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Keeping the Doors Open: A Benefit for St. Colman's

On Sunday, October 2nd, our event for the day was "Keeping the Doors Open; A Benefit for St. Colman's at the West Side Irish American Club on Jennings Road in Olmsted Township.

img_4980Margaret W. Wong and Associates was a benefit sponsor of this event and Judge Sean C. Gallagher, the Master of Ceremonies, read our name off several times along with those of the other sponsors. Judge Gallagher also noted that Ms. Wong had been interviewed several days before by Ms. Sara Shookman on WKYC and urged everyone took take a look at it.

 Since we were sponsors we had our own table, and since only a couple of people from our office were able to attend, we requested that St. Colman's give the remaining seats to those who would like to sit with us. Thus, we got to sit with Sisters Annie Kilbane, Audrey Cook and Kathleen Kilbane from the Congregation ofSt. Joseph in Rocky River. Also sharing our table was Mr. Jim Kilbane and his wife, Ms. Loretta Kilbane, who have been tremendously supportive of St. Colman Church over the years.

img_4989As we waited for our turn to walk through the food line, we were entertained by the Portersharks, a fine Irish band. We heard that Billy Kaye was performing in the Madison-Abbey Room so we walked over there for a few minutes and danced to "Moonlight Serenade" made famous by Glenn Miller back in the 1940's.

The program began with a wonderful documentary titled "St. Colman Church-God's Jewel Box" made by Mr. Ron Strah which talked about the 1880 creation of St. Colman Parish by and for people who had immigrated to the United States from Ireland and the building of the beautiful structure, completed in 1918, which stands to this day. Sections of the documentary were devoted to the struggle to keep St. Colman's open in 2009 and how the parish has expanded its ministry via such new programs as the GED Literacy program. Testimonies by Father Bob Begin, the former pastor, and Father Caroli Shah, the present pastor, img_4978were included as well as those of several of St. Colman's parishioners.

The reason for the title "God's Jewel Box" was because when the sun strikes St. Colman's beautifully designed ceiling a certain way, the effect is so spectacular that one feels like one is really inside of the jewel box of God. The documentary emphasized that St. Colman Church is a vital part of the heritage for people of Irish descent in Cleveland and that the Church has helped many immigrants who have come to it for assistance over the years. We really applaud the efforts of Mr. Strah who worked for over a year on this documentary with some help from Mr. Tim Barrett, a prominent regional architectural historian and the St. Colman Parish itself.

After the documentary concluded, it was soon time to honor the man of the day who was the very beloved Father James P. O'Donnell for whom St. Colman Church was his first assignment after being ordained a priest in 1956. By img_4971any objective standard, Father O'Donnell has had a wondrous career. Included in his accomplishments were the founding of the first L'Arche home in Cleveland; the formation of the Little Brothers and Sisters of the Eucharist; several assignments as a prison chaplain including one at the Northeast Prerelease Prison for Women; having the experience of working with Mother Teresa; and being inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame in 2012.

Father O'Donnell was introduced by Mr. Terry Allan of St. Colman's and then his lifelong friend, the now retired Judge William J. Coyne talked briefly about his friendship over the years particularly complimenting Father O'Donnell for his work within the prison system and inner city youth.

During his brief but telling speech, Father O'Donnell said that, for him, the two most important words are "blessings" and "gratitude" because he was so grateful for having such a blessed life. He loved it that he was able to work img_4982 among the "little people" who are those "who will never be noticed" but who have taught him so much. He then recalled an encounter he had with a man who had just gotten out of prison that  taught him that, even though social programs such as those offered by St. Colman Church are necessary and important, sometimes one can make an important contribution to another person's life by just being there for them. Needless to say, as Father O'Donnell was handed his award, we all rose to our feet.

After Father O'Donnell left the stage, the program soon came to a close because, as Judge Gallagher so aptly put it, "what a great guy! How do you follow that?"


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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