The metal cupboard has stood for many years within the basement of the rectory at St. Sebastian Parish in Akron. Its contents have been a thriller.
Nobody might open it. What was inside?
“Once I received right here, it was locked,” stated the Rev. John A. Valencheck, a Barberton native who has served as pastor of St. Sebastian since 2008. “And I simply stored pondering: ‘Finally, we’ll discover a key.’ ”
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The Basic Fireproofing Co., a producer that operated in Youngstown, constructed the three-drawer case, which can have been put in throughout the Thirties when the rectory was constructed.
Valencheck dubbed it “The Forgotten Cupboard.”
“After 14 years, we lastly found out: We’re NOT going to discover a key,” he stated. “So I had one of many guys drill it.”
The lock cut up aside. The priest opened a drawer and seemed inside.
St. Sebastian paperwork discovered
Lots of of historic information, stretching again to the beginnings of the Akron congregation, greeted Valencheck. He randomly pulled out a 1934 letter from Auxiliary Bishop James McFadden in regards to the want for state reduction for “our sorely burdened parochial faculties.”
Six months later, the pastor continues to learn and type.
The cupboard comprises marriage data, insurance coverage insurance policies, tax paperwork, college correspondence, clergy notes and different necessary papers.
One file particularly, “Parishioners within the Armed Forces,” which pertains to service members throughout World Battle II and the Korean Battle, has been of nice curiosity and inspiration to Valencheck.
It’s full of notes to the Rev. Hilary Zwisler, who served as pastor of St. Sebastian from its founding in 1928 till his retirement in 1968 at age 82. He lived on the rectory till his loss of life in 1971.
Valencheck stated there are a selection of letters requesting baptismal data for weddings at locations the place troopers have been stationed, notes from mother and father giving the mailing addresses for his or her sons and correspondence from parishioners immediately discovering themselves away from residence and making ready to battle for his or her nation.
“I by no means noticed so many tents,” one soldier wrote.
“I’ve a good looking view of the ocean,” one other noticed.
“At some point final week we had a steak that lined nearly our entire tray,” a Marine wrote. “That was the most effective tasting steak I’ve ever eaten.”
“Don’t be stunned if I land in your churchyard from a glider someday,” a chaplain wrote. “Or should you see a person twisted up in your church steeple yelling for assist, don’t hesitate. It may be myself.”
Scrawled within the high nook of every letter is the phrase “Answered,” together with Zwisler’s initials, “H.A.Z.,” suggesting that he personally responded to each service member.
Letters shared with parishioners
Having been sealed in a metal cupboard for many years, the letters are in remarkably good situation. Valencheck is so obsessed with the notes that he has shared excerpts with parishioners within the church bulletin.
Whereas there are nonetheless a number of information in “The Forgotten Cupboard” that the pastor has but to look at, he has learn each letter within the navy folder. Some have been written on navy letterhead and others have been scribbled on no matter paper was out there. Many have been signed with solely a primary identify so their identities may by no means be identified — or whether or not they made it residence.
“A variety of the letters are speaking about how they will get to Mass and confessions,” Valencheck stated. “It sounds prefer it’s all fairly good till they get abroad. After which as soon as they’re abroad, it’s much more tough.”
One soldier, recognized solely as Bob, wrote from India on Oct. 28, 1943, whereas serving with the U.S. Military Air Corps within the China-Burma-India Theater.
“It’s been ages since I’ve written you regarding my progress, however you understand how busy a soldier is lately,” he wrote.
“As you possibly can see by my handle, I’ve traveled half method world wide. I’m in India, the land of Thriller and Enchantment. The thriller is: The place is the enchantment? …
“It isn’t unusual to see the useless and dying alongside the wayside. Little doubt you have got learn of the famine which has brought about a lot grief in Japanese India, round Calcutta.”
The Akron soldier was in India whereas Mom Teresa, now often called St. Teresa of Calcutta, was preventing poverty and serving to the destitute.
“We all know that’s finally the place Mom Teresa’s going to be caring for these very folks, which I assumed was form of fascinating,” Valencheck stated.
Tying the knot
A number of the notes are extra fascinating than others, he stated.
He loved a letter dated Sept. 20, 1944, letter from Herington Military Air Discipline in Kansas. The author, solely often called Herman, was relationship a parishioner from St. Sebastian and had marriage ceremony bells on his thoughts.
“Irene has instructed me a lot about you in her letters that I really feel as tho’ we’ve been associates for a really very long time,” the serviceman wrote to Zwisler. “I positive hope we are able to meet one another earlier than very rather more time flies by.
“By the way, are you fairly good at tying knots? Irene and I’ve been planning for our nice day for fairly some time however there’ll in all probability be a tour of abroad responsibility for me between at times. That point received’t be completely misplaced tho’ if it signifies that our sons received’t have their lives wrecked by one other warfare.
“I’m very positive that I’m talking for Irene in addition to myself after I say that we would like you to think about being there at the very least and if circumstances enable, tying that knot your self.”
Letter from the battlefield
One of many notes that touched Valencheck essentially the most was dated July 27, 1944, and mailed from France. Utilizing elegant penmanship, Military Employees Sgt. Francis E. Sturmi wrote on half-sheets of onionskin paper to thank Zwisler for the church providers again residence.
“I do know that it have to be the highly effective pleas of the Mass directed to the Almighty that has brought about us to be spared,” Sturmi wrote. “Little doubt the intercession of the patron saint of troopers, St. Sebastian, has introduced us by means of many a trial safely.”
Sturmi stated “a goodly quantity” of the troopers in his unit have been Catholic and attended Mass each probability they may in France. He reported seeing Calvary monuments at intersections and seen many youngsters carrying crucifixes within the predominantly Catholic nation.
“The cities are quite a few with solely quick distances between, however each village, regardless of how small, has its Catholic church,” Sturmi wrote. “I’ve had a chance to go to just one church up to now however our chaplain, Father Daniel F. Kielty, tells me that almost all he has seen have been in pretty good situation. Sadly, the enemy has used many as navy installments leading to partial destruction of plenty of them.”
Sturmi concluded with: “Could I once more say, ‘Thanks, Father’ for the various favors granted. I hope to specific my appreciation in particular person sometime.”
After the warfare, Sturmi got here residence to his spouse, Geraldine, returned to St. Sebastian and labored as an Akron lawyer. He lived to be 90.
Religion and appreciation
When Valencheck reads the letters, he’s struck by the deep religion of the writers and their nice appreciation for Akron’s unwavering help. The prayers of the parish helped buoy their spirits and provides them the energy to battle for his or her nation.
“What does the religion name us to do?” Valencheck stated. “Religion calls us to sacrifice for the better good. They actually had the impression that these at residence thought what they have been doing was worthwhile.”
The handwritten notes and their distinctive penmanship give the priest a twinge of remorse that a lot of the letters he receives right now are e mail messages that may disappear endlessly.
No less than these will likely be preserved.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio from the Archdiocese for the Army Companies and Auxiliary Bishop Neal Buckon from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland have urged donating the St. Sebastian letters to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., or the U.S. Military Chaplain Corps Museum in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
If he goes that route, Valencheck will make copies and ship the originals.
“No less than that’s the plan for the second,” he stated. “I haven’t truly contacted them but.”
For now, although, he’ll proceed to discover “The Forgotten Cupboard.”
It’s not forgotten anymore.
Mark J. Worth may be reached at [email protected]
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