St. Colman’s festivities begin just after 8 a.m. — at least if you want a seat for the 10 a.m. Mass. It kicks off with kilted drum marchers and Irish dancers entering to tin whistle tunes that reverberate through the church built by Irish laborers in 1918. Surrounded by vases of green carnations, a team of about 15 priests, anchored for the first time this year by Bishop Nelson Perez, leads the service.
“It is a heavenly experience,” says parish council president Rita Gaertner. “Once you’ve seen it, you won’t want to miss it again.”
After the downtown parade, pipe bands, drumlines and revelers return to St. Colman for the after-party. Great Lakes Brewing Co. owners Pat and Dan Conway bring the beer and potato soup. The church, which charges $5 admission, sells corned beef, soda bread and more to raise funds for the upcoming year.
Most importantly to the 76-year-old Gaertner, who has attended the Mass since she was a little girl, Cleveland’s Irish community reconnects with friends and family and celebrates its heritage.
“We have families like our own who are in their third and fourth generation [of attending Mass and the party],” she says. “This gives a better view of the Irish Catholic population than going out and starting with breakfast in a bar. It’s about family, the ones we know and the ones we don’t.”
And of course, Gaertner says, Irish or not, all are welcome on St. Paddy’s Day.
in the cle
8:00 AM EST
March 15, 2018