In its 129-year history, St. Vitus Parish of Cleveland has had only seven pastors.
Father John Retar, the seventh, was installed by Bishop Edward Malesic during a Mass on August 13. Five other priests linked to the parish concelebrated: Father Joseph Boznar, the former parish priest who retired last summer, Father Loy Nacorda, Father Greg Neuzil, Father Johnathan Zingales and Father Retar.
As the oldest Slovenian American parish in the diocese and state, the parishioners of St. Vitus cherish their heritage and strive to pass it on to future generations. This heritage was central to the pastor’s installation liturgy, as many attendees wore Slovenian clothing. Parts of the Mass, including chants and prayers, were sung or recited in Slovene. About 500 devotees attended the celebration.
(See photo gallery above.)
The entry procession began in front of the church to the new parish hall. Servers led the other attendees and clergy across the street and into the church. Tony Leksan ran the servers. Many people representing the parish and dressed in colorful Slovenian costumes also took part in the procession, followed by ushers, parish staff and members of the pastoral and financial councils. The clergy, followed by Bishop Malesic and his master of ceremonies, entered the church last.
Father Retar’s mother Laura, along with his brother and sister-in-law, Jeffrey and Kimberlee Retar, also attended the liturgy.
Brad Morsch spoke on behalf of parishioners, friends and benefactors of the parish. He said they are ready to support the pastor’s new ministry as he listens and works with all in peace and goodwill to advance the mission and work of St. Vitus Parish as a Catholic presence. in the immediate vicinity and in the Slovenian American community in northeast Ohio. . He presented Bishop Malesic with a book on religious sites and centers in Slovenia.
Bishop Malesic, who himself is of partial Slovenian descent, spoke at the end of the mass to highlight the unique religious artwork and appearance of St. Vitus Church. Paul Kosir Sr. and many volunteers worked to restore the interior of the church during the parish’s centennial year in 1993.
Father Retar delivered some brief remarks at the end of the Mass, expressing his thanks for the opportunity to be the seventh parish priest. He presented Bishop Malesic with a check for $15,000, the first of three such donations to the diocesan Heart of a Shepherd campaign. Two more donations will be made in 2023 and 2024. The campaign has helped fund needed renovations to Borromeo and Saint Mary’s Seminaries in Wickliffe, as well as helping seminarians with student loan debt and bolstering the Priests’ Retirement Fund . The parishes also received a percentage of the funds they raised to help meet their own needs. St. Vitus uses its HOS funds for repair work on and around the parish campus. Some of the painting and plastering was already done.
More than 300 people then marched from the church to the new parish hall for a reception and photos with the bishop.
Joe Tavcar and his team prepared the food. Those preparing the room and serving were Marge Kuhar, Maria Lees, Mike and Maggie Milakovich, Matt and Michelle Plecnik, Sherri Stidham, Betty Svekric, Andrew and Brandon Uzl, JJ Zaklej and Ann Zitko.
Others who attended the event included Mark Celestina, John Cugel and Millie Gonzalez.
Father Retar was ordained a priest on May 17, 2003 by Bishop Anthony Pilla. His previous assignments included serving as Parochial Vicar at St. Mary’s Parish, Berea and St. John Vianney, Mentor. He was also parish priest of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Lorain and administrator of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Elyria Township.