Father James J. Vesely, pastor emeritus, passes away at the age of 94

“Goin' home, goin' home, I'm a goin' home…”

On Wednesday, July 27, Father James J. Vesely, pastor emeritus of St. Thomas More, passed away at the age of 94. At the time of his death, Father Vesely was the longest-ordained priest in the Diocese of Cleveland.

Click HERE to watch Fr. Vesely's funeral at 11am on Aug. 2, 2022.

For those who remember him, Father was known for his deep booming voice and his love of singing. By request, Father would sing “Goin’ Home” at parish funerals while school children were entertained by his Litany of Thanksgiving as he would encourage them to chime in with “we thank you Lord.”

Father Vesely became the pastor of St. Thomas More in 1987 where he remained for 18 years until his retirement in 2005. After retiring, Father Vesely resided at nearby St. Leo the Great Parish in Cleveland where he was still just a stone’s throw away from St. Thomas More. Sometimes in the evening hours, parishioners would see his car roll through the lot with his trademark cigar in hand checking in on his former parish. As he began to need more assistance, Father would later move to Mount Alverna Village where he would use an electric scooter to continue to minister to his fellow residents.

In 2005, Archbishop Nelson Perez, who at the time was the Bishop of Cleveland, celebrated Mass in honor of Father Vesely at Mount Alverna as Father celebrated 65 years as a priest. Click HERE to read the story on the diocesan website.

Father’s last visit the parish was this past February when he attended the installation of Father Mike. While confined to a wheelchair, Father Mike wheeled Father Vesely up the center aisle during the Mass’s opening procession. During closing remarks current Bishop of Cleveland, Bishop Ed Malesic, noted Father Vesely’s presence to which the congregation erupted in a long round of applause. Father Vesely’s voice echoed throughout the church with a loud, “thank you!”

While Catholics can easily recite the Our Father and Hail Mary and the like, St. Thomas More parishioners also knew the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel as Father Vesely would recite it following the Universal Prayer during Mass.

In the notice on the diocesan website, it reads, “Those who knew him said Father Vesely had a big heart, loved being a priest and was well loved by his parishioners.”

Vespers for Father Vesely will take place on Monday, Aug. 1 beginning at 3pm at St. Leo the Great Parish in Cleveland with Bishop Martin Amos presiding. A wake will follow Vespers until 7pm. His funeral Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Roger Gries, OSB on Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 11am also at St. Leo the Great Parish.

Click HERE to watch the services live on St. Leo the Great's parish website.

“For all things great and small that go unmentioned…but especially for the life and ministry of Father Vesely…we thank you Lord!”

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