The President's Corner
This month I return to my continuing series on Parma’s places of worship by reporting on Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church. I have visited Holy Spirit, located at 5500 West 54th Street, many times over the years and have developed a close friendship with Pastor Reverend Father James Batcha. I have to say that I always feel welcomed into this special Parma holy space.
Father Batcha grew up on the West Side and attended Byzantine High, but finished high school in 1972 at Holy Name on Harvard Avenue his senior year, due to his alma mater closing. “I knew from the age of five that I wanted to be either a priest or a doctor,” he explained. Growing up in a faith-filled home, he spent six weeks shadowing a priest friend and, as a result, knew he was called to serve the Church. Ordained in 1985, he began his service in Minneapolis, later serving as Pastor in Mentor-on-the-Lake, Fairport Harbor, Akron, Lorain, and Columbus, before coming to Parma in 2005. Father Batcha has also been a member of the City of Parma Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) since its inception and maintains a close relationship with the Community/Business/Schools (CBS) partnership and the Parma Area Chamber of Commerce. He speaks English, Russian, and Church Slavonic fluently and has a working vocabulary in several other languages.
Like many churches in Parma, Holy Spirit has its roots in Cleveland. In fact, it is the daughter church of Holy Ghost Church on West 14th Street, which now mainly serves as a cultural center for the Byzantine Rite. The church, rectory and hall were all built in 1969 east of the mother church’s cemetery. The cemetery celebrated its centennial in 2009. Interestingly, the 21 acre cemetery property was purchased for $6,000 from the Benajah Fay family, who were Parma’s first settlers, moving here from New York in 1816. Notably, former Mayor James Day and his wife Linda are buried in the cemetery. When West 54th Street was built, the cemetery property was cut in two, so the property on the east side of the road was sold to St. Mary’s Polish National Catholic Church located on Broadview Road.
Holy Spirit is part of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma. This “diocese” includes 12 states with 22 parishes located mainly in the Cleveland and Chicago areas. The Byzantine Catholic Church has four Eparchies in all throughout the country, with its headquarters or Archdiocese in Pittsburgh. The Parma Eparchy Cathedral, where the Bishops sits, is at St. John’s located at the corner of Snow and Broadview Roads.
The Byzantine Catholic Church is an Eastern Rite Catholic Church in union with the Pope in Rome. In fact, all Catholics may attend services and receive Holy Communion to fulfill their Holy Day and Sunday obligations. They share the same seven sacraments and beliefs. The liturgy is rich with Eastern Rite customs and traditions. Services are chanted in English with some use of the original Church Slavonic. Like the congregation during services, the priest faces the altar “because we are praying with, not at, the congregants,” Father Batcha mentioned. Over 1 million Byzantine Catholics call America home. According to their website, “Our church is open to all backgrounds.”
Holy Spirit has an award-winning party center that is rentable for events. In fact, I have attended many community events there over the years. They host wedding receptions, First Communion parties, funerals, bridal showers, fundraising events, etc. They also have a smaller hall for small-scale events. For more information call 440-842-6522 or 216-429-1956. Visit the following website for catering information: www.waltams.com.
Parma City Council President Sean Brennan