Polka Mass at St. Colman Catholic Church

A treasure of Cleveland’s spiritual past was home to a celebration of faith and community  as St. Colman Church at W. 65th and Lorain Road in Cleveland hosted its annual Polka Mass Feb. 10.

Celebrated by Fr. Joachim Pastirik, OSB, Mass was followed by a Valentine’s Dinner and Dance in the church’s lower level.

St. Colman was scheduled to be consolidated four years ago but Fr. Bob Begin, Pastor, rallied the parishoners and persevered in meeting the directives of Bishop Richard Lennon and this past January received congratulations from the Bishop on meeting the goal to remain open.

St. Colman invited  all of the Valentines in their lives  to celebrate this delightful day that is now a St. Colman tradition.

Those who attended Mass there for the first time were introduced to a stunning and beautiful setting, replete with statuary and religious decor that celebrates the vibrancy of the St. Colman Parish roots.

The Cleveland State University Dept. of History offers this perspective on St. Colman’s origins:

“St. Colman Catholic Church, located on W. 65th Street near Lorain Avenue was founded in 1880 as a response to the rapidly growing Irish immigrant population on Cleveland’s West Side. Father Eugene M. O’Callaghan, former pastor of the mostly Irish St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, held the first mass in a rented home off of Gordon Street (W 65th Street). Later that year, the first church was constructed on Gordon Street and the home was converted into St. Colman School. With over 1,000 worshipers in 1883, the church was expanding in both its size and the role it played within the surrounding community.

“Taking four years to construct, St. Colman Catholic Church opened its doors in 1918. The classical style structure could accommodate 2,800 people. St. Colman continued to expand, with a convent added in 1921, and both a second school and rectory constructed in 1930. The Church continued to act as the centerpiece of the neighborhood’s Irish community until the middle of the century.

“The West Side Irish community remained stable until the end of World War II. Soon after, however, the community dissolved as a result of the general exodus of Cleveland residents away from the urban core. In this changing environment, St. Colman Church evolved to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse and less prosperous community. With the 1904 school being closed and demolished in 1974, St. Colman opened one of the West Side’s first preschools in its 1930 school building. Additionally, the church expanded its role ministering and providing social services to the outlying neighborhood through the development of a recovery program, literacy projects, an outreach ministry, and HUD supported housing for senior citizens.”

The Polka Mass was similar to any traditional Mass, but musical interludes were offered by well-known Polka musician Johnny Pastrick and his band. The dinner and dance were held in the Parish Hall. On the menu were delicious favorites, such as Chicken Paprikash, Kielbasa, Sauerkraut, Pierogi, Cabbage Roll, and more.

The idea of a Polka Mass belongs to Fr. George Balasko, who visited Slovenia in 1971. As he went from place to place, the folk liturgies he heard had American liturgical music with words translated into Slovenian. He thought the heritage of Slavic Folk music should be remembered, so he returned to America and wrote English words emphasizing Thanksgiving and Praise to several well-known waltzes and polka.

A great day celebrating a terrific old church and its history! Please visit their website at   www.stcolmanparish.org

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