(January 2019, Plain Press) First time pastor, Rev. Fr. Kevin Estabrook’s message to the community of St. Ignatius of Antioch Church at West Boulevard and Lorain Avenue is a simple one – “come home.”
“If there are any parishioners or folks from the neighborhood who haven’t been to church in a while, we’re here to be a spiritual home for the community,” Estabrook said. “So, I’d like to extend the invitation to people who may be away from the church to come back– to come home and rediscover the truth, goodness and beauty of the parish.”
Estrabrook, a diocesan priest since 2009, grew up in Madison, Ohio, a village in Lake County. Although serving as an altar server at Immaculate Conception in Madison, Estabrook wrote in his biography that it was during his freshman year of college at John Carroll University that he began to consider the priesthood.
“But, during my freshman year, I began to seriously consider what God was calling me to do with my life and how I could best serve Him,” Estabrook wrote. “My pastor, Fr. Luidi Miola encouraged me to visit the seminary. I attended a vocation program here at our Diocesan Seminary back in the Spring of 2011…and it was “love-at-first-sight. I entered Borromeo Seminary in the Fall of 2001 as a college sophomore.”
Ordained in 2009 by former diocesan bishop, Richard Lennon, Estabrook served assignments at Saint Columbkille Parish and Holy Family Parish in Parma; Saint Angla Merici Parish in Fairview Park and Saint Clare Parish in Lyndhurst.
Estabrook said, his that having expressed an interest in becoming a pastor, led to Bishop Nelson Perez appointing him to St. Ignatius.
“I had expressed my openness to become a pastor,” Estabrook said. “This was a direct appointment after Fr. Michael Troha [former St. Ignatius of Antioch pastor] was assignedto Immaculate Conception in Willoughby, and I got a call. So, it was kind of a surprise that I was appointedhere.”
Installed as the tenth pastor of St. Ignatius of Antioch on the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 7, Estabrook expressed how excited he was to take part in the future of St. Ignatius.
“I have been very warmlyreceived,” Estabrook said. “Everyone has been extremelywarm and welcoming.”
Having been to the church once, Estabrook said that while he didn’t know anyone directly associated with the parish, throughout the years, he has heard many former parishioners speak of the parish.
“I had known some parishioners,” Estabrook said. “Many people have moved out to the suburbs where I had served. As I announced that I was coming here, I heard, ‘Oh I was baptized there,’ ‘my parents were married there,’ ‘I went to school there’, so I unknowingly know former parishioners. That’s one of the great things about this parish, people like to come back to visit because the mass is just so beautiful.”
Coming into the parish mid-calendar year, which Estabrook explains for a parish with a school tends to be the school year, his immediate task is to remain faithful to the task the bishop has given him, to the Gospels and being attentive to the ways that God has been present within the church community.
“Realize when you go to a foreign place, it is Holy Land. God is already at work there,” Estabrook said. “When you get there, you need to be respectful to the way God is already working there. So, for me to arrive at a new place and demand that everything change, I don’t think it’s respectful to God, let alone the people that have been there before you. I’m taking these first few months discerning the way God is working, discerning the resources, discerning the way God is calling us to faithfully live out the Gospel in 2018. It’s an openness to change, but also the desire to be faithful to the way that God is working here, to be honest and transparent.”
One of the ways Estabrook has helped the parish in living out the Gospels has been his Homily Blog, where he posts his weekday and weekend homilies.
“I started posted my homilies on Facebook since the time I was ordainedin 2009,” Estabrook said. “I did that for a few years, but then I realized that you have to have Facebook in order toaccess the homilies. In 2013, I started the blog, posting my homilies for daily mass and weekends and then I put a link on Facebook as well. I hope it’s helpful.”
His reason for posting the homilies was a way for family, friends and parishioners to be exposed to the Gospels.
“The reason I started putting them on the internet actually,” Estabrook continued, “was that Pope Benedict encouraged all Catholics to use different forms of social media to preach the Gospels.”
Another way of helping those in the parish has been the extension of confessions. Held on Saturdays for a half hour before mass, Estabrook has extended them to an hour from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. On Sunday mornings, parishioners may attend confession from 10 to 10:45 a.m. While the need to make these changes was not an emergency, Estabrook said time in the confessional provides a sense of renewal, especially during the Christmas season as Catholics prepare themselves for the birth of Jesus.
“It’s not bothering the priest,” Estabrook said. “We’re here to make the sacraments available.”
When asked about the strengths of St. Ignatius, especially for the future, Estabrook said that the liturgy is the church’s biggest strength.
“Liturgy is celebratedbeautifully.” Estabrook said. “In my homily last week, I spoke of the true, the good and the beautiful. The truth is being conveyed in the teaching that we are doing here, goodness is being practiced in our outreach and beauty is in the church and the liturgy.”