Saint Basil The Great



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On June 14, 1960, on the birthday of its Patron Saint, St. Basil the Great Parish was established by Archbishop Edward F. Hoban.  The church was situated on a sixteen and a half acre site on a hilltop in Brecksville, Ohio, where it still exists today, then and now, a glorious site.  Father John T. Ciolek was appointed pastor of the newly established Parish of Saint Basil the Great in Brecksville effective Tuesday, June 21st, 1960 by Bishop Hoban.  The charter membership consisted of 350 families.  In 1981, there were 1400 families and as of 2009, there are 3500 families with total parishioners numbering 10,000 individuals.

 Saint Basil, Patron Saint

portrait of st basilSt. Basil, who was born June 14, 330, was a genius and a Saint.  Surprisingly, the 4th century in which he lived is far better documented than even some modern periods in history, so we know more about his person and his circumstances than would be expected.

The ancestors of Basil lived in Caesarea of Cappadocia (modern Armenia), where after the conquest by Roman Legions, was stationed a Roman military garrison.  The culture was Greek and Roman and sophisticated.  Everything was peaceful for three centuries until the persecution of the Christians broke out all over the Empire.  Basil's maternal grandfather, a lawyer, left civilization for the wilderness of the woods to safeguard his beautiful and gifted wife and their seven daughters.  Safe from the ravages of persecution, the two, well educated themselves, spent the next ten years in teaching and training their children.  After the persecution ceased in the reign of Emperor Constantine, the family returned from exile and in rapid succession the religious and talented daughters were eagerly courted and wed.

The boy, Basil, was sent to Athens for advanced study to what would now be an equivalent of a State University with worldwide resources and international temptations.  Here his natural gift for public speaking and his sharp intelligence were polished and he came to instant success as a teacher and speaker.  As a trained layman, skilled in rhetoric, he preached at the Cathedral, gave the Lenten series, became the Bishop's administrative assistant, and when the Bishop died, was elected his successor.

In his 10 years as Bishop of Caesarea, Basil saw truth and spirituality prevail in this town and in the process, he himself became a Saint.

St. Basil died on January 1, 370.  His feast day is January 2nd.  His other feast day is June 14th, his actual birth date.  For an in-depth reading of St. Basil the Great, please click here to visit the website of the Priests of Saint Basil (the Basilian Fathers).

 The Parish

The newly formed parish was drawn from neighboring St. Michael Church in Independence and Assumption Church in Broadview Heights.

Immediately two masses were held in Brecksville High School Auditorium, now the Central School, through the gracious cooperation of the Brecksville School Board, 850 attended the first Sunday.  On June 21, 1960 Fr. John T. Ciolek  became the first pastor of the newly established parish of St. Basil the Great and served as its pastor until his retirement in 1983.  Fr. Ciolek died on September 25, 1986

 The Church

Long before any buildings existed on the current St. Basil’s site, the founding parishioners gathered for mass in what is now the Brecksville Central School.  Ground was broken March 18th, 1962, for a building with one large room to serve as a temporary church and with four classrooms dedicated to Saturday morning religious classes for the young of the parish.  A.J.P. Martini, a parishioner, was the builder.  This building is now known as The Parish Center was expanded in 1993 to include six additional classrooms, office space for the Director of Religious Education and support staff. 

Also in 1962 the current rectory was constructed to serve as a first floor administration office and meeting rooms; basement level classrooms; and a second level residence for the priest of the parish.  This building today serves as administration offices and the second floor remains the priests' residence. 

Bishop Clarence G. Issenmann gave permission for the Church construction to go ahead.  Construction began in November 1966, continued through 1967 until February 11, 1968.

The Most Reverend Issenmann, Bishop of Cleveland, and the Rev. John T. Ciolek, St. Basil's Pastor, supported architect Anthony S. Ciresi, F.A.J.A. in a modern style church based on the revisions of Vatican II.  The design, like the basilica shape dating back to the fourth century, allows the congregation to be closer to the altar. Many designs with symbolic meanings were incorporated into the overall design, reflecting Catholic doctrine and that of its patron St. Basil the Great.

The main Altar represents Jesus Christ and the table of the Last Supper.   In remembering that night before he died we with the disciples in reverent awe give worship to our Lord as we participate in our Eucharistic Liturgy.  The communion rail was made up of twelve smaller altars or tables representing the twelve Apostles.  Several of the rails were removed during an Altar reconstruction in 2004.  Remaining Communion Rails (and the Altar) are made of white marble (Italian White Cloud) and golden veined black marble (French St. Laurent).  It is appropriately significant that only relics of martyrs are enclosed in the main altar of churches.  The relic of St. Innocent, a martyr, was placed in the main altar of St. Basil Church.  The relic of St. Basil is located in the sacristy of the church as well as in the chapel of the priests' residence.

Many circular and triangular designs reflect our patron Saint Basil’s devotion to the Holy Trinity.  The stained glass window of the Risen Christ signifies Christ as the light of the world and his victory over death. Even the V shaped external roof design is taken from a classical reference of the wings of a butterfly; an ancient symbol of resurrection.

The place of baptism (gateway to all other Sacraments) is at the axis of the Altar and is of the same material as the Altar, the cryptogram of the Trinity, triangle and interlocked circles in gold leaf are the only decorations.

The massive candlesticks in the sanctuary -- of wrought and cast bronze -- were created about 1907.  The sanctuary lamp was converted from a Neapolitan of cloisonné (enamel) some 200 years old.

picture of fr camille Solemn dedication of the church took place on July 11, 1982 by Bishop Anthony Pilla.  The walls of the church are blessed with holy oil and small candleholders are placed around the perimeter of the church and four in the sanctuary.  The Bishop gives the Paschal candle to the Deacon, who, together with the assisting priests, lights all the candles in the church, including those which mark the points at which the walls were anointed.

To be dedicated, a church must be a permanent installation and be free of debt.

Father Edward Camille served as second pastor from 1983 until 1994.  Under his leadership community life and parishioner involvement were expanded and flourished.  New programs were added to reach the youth of the parish, to minister to the homebound, to minister to those who were grieving the loss of a loved one.  Involvement by parishioners in liturgical ministries became the norm, a contemporary choir was added to the Saturday mass, , RCIA was added and expanded by use of a team, Small Christian Communities gave a new dimension to spiritual growth and community. Social functions were added to build on the community life and spirit of St. Basil’s. Fr. Camille retired in 1994 due to failing health.   He remained in service to St. Basil’s parish until his death on March 4, 2002.

picture of fr jenne Father Walter Jenne was named pastor on December 1, 1994.  St. Basil’s under the guidance of Fr. Jenne flourished with an expansion of ministries, programs and services.  In 1995 six Parish Commissions were established to coordinate the work of the various ministries, organizations and programs to accomplish the goals of proclaiming Christ, serving the needs of others and becoming a living sign of Christ’s presence in our community. 

Ministries grew in number from a dozen to 65 reaching the young, the old, the suffering, the lonely, the divorced, family activities and spiritual needs, men and women’s ministry, individual and group spirituality, the poor, the educational and social aspects of our community. 

In response to Bishop Pilla’s Church in the City initiative in 1995 St. Basil’s formed a partnership with St. Catherine’s in Cleveland which developed into an union of hearts and minds as we came together to worship, celebrate and minister to the neighborhood surrounding St. Catherine’s.  This partnership blessed us and served as the model of inner city and suburban coming together envisioned by Bishop Pilla.  This partnership ended with the merger of St. Catherine’s, St. Timothy and St. Henry parishes in 2008. 

Fr. Jenne conducted a survey of the parish in 1999 and from that survey developed a strategic plan called Vision for the Future.  This document addressed the needs of St. Basil’s in terms of the physical plant, the spiritual needs and to build a community of faith.  From this document the Family Life Center was conceived and built in 2000; office space was added; expanded staffing to minister to the needs of the community; a ministry to the teens of the parish was added in 2000, a partnership was forged with St. Michael’s School to provide Catholic Education to our youth; CYO sports took root with the formation of an athletic commission; social activities became more and more frequent; Service to the poor of Cleveland through a food pantry and monthly meals were an extension of the partnership with St. Catherine’s.  Ministry to the people of Honduras began to provide a new and different outlet for an opportunity to server the needs of others. 

Dynamic growth in spirituality and in community has been the stamp of Fr. Jenne.  He continues to guide us with a his tremendous sense of humor, his concern for others in need, and his desire to help this community find its identity in Christ. Over the years the parish has been served by many diocesan priests as Associates, In its early days by the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland (OSU), as well the addition of permanent deacon in 1998 and a second deacon in 2005.  This community has from its beginning been served by the people who make up this community by the sharing of their gifts.

 Parish Volunteers

In addition to the clergy, religious and secular staff, St. Basil Parish is fortunate in having numerous lay parishioners volunteer their time and energies in a variety of avenues.  A list of Commissions, Organizations, Ministries, and Programs active at St. Basil follows:

55+ Club Altar Servers Baptism Class
Boy Scouts Music Ministry Education Commission
Eucharistic Ministers Finance Council Hunger Center
Nursing Home Visitations Parish Life Commission Pre-Cana
Men's Fellowship Small Christian Communities Social Concerns Commission
Athletic Association Volunteer Network Adult Singles
Scouts Bereavement Centering Prayer
Greeters Evangelization Commission Family Life Activities Group (FLAG)
Life Teen Lectors Parish Council
Social Activities Committee (SAC) R.C.I.A. St. Vincent de Paul
Alpha Ministries Spiritual Life Commission  
Job Support Network Ushers and others...
 Parish School of Religion (PSR)

St. Basil Parish does not have an elementary school, but does have a high quality Parish School of Religion (PSR).  At the time of this writing, PSR enrollment totals approximately 900, including Preschool through Grade 8.  Our Life Teen program caters to the religious education of our teens from grades 9-12.

 Catholic Elementary School

St. Basil and St. Michael (Independence) Parishes work very closely in providing an opportunity for children from St. Basil to attend St. Michael School.  The St. Michael Kindergarten is located in St. Basil's Education Center.

 Strategic Plan

St. Basil the Great has developed a Strategic Plan that will guide the parish for the five-year period of 2009-2014.  The plan includes seven strategic initiatives and five operational initiatives.  We have begun addressing these initiatives and are certain that just as the Vision of the Future provided for dynamic growth in meeting the needs of this community this new plan will generate future growth that will move us closer to Christ, to additional service and in relationship with each other.  Printed copies of the Strategic Plan document may be obtained from the Rectory Offices.

 Clergy History
Rev. Edward J. Camille Nov 24, 1983 - Dec 1, 1994
Rev. John T. Ciolek Jun 21, 1960 - Nov 24, 1983
Rev. Joe Mamich ??? - ???, 2011
Rev. Doug Brown ??? - ???
Rev. Sal Ruggeri Jun 8, 2004 - Oct 29, 2007
Rev. William Dickinson Jun 17, 1997 - Jun 8, 2004
Rev. Paul Choo Jun 1, 2003 - Jun 30, 2005
Rev. Robert Wenz Jun 18, 1996 - Jul 1, 1997
Rev. Patrick J. O'Connor Jun 19, 1990 - Jun 18, 1996
Rev. Albert J. Myers Jun 11, 1989 - Mar 1, 1990
Rev. Timothy Garling Feb 25, 1988 - Jun 19, 1990
Rev. George L. Vituj Feb 1, 1983 - Feb 25, 1988
Rev. Rudy P. Polovich Sep 14, 1978 - Jun 30, 1983
Rev. Richard A. Gonser Jul 5, 1973 - Aug 15, 1978
Rev. Richard J. Pepperney Jun 17, 1970 - 1973
Rev. John F. Wessel Jun 17, 1970 - Sep 1, 1976
Rev. S. Michael Franz Jun 16, 1969 - Sep 20, 1969
Rev. Francis O'Linn Jun 11, 1964 - Jun 17, 1970
Rev. Anthony Rebol Nov 15, 1997 - Apr 2002
Rev. Norman N. Smith May 29, 1987 - Jul 27, 1988
Rev. Thomas A. Moran Sep 15, 1978 - Sep 15, 1980
Rev. Edward J. Luca Sep 15, 1978 - Sep 15, 1980
Rev. David E. Pecot May 23, 1998 - Dec 31, 2009