross on the architecture of the building when viewed from above.  No mistaking what THIS building is all about!
Last time I visited St. Patrick was many, many years ago and the interior was pretty much black.  This was quite a pleasant shock.  The reason for this shot is for you to see the candle that I lit for all the people of St. Sebastian and for readers of this blog.
On the way home we stopped by Hamburg, Pennsylvania to visit Mr. Eric Armusik and his lovely wife Rebecca and their wonderful children.  As you can see their house was alone was worth the trip. There is something to see in every corner.
The reason we were there was to pick up some new paintings.  Below, in his studio, you can see him presenting the new painting of St. Julie Billiart.  This painting will reside in the new school opening this summer: The Saint Julie Billiart School at St. Sebastian, Akron.  There are two things to note about this painting:  1) The paper she is enAKRONistcally holding is a decree by Bishop Lennon allowing the school to open.  It was the last bit of official business he did before retiring.  2)  It really isn't St. Julie.  There are very few real depictions of her and so he used a model - a cashier in Hamburg, PA.  It is AWESOME!  You should come and visit her.
Peeping over the top of her is G. K. Chesterton which he did for me as a gift.

If you go HERE and then flip through the other paintings, you can find a better picture of St. Julie.

Need more Chesterton news?  Go HERE.

Here is a longer version of the video I posted two weeks ago since that got such a great response:

Monday, August 7, 2017

MONDAY DAIRY: ALMOST EXCRUCIATINGLY TRUE STORIES: THE ART OF LIVING

Now I know some people might be offended by the following post.  Maybe it really doesn't deserve to be on the blog.  But it was the oddest thing.  During my week away, I had many encounters with unique toilets.  It was just a common theme that I could not seem to escape.

There is no doubt that this topic touches on something that is universal to all of humanity.  It doesn't matter how rich or poor you are, if you are depressed or happy, a believer or an atheist, this is just one of those things that unites us together.  The other end, if you will, of the other common experience we have for the need to eat.  It is a sign of our humanity and as such plays a unique role in our collective imagination.  

It occupies much of our thought.  A local paper called, "The Devil Strip" (if you want to know why they call it that, ask someone from Akron) has a regular feature entitled, "Urine Luck" which is a review of local spots where one may found themselves in need of taking a break from everything (with the possible exceptions of reading and talking on the phone) and giving way to this need.

So I was with my sisters in New York and among the museums we visited was the Guggenheim.  If there is one thing the Guggenheim, designed by the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is NOT know for it is having plenty bathrooms conveniently located.  There was one single, unisex bathroom, however, that had a particularly long line and which was guarded by a docent.  Outside of the door was a plaque just like all the other articles of art had.  This one is called, "America" and when you enter, you find a toilet fashioned out of gold. 

The guide book calls it, "One percent art for the ninety nine percent."  That seems pretty accurate to me.  It is an outrageous extravagance normally reserved for the insanely rich being made available to the masses (who can afford to get to New York and pay the entrance fee.)  In the end (ha) we are all really just human beings who have to use such things.  Some people get to have fancier surroundings and others not so much.  When one thinks of the public art that could be produced, what's really the point of a person having a golden throne?  There are lots of interesting social commentaries one could carry on about this - not the least of which is, "Is this art?"  I'm glad it was done, think it should have been done, is beneficial that it was done, but - art?  I know some will disagree but - there's another post coming on that I suppose.


Moving on from there, there were these dandies.  There was an estate sale in West Akron this past week and I got a text that said that I must visit it.  This place had everything: full theater, bar, generous bedrooms, but EVERYBODY was talking about the smallest rooms in the house where these beauties were located.  There is a such a stigma about these articles.  We don't really talk about them.  We want them clean, quiet, out of the way and not too extravagant.  There is something humbling about even having to use one.  Even Sebastian looks slightly ashamed when he has to go in the park.  But look what this lady did to hers.  It is the commode equivalent to the Red Hat Club for women of a certain age who go out wearing hats and purple and red clothing.  No discrete plumbing here, this says, "Look at me and be bedazzled!"
Maybe this humanizing thing is ONE of the reasons bathrooms and who can and which one has become such a political hot potato.  It says a lot about how we define ourselves.

The apartment we stayed in in Manhattan was pretty small.  There were four of us staying a swell place that was really designed for two.  That meant there was not a lot of privacy save for showers and you-know-what.  And of all of the commodes, this was my favorite.  Notice there is no tank on the back of it and a large window that overlooked a street corner.  Did you know you could sit backwards on such a throne?  Further, you could crack open the blinds and watch people going about there business or prop your book agains the window and read while resting your elbows on the window sill?  For an hour if you need to?  For that is America.  That is bedazzled.