“I must confess that I am deeply humbled, and at the same time, filled with great joy and gratitude to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for calling me to serve the Diocese of Cleveland as its 11th bishop,” said Bishop-designate Nelson Perez.
The new bishop, who will be installed on Sept. 5, replaces Bishop Richard Lennon who resigned on Dec. 28, 2016 due to ongoing health concerns.
Bishop-designate Perez said he never imagined when he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia 28 years ago that he would one day serve as an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, “and now here today, to begin my service as your bishop. God’s ways and thoughts are not ours, but I know and trust that his ways are always better and deeper than our comprehension,” Bishop Perez said.
“I thank God for this awesome, incredible privilege, to embark on this journey with you, the wonderful people of Cleveland. I am absolutely thrilled to be here with you,” he added.
The bishop-designate’s appointment as the 11th Bishop of Cleveland was announced early this morning in Washington, D.C. by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop-designate Perez had some kind words for Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas, who has been serving as Apostolic Administrator of the Cleveland diocese since Bishop Lennon’s resignation last December. The two bishops have known each other for a number of years, since both were priests in Philadelphia.
“I know that you join me in expressing our deep gratitude to Bishop Thomas for being so present here in your midst, in addition to continuing his faithful ministry to the people of the Diocese of Toledo,” Bishop Perez said. “We also express our deep appreciation to Father Donald Oleksiak, delegate to the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Cleveland, who had the added responsibility of serving as delegate to Bishop Thomas. I will continue to depend on their guidance and wisdom as I begin to learn of the great work of the Diocese of Cleveland – your service to the Gospel, your history and the inherent beauty that is reflected in all of you as gifts from God. I know I will see the face of the Lord reflected in the many new friends that I look forward to meeting here in the days ahead.”
Bishop-designate Perez said he comes to Cleveland with “a deep love for the Lord, his Church and a profound love for the priesthood. “I am filled with excitement and enthusiasm to get to know my brother priests and deacons, religious and faithful of this great diocese and to learn all I can possibly learn to serve you, with the grace of God, to the very best of my ability,” he said.
Bishop Perez said he was “made in Cuba and unpackaged here, for six months later, I was born in Miami, Florida.” A few years later, his family moved to Northern New Jersey, where he grew up.
The bishop-designate offered some remarks in Spanish before asking for prayers and patience as he begins to learn about the diocese. “In particular, pray fervently, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, who always has been an integral part of my life. I look to her each day for wisdom and inspiration,” he said.
During a brief question-and-answer session after the press conference, Bishop-designate Perez noted that the 677,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland are missionary disciples and said he hopes that they will “go out and call more (people) to the Church.” He encouraged the faithful to “be joyful, enthusiastic and involved.”
In response to a question about challenges and issues facing the diocese, he said he looks forward to learning about things in the eight-county diocese and getting involved. “Without a doubt there are issues I would be involved with,” he said.
The two bishops spent a few minutes praying in the cathedral crypt at the end of the press conference before Bishop Perez conducted some individual interviews with members of the media.
“We have much to rejoice and celebrate as we move into the next phase in the life of our Church,” said Father Oleksiak.