St. John the Baptist Catholic Church celebrated Sunday its formal designation as a minor basilica. It is now one of only 74 basilicas in the country.
With great pageantry and ceremony, northeast Ohio’s oldest Catholic congregation Sunday celebrated its elevation to basilica.
The Basilica of St. John the Baptist’s liturgy was celebrated by Bishop George V. Murry, head of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, and attended by most of the county’s Catholic priests.
Murry told the congregation of parishioners and guests that St. John’s is now a special representative and symbol of the Holy Father in the diocese.
“Now, as a basilica, you have the responsibility of promoting a new evangelism. To reach out to those who do not know Jesus Christ or those who have forgotten His voice,” Murry said. “You are a bright light in the darkness.”
He said this is a daunting task for any church, “but as a basilica, because of your special relationship with the Holy Father, you must be in the forefront of evangelism.”
Sunday’s Mass solemnizing the church’s designation began with a procession of clergy members accompanied by members of the Knights of Columbus in full regalia. Music played by organist and choir director Robert Sullivan, along with brass and string musicians and choir, added to the grandeur of the day.
The ringing of the basilica’s tintinnabulum, a bell mounted on a pole that signifies the basilica’s link with the Pope, followed.
Monsignor Michael Cariglio, judicial vicar of the diocese, read to the congregation Pope Benedict XVI’s proclamation elevating the church to basilica.
The congregation went from polite applause to a brief eruption of cheers when Murry placed the traditional black vestment worn by basilica rectors on the Very Rev. Ronald M. Klingler. Klingler has been pastor at St. John for 24 years and led the three-year application process for approval.
Following the mass, Klingler said that moment “felt like a great honor.”
“I never thought...” he said, trying to find words. “I’m just a kid from Canton, Ohio.”
Klingler said the church will carry on much the same as it has and told the congregation he prayed to be able to live up to the promise this new title of basilica entails.
Parishioners were both excited and humbled, they said, to be a part of the ceremony.
“It was a great thrill — a great thrill,” said Vince Davala of Louisville, who married his wife Kathy at St. John’s 11 years ago.
Their daughter Emily took part in the mass as a gift bearer.
Sylvia and Chester Dimmerling traveled from Sebring for mass, as they do every week.
“This is our church. We wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” said Sylvia.
Her husband said St. John’s makes him feel like going to church.
Page 2 of 2 - “I’m just drawn here,” said Chester Dimmerling. “It seems so nice.”