The President's Corner
Let me begin by saying that I am praying for your safety and health as our world is turned upside down due to COVID-19. Like you, I use reading as an escape from the world’s problems. This month, after a long hiatus, I return to my series on Parma’s places of worship. Weeks ago I visited Father Ray Sutter at St. Matthias Roman Catholic Church at 1200 West Sprague Road, located literally on Parma’s far southeast corner. In fact, I owe him a big apology for not writing this sooner, but other stories got ahead of me.
Fr. Ray grew up in Fairview Park and attended St. Angela Merici Parish and school. He then went on to study at Borromeo Seminary for high school and college, eventually attaining a Bachelor of Arts in history. Quite the scholar, Fr. Ray attended St. Mary Seminary School of Theology and was awarded a Masters of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry. He was then ordained in 1973. Since his ordination, Fr. Ray has served St. Luke’s Parish in Lakewood , where he also served as chaplain of Lakewood Hospital, and St. Justin Martyr in Eastlake. He has been serving at St. Matthias since Bishop Anthony Pilla called there in June, 1992.
When I asked Fr. Ray what brought him to the priesthood, he said his brother. “When I was seven years old, I wanted to do what my big brother, who was in the seminary, did,” he explained. “My parents, as well as many influential nuns and priests, played a big role in helping me to hear God’s call,” he added. According to Fr. Ray – “Pad-Ray” as some like to call him - St. Matthias is the sister church of St. Columbkille (Parma), St. Michaels Parish (Independence), and Assumption Church (Broadview Heights). The small parish was founded in 1980. “Coming to St. Matthias was one of the best things that has happened in my life,” Fr. Ray said. He cites the warm, welcoming congregation where everyone knows one another by name as the biggest asset of the parish.
A big goal of St. Matthias Parish is social action and outreach. In fact, they have a close relationship with Brookside Food Center and St. Malachi Parish. Parishioners provide donations of money and food, as well as assist with preparation of meals for the needy and homeless. They also have a connection to Food for the Poor, which is a national charity whose mission is to help the needy in Latin America and the Caribbean. In fact, in recent years the Parish has donated over $27,000 to dig wells in Guatemala, as well as $40,000 to build seven homes in Haiti. “Our Parishioners are very giving of their time and treasure, as Christ calls us to do,” Fr. Ray pointed out.
St. Matthias also has an active Knights of Columbus group which does a lot of charitable work. They also have a Stephen Ministry which, according to their website is a “one-to-one lay caring ministry that takes place in congregations to equip and empower lay caregivers – called Stephen Ministers – to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting.” The parish offers several other programs for both young and old. Masses are held on Saturday at 4:00 pm, Sunday at 9:00 am and 11:00 am, and Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 8:30 am.
Fr. Ray wanted me to add that during the COVID-19 pandemic, every evening at 8:00, parishioners have been asked to stop and pray for just a few minutes for those afflicted by this virus. Using his IPad, he “goes live” almost every evening to stay connected. “We’ve had sessions where we just chat with each other. One evening we did a scriptural rosary. Monday we did a Holy Hour with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction at the end. We have had, I estimate, as many as 300 people joining us (including the mayor a few times). I do it through my personal Facebook page. We also are live streaming Sunday Mass at 10:00 am. We are also planning on live streaming Holy Week services,” Fr. Ray explained.
On June 26, St. Matthias will be celebrating their 40th anniversary. Plans are still in the works, but rumor has it that the diocesan Bishop will be in attendance. I, for one, am looking forward to being there. To find out more about St. Matthias Parish visit their website at stmatthiaschurch.org or call (440) 888-8220. Stay well and please consider donating a little more to your favorite charity or faith organization, as COVID-19 has not been good to them.
Parma City Council President Sean Brennan