St. Jude's Father Roman Bernard dies at 62

March 26, 2005 - Reported in ohio.com. Written by Jim Carney. Barberton clergyman said he and others saw painting of Mary weep in '92. The clergyman whose tiny Barberton church made national news 13 years ago when he and others said they saw an icon of Mary weep will be buried Monday in Cortland. Father Bishop Roman Bernard died late Wednesday of spinal cancer, said his attorney and longtime family friend, John Leopardi of Warren.

The 62-year-old clergyman, known as Father Roman, was convinced that an icon of Mary wept real tears inside his church, St. Jude's Shrine Church at 594 Fifth Street N.E. in Barberton. Father Roman's mother, Mary Ann Bernard, died earlier this month in a room across from his at Pleasant View Health Center. He performed last rites on her before she died, Leopardi said. Father Roman was affiliated with the 4,000-member Orthodox Catholic Church of North and South America.

In March 1992, one of his parishioners reported seeing a painting of Mary -- Our Lady of Holy Protection -- weeping. The person who first reported seeing those tears was a man who had volunteered to clean the church and who claimed the icon began to weep after the Virgin Mary made an appearance before him. In the first weeks and months after the story hit the news media in 1992, as many as 30,000 were reported to have stopped at the tiny 24-seat church.

By 1997, five years after the first sighting, Father Roman estimated 100,000 had visited the shrine. On Good Friday, two red roses were placed in a vase in a gazebo chapel on the church's property in Barberton. Leopardi said his friend wanted the church to go on after his death. But you never know, "Leopardi said. Father Roman kept the church going with money he inherited from his father, Leopardi said. The clergyman "was absolutely devoted to the veneration of the icon, " Leopardi said. "He was very religious. Very devoted to the Holy Mother." In recent years, about $200,000 was spent to remodel the church building, he said. The icon was Father Roman's personal possession, Leopardi said.

"He bought it and had it painted and put it in the shrine." In a 1997 Beacon Journal interview, the clergyman talked about what happened inside his church, a former barber shop. "Why here?" he asked . "Why not here. Jesus was born in a stable. Very humble surroundings. Why couldn't it happen here? We didn't order it."

Also in that story, Father Roman said the appearance of the weeping icon "has changed a lot of people... God is showing us something. "With the death this week of Father Roman, Leopardi said the icon of Mary has been removed from the church building. But, he said, the icon will be put back in the church when he is convinced that the facility is secure.