St. Emeric Parish on Cleveland’s West Side, which sits in the shadow of the West Side Market, had a double celebration on Aug. 19. Bishop Nelson Perez celebrated the 11 a.m. Mass that day to observe the feasts of St. Stephen and St. Emeric of Hungary.
St. Stephen, a much-loved king of Hungary, was born a pagan but baptized at about age 10 with his father, Geza, who was chief of the Magyars. After succeeding his father, St. Stephen adopted a policy of Christianization of the country, establishing a system of tithes to support churches and pastors and to help the poor. He also encouraged the building of churches throughout the kingdom. His son, Emeric, died in 1031, seven years before St. Stephen. Both were canonized together in 1083. The veneration of both saints was decreed in 1092 throughout Hungary.
During the Mass, Bishop Perez wore a brightly colored stole that bore Hungarian symbols. Instead of his crosier, he entered the church using a carved wooden Hungarian walking stick. Leading the entrance procession behind the cross-bearer were representatives of the Hungarian Scouts in uniform and others wearing traditional Hungarian dress.
Two parishioners carried large, round loaves of bread that were placed on the altar. Bishop Perez blessed the bread after Mass, cut a slice from each loaf and tasted it.
He told the congregation that faith and culture are inseparable. “Jesus was a Jew, a man of culture.” The bishop said that food is important, recalling how he and others spent many Sundays gathered around the table. “The Eucharist is the food that nourished St. Stephen and St. Emeric. This bread of life gave them strength and courage. Whoever eats this bread will live forever,” he said, linking the thought to the day’s Gospel, which focused on Jesus as the bread of life.
“The bread of life brings us all together in the universal Church as our source of solace and strength. Our hands, mouths and hearts are touched by the Eucharist,” he said.
The bishop congratulated the parish on the double feast of its namesake, St. Emeric, and his father, St. Stephen.
After Mass, the bishop was presented with a bouquet of white flowers and a gift basket.
A parishioner displayed a relic of St. Stephen that he said his family received about 40 years ago. The cross and crown of St. Stephen were displayed in the front of the church.
Father Andras Mezei, administrator of St. Emeric and St. Elizabeth of Hungary parishes, and Father Andras Antal, who retired in July as administrator of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, concelebrated the Mass. Father Mezei thanked St. Elizabeth parishioners who joined those from St. Emeric for the special liturgy.
The parish hosted a traditional Hungarian dinner in the church hall after Mass.