Those in formation for the priesthood, permanent diaconate, lay ecclesial ministry and those enrolled in the continuing education program celebrated the start of the new school year at the annual opening liturgy on Sept. 8 at the Center for Pastoral Leadership in Wickliffe.
Bishop Nelson Perez was the celebrant, assisted by Deacon Dave Kushner, who directs the permanent diaconate formation program. Concelebrants included many priest faculty and staff members at Borromeo Seminary and Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology.
The bishop asked those new to the various programs housed at the CPL to stand and be recognized prior to Mass. He welcomed the new Borromeo seminarians, those new to Saint Mary Seminary, those entering the permanent diaconate formation program and the lay ecclesial ministry program. New faculty and staff members also were recognized. The beginning of this year is unique, the bishop noted, because Saint Mary Seminary also welcomed three men from Vietnam who are in formation for priestly ordination.
“It’s wonderful that we can all be here today starting a new year,” Bishop Perez said.
It was the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Gospel included the genealogy of Christ going back hundreds of years. That Gospel comes up twice in the yearly cycle of readings, he noted. It’s long and usually doesn’t mean too much to most people.
But he said genealogy can impact us. He explained how the cook at the cathedral rectory thought she was Russian. She had been raised believing that, but when she sent away for a DNA report, she discovered she is 100 percent Polish.
“It was like an identity crisis,” he said.
Following on the genealogy theme, the bishop asked who in the Resurrection Chapel at CPL that day was mentioned in the Gospel.
“Me,” he said. “I’m a direct descendant of the apostles. I’ll pass the book around,” he quipped.
Bishop Perez talked about how every family has a variety of personalities. Some people light up a room and there are others you’d prefer to avoid. He said Jesus’ family was the same. “It’s all part of the building blocks of Christ. There were all kinds of people in his family – if you ever had any doubt that God writes straight with crooked lines. Even in Jesus’ time, genealogists would cringe at some of the names in the lineage. Life is messy, but we have to live with it.”
Things are not always clear cut, black and white, the bishop said, citing a line from the Gospel that said, “And this is how the birth of Christ came about.”
He said we might picture a beautiful Nativity scene, but that’s not real. He said in reality, Mary found that she was expecting a baby and told Joseph, but she said it wasn’t his. “Can you just imagine that conversation?” he said.
As for himself, “I wasn’t born with a rosary in my hands,” he said, noting we are all human and have flaws.
The bishop also explained that there are two kids of church: Church with a capital letter, meaning the mystical body of Christ, and church with small letters meaning the people – those who come and go over the years.
“The Church is not holy because of us. Jesus is the source of our holiness. We trust and hope that same spirit of Christ will continue to work in us, through us and despite us,” he added.
The bishop also thanked those in attendance for their dedication, commitment and work for the Church.
After Mass, the group enjoyed lunch in the Founder’s Room.