Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

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Auxiliary Bishop Roger Gries challenges St. Ignatius students to be ‘good neighbors’

Annual Mass of the Holy Spirit brought student body, faculty and staff to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Sept. 1

“Whose neighbor are you willing to be?”

That was the question posed by Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries to those attending St. Ignatius High School’s annual Mass of the Holy Spirit on Sept. 1 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

The cathedral overflowed with 1,500 students in khaki pants, shirts, ties and blue blazers — plus faculty and staff — for the traditional liturgy that is celebrated by Jesuit schools worldwide at the beginning of each school year.

In his homily, Bishop Gries reflected on how a man had asked Jesus who his neighbor was and who he had to love.

“Jesus didn’t give him the answer he was looking for. He turned things around,” Bishop Gries said, pointing out how Jesus related the parable of the Good Samaritan, which was the Gospel at that liturgy.

In that parable, a priest and a Levite passed by a robbery victim who had been beaten and left on the road “because they convinced themselves that he wasn’t worthy of their aid. Yet the Samaritan, a stranger, dressed his wounds, placed the man on his animal and took him to an inn for care,” Bishop Gries said. The others found a loophole that allowed them to ignore the robbery victim, he said.

We should mirror the Samaritan’s actions, Bishop Gries said, explaining that being a good neighbor means more than just living next to someone.

“A neighbor is anybody and everybody,” he said, adding that God expects us to love our neighbors, not in the romantic sense, but with “active good will. It is the law of God that we treat everyone with good will.”

He said any decent human being, like the Samaritan, is moved with pity and touched by the suffering of another person. “But being moved by pity isn’t enough; action is required,” he added.

Bishop Gries said that being a good neighbor also goes beyond the bounds of religion, class and other circumstances. “We need to meet human need where it is. So the question is, whose neighbor are you? The challenge is not to find out who my neighbor is, but who can I be a neighbor to?  You must be a neighbor to all with whom you come in contact.”

There are many challenges facing each of us, Bishop Gries said, but students can learn and model the good Samaritan with the skills they learn at St. Ignatius High School “to be true Christian gentlemen.”

Also during the liturgy, Father Raymond Guiao, St. Ignatius president, presented 38 new faculty, staff and Jesuit volunteers for commissioning by Bishop Gries, who blessed them and asked that “the Lord strengthen them in their ministry of teaching so they can renew the face of the earth.”

In the prayers of the faithful, the bishop included an intention for those suffering in the Houston, Texas area in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

At the end of Mass, Father Guiao presented Bishop Gries, a Benedictine monk who previously served as president of Benedictine High School and abbot of St. Andrew Abbey, with what he called “a small bag of swag from St. Ignatius High School” in gratitude for him taking time to celebrate the Mass, as well as his presence and many years of work in the Diocese of Cleveland.

Father Guiao also noted that St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, traveled from his hometown in Spain 450 years ago to the monastery at Montserrat, where he made a lengthy confession to a Benedictine monk.

At the beginning of his homily, Bishop Gries recalled that when he was a senior at Benedictine High School and a member of the football team, they played – and defeated – St. Ignatius for the city championship. “I treasure that memory,” he said.

In brief remarks at the end of Mass, the bishop said that when he became an auxiliary bishop, although he was a member of the Benedictine order, he had to set that aside “to be a bishop for all the diocese and all the schools. I treasure the friendship of all of you at St. Ignatius,” he added.

“I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you to a successful school year with grace – and possibly a few more championships,” he quipped. “Let us go in peace and be good neighbors to all.”

The Mass of the Holy Spirit is a Jesuit tradition that dates to 1548. It calls upon the Holy Spirit for blessings and guidance in the new school year.

Traditionally, St. Ignatius, freshmen students walk from the campus at West 30th Street and Lorain Avenue in Cleveland across the Detroit/Superior Bridge to the cathedral. They are led into the church by a bagpiper and receive a pin. There are about 400 members in the class of 2021.

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