Monday, June 9, 2014

Community of St. Peter--Amazing Ecclesial Community in Cleveland

Yesterday, the Feast of Pentecost, I celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit by attending mass with Kathleen O'Neill Webb and Rick Webb at the Community of St. Peter, which is now located in a historic old building at E. 71st Street and Euclid Ave. in Cleveland, Ohio. The community moved to this building when Bishop Richard Lennon closed the community's historic (and beautiful) old church a few years ago. Old St. Peter's was located at the corner of E.17th and Superior. My great grandfather, Cornelius Coughlin, an immigrant from Ireland, married my great grandmother, Lizzie Ierg, an immigrant from Germany, somewhere around 1885 in Old St. Peter's. So I took it personally when the bishop shuttered the historic old church.
A view of old St. Peter's Church

The community took the blow, which must have been a kind of death, and they have risen into a new facility. They have an absolutely thriving, dynamic community. Here is a photo of the outside of their new facility:

Well, from the outside it doesn't have the beauty of the old church. But they are beginning to make the inside their own. One of the first things you see as you enter the room is a beautiful holy water/baptismal font, carved from a solid piece of stone found by Lake Erie. The font is quietly powerful, solid, and beautiful. I heard the font as well as the altar were sculpted by the Koehn Sculptors from Green Road in South Euclid. Here is their website: Koehn Sculptors.

St. Pete's Holy Water Font

The simple, beautiful Altar
The mass was packed--possibly 250 people around the altar. There was a 15-person choir, with musicians playing grand piano, viola, and violin. The music was wonderful! And maybe most wonderful of all was an Alleluia called "Heleluyan: Traditional Muskogee Creek Indian Song." It was accompanied by powerful drumming and interesting and very different harmonies. I located a Youtube version of this Muskogee Creek Indian hymn:

Fr. Bob Marrone is a powerful figure. He is serious, focused, and charismatic. I think his fellow community members really love him. In his sermon he talked about failure of imagination as one of the central flaws of our time. I am sure he is right about this. He also discussed the beautiful image by Emil Nolde that was on the cover of the church bulletin. Nolde, one of the greatest of 20th Century artists, entitled this work "Pentecost." Here it is:

Emil Nolde's "Pfingsten" (Pentecost)
Fr. Bob pointed out how Peter is at the center of this painting. Peter was the fool, the failure, the apostle who denounced Jesus three times--and yet is the "rock" of the Church. That gives hope for fools and failures like us, like me!

After the mass there was coffee and some food. There I met some old friends, including Pat and Mike Coughlin (who are friends in spirit, but no close cousins, as far as I can tell), and Tim Musser. Tim is really an amazingly focused worker for peace and justice, and a friend of many of my friends, including Chris Cotter, my roommate for many years in Cincinnati.

Mike Coughlin and Tim Musser

As I left the building I met Cormac Somerville. He comes from Dublin, Ireland. I have met and played Irish music with his brother, Dermot Somerville, one of the finest Irish musicians in Greater Cleveland.

All in all, this was a wonderful, Spirit-filled experience at the Community of St. Peter. I plan to come back often.

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