While neither Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil nor Buckeye Chuck of Marion, Ohio, saw their shadows on Groundhog Day, Sunday, Feb. 2—indicating an early spring—Casimir the Cat, aka The Polish Prince of Felines, forecast a sloppy, wet spring in the Cleveland area.
John Niedzialek with CasimirCasimir has predicted the spring weather accurately every year since he started participating in Groundhog Day back in 2014, says Casimir’s owner, John Niedzialek. A volunteer at St. Casimir Church in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, Niedzialek is a retired soil conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He works part-time for the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District, is a volunteer coordinator with the Western Reserve Resource Conservation and Development Council, and teaches earth science and meteorology at Lakeland Community College.
“I hate to use the word ‘infallible,’ because we only use [that term] when we refer to the Pope’s decisions,” he says. “But he comes close to it.”
Niedzialek interprets Casimir’s forecast based on the way he eats his yearly Feb. 2 pierogis. If he eats them sloppily, Cleveland is in for a long, messy spring; if Casimir eats them normally, then it’s winter as usual; and if he swallows the pierogis in one gulp, the region can look forward to a warm coming summer.
Niedzialek admits there is a bit of a trick to the pierogi-eating cat’s prediction. “He’s going after the sour cream on top,” he says. “How Casimir eats the sour cream is what determines the weather.”
Niedzialek, who serves as master of ceremonies for the annual ritual, says at this year’s meal, the Polish Prince made a sloppy mess while eating his pierogi and sour cream. “That can only mean one thing," he says. “We will be sloshing around in a wintry mix for an unusually long period of time.”
Casimir has had superpowers since he was a kitten, Niedzialek says. He found the young cat at St. Casimir Church one evening in August 2013 while he was mowing the grass at the former convent by the church. Niedzialek leaned on a fence to take a break when he noticed the kitten.
“He came running across the street and sat on my shoulder,” he says. He first spotted Casimir in the exact spot where the congregation had prayed for a miracle in 2009 when Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon ordered the church to close. In 2012, St. Casimir and 11 other churches reopened after what is today deemed “the Miracle of St. Casimir.”
St. Casimir was the first local church to go green in 2018, and the rain barrels around the property are painted with images of the many animals that have been saved at the church over the years.St. Casimir Church is also known for having a green mentality and having a good relationship with St. Francis, the patron saint of animals and the environment in Catholicism. “Our church has a long history of caring for the environment and our critters,” Niedzialek says.
St. Casimir was the first local church to go green in 2018. The rain barrels around the property are painted with images of the many animals that have been saved at the church over the years.
Niedzialek took the orange and brown tiger-striped kitten home and later to a veterinarian to be checked out. The vet determined Casimir was born July 15—the same day the church reopened.
“He was in terrible shape,” he says. “The little critter couldn’t be more than three weeks old. Now he’s big. He can lose a few pounds, but I’ll take him.”