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First Friday Club of Cleveland Meeting with Father John Manning; "Business After Hours" Organized by the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce

After we got through with the re-entry program at the City Club, we got to rest for a little while but soon we returned to the City Club for yet another convocation.

IMG_9680This time it was a meeting of the First Friday Club of Cleveland in which the speaker was Father John Manning who would be talking about the churches in Cleveland. Among his many accomplishment, Father Manning was the pastor of St. Vincent De Paul Parish in Cleveland for 21 years until recently in 2015. Before the program started, we said hello to the Father's sister Ms. Kathy McGinty and discussed his career with her for a moment.

Father Manning started off his presentation by comparing himself to a singer of older times who would tell stories by way of song. He credited the various immigrant groups for the building of our great churches during the 1860's to the 1890's and it didn't matter so much where they immigrated from because the procedure was very much the same in all cultures.

First of all, Father Manning said that the church was very important to immigrants because they could send their children to school there; it was a gathering place "for those who gave up all" to travel to a new land; it was a place where languages and customs could be retained; and a refuge against anti-Catholic groups. Accordingly, the architectural styles were that of their native lands because these structures sent a message that its people had arrived and they were not going back to where they came from.

So the church became of symbol of wealth and power. Then Father Manning talked about how these churches came to be and the following points were very consistent:

***The pastor had a vision of how the church should look (as we said largely based on the churches of the native land) and employed an architect and/or designer to sketch it out on paper. He then had to sell this idea to his parishioners who maybe totaled between 600-800 which is a small number by today's standards.

***Building a church was truly a community effort with the prospective parishioners donating all that they could in terms of time and labor.

***Money had to be raised, though, and the parishioners had very little but they gave what they could and the pastor kept pressing them for more. To be sure, tactics were employed that demanded the parishioners do things like not go without food and/or drink for a day and donate they money they otherwise would have spent to the church. Plus, those who wished to be married by the pastor or have him baptize their child could be counted on to contribute.

***After the parishioners were tapped out, the pastor might turn to the more wealthy for sizable donations or borrow money from a lending institution because the church was considered a safe risk to pay it back in ten years.

***The bishop had to approve the design of the church and the estimated debt load. He and the pastor often clashed violently due to conflicting visions and the estimated debt. Negotiations were extensive and sometimes the courts had to settle them.

***When the new church was finally built, it was a day of great rejoicing. The bishop would bless the new church and there was a group photograph of everyone involved which was followed by a very hearty IMG_9682 banquet.

***Inevitably, there were problems due to poor planning and construction. Things often fell apart and had to be fixed. Father Manning said that it was not uncommon for some people to see their new church as a formidable "money pit." But these problems, somehow, were straightened out over time.

Father Manning concluded his presentation by saying that, "there are many stories of the foundation of the great Churches built in the 1800's and 1900's in the city of Cleveland. The Churches are truly a witness to the great faith and vision of the communities that built them. They are a testament of communities that go far beyond their means to create a monument to their community faith and hope for the future. My song has come to an end but the testament of brick and stone these early pioneers left to us is both humbling and a challenge to us to live their faith life as well as they did."

Our last event for the day was a "Business After Hours" organized by the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce at Debonne Vineyards, a very thriving business in Madison, Ohio.

IMG_9685We got to network and make a few contacts but what we really like d was hearing the story of the vineyard as told to us by Mr. Tony and Ms. Beth Debevc.

Mr. Debevc's grandfather immigrated to the United States from Yugoslavia via a freighter in 1914 and started to farm (in this very location) in 1916. He grew all kinds of fruit and raised some livestock.

Years later in 1971, Mr. Tony Debevc, at age 23, decided to open a winery which was the first one in this area since prohibition ended. At this time, in 2016, there are 16 wineries close by. Anyway, back in the IMG_9687early 1970's the winery ended up being a smashing success and over time the establishment grew adding more rooms and more options such as adding beer to the venue in 2008. Today Debonne Vineyards employs 15 full-time people and 50 part-timers; in fact, many customers told them that they would like to work there.

Mr. Debevc took us on a tour of the facility and showed us where the beer and wine are manufactured. He said that the vineyard/winery business is very competitive and one needs to have a true "passion" for it in order to succeed. Even though we, ourselves, do not drink beer or wine we could really appreciate what he was saying and could tell how much Debonne Vineyards meant to the Debevcs.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.