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As in early Christian times, Christians light a candle before a statue or sacred image of our Lord or of a saint. The light signifies our prayer offered in faith coming into the light of God— allowing us to be filled with His light. With the light of faith, we petition our Lord in prayer, or petition the saint for intercession— to pray with us and for us to the Lord. The light also shows a special reverence and our desire to remain present to the Lord in prayer even though we may depart and go about our daily business.


Votive Candle Stand


For Slovak Catholics living in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland in the early years of the twentieth century, celebrating Mass required traveling down Willey Hill or across the Abbey Road Bridge to St. Wendelin Parish in Ohio City. Hoping to erect a new church, the community petitioned Bishop John P. Farrelly. After consulting with the pastor of St. Wendelin Parish, Bishop Farrelly denied the request.

In the wake of the Diocese's continued opposition, some of Tremont's Slovak Catholics conferred with members of the Sacred Heart Polish National Catholic Church on West 14th Street. Led by Bishop Franciszek Hodur of Scranton, Pennsylvania, the Polish National Catholic Church rejected the First Vatican Council's 1870 declaration of Papal infallibility and supported the substitution of the vernacular for Latin as the language of the Eucharist. Along with dissident Polish Catholic communities, the Polish National Catholic Church also welcomed alienated Slovak congregations. In 1915, the Slovak community established an independent church, St. John the Baptist Parish. By 1919, the parish had secured property on West 11th Street, converting existing buildings into a church, school, and rectory.

In the next two years, the fledgling community, like many other independent parishes, struggled to meet it financial obligations. Soon after the installation of Bishop Joseph Schrembs, St. John the Baptist Parish petitioned to be recognized as a Roman Catholic congregation. Following the appointment of an administrator, Father Stephen Begalla, and a one-year probationary period, Bishop Schrembs officially recognized the community, renaming it Our Lady of Mercy Parish. Under the direction of its first pastor, Father Francis Dubosh, the parish erected a brick school and converted an existing house into a convent for the Notre Dame Sisters.


In 1927, Father John W. Krispinsky succeeded Father Dubosh. With the departure of the Notre Dame Sisters in 1935, the parish welcomed teachers from the Vincentian Sisters of Charity. By the end of the Second World War, the parish had eliminated its entire debt. In 1948, the community converted its school hall into a temporary church and demolished its original church, making way for the construction of a Romanesque-inspired stone structure with stained-glass windows and an interior mosaic of Our Lady of Mercy. On October 23, 1949, Bishop Edward F. Hoban dedicated the new church.


During the following decade, the parish launched a number of other construction projects, including a new rectory. With Father Krispinsky's retirement in 1964, the community welcomed Father Andrew Laheta, a son of Our Lady of Mercy Parish. Even as many of its members left the neighborhood for other parts of the city and its surrounding suburbs, the parish succeeded in retiring the church's mortgage in 1967. This continued out-migration, however, eventually took its toll, forcing the closure of Our Lady of Mercy School in 1973. Following Father Laheta's departure in November 1988, the parish welcomed Father Gary Gresko. Over the next decade, Father Gresko and his successor and current pastor, Father Joseph Hilinski, helped the parish remain a vital part of Tremont's church community. In this sesquicentennial year, Our Lady of Mercy Parish honors the sacrifice and faith of its Slovak Catholic founders.

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