About three dozen community leaders and Diocese of Cleveland benefactors got a chance to have breakfast with Bishop Nelson Perez on Feb. 12 at LaCentre Conference and Banquet Center in Westlake. The event was hosted by Fred DeGrandis, vice chair of the Catholic Community Foundation Board of Directors.
Bishop Perez told the group that the Church of Cleveland is bigger than a structure. “We are the Church of Cleveland,” he said. “We have a privilege and responsibility to serve the Church of Cleveland with our resources, including time, treasure and talent.”
The Rooted in Faith campaign, which is winding down, was a big success thanks to the generosity of many, the bishop said. “This work (charitable) is important,” he added. The campaign exceeded its goal of $125 million and resulted in more than $170 million in payments and pledges from throughout the eight-county diocese.
He said people go to churches for many reasons, including to celebrate the birth of a child, for marriage, funerals and many other reasons. There are clergy, religious and lay people who visit hospitals and console people at various times in their lives. About 80 young men are in formation at the diocesan seminary, including the son of one attendee, he said. The generosity of many helps to support these people as they carry out the Church’s work.
Bishop Perez recalled stopping in unannounced a few days before Christmas at the Bishop Cosgrove Center in downtown Cleveland. The center, a Catholic Charities agency, provides meals and other social service programs to the needy in Cleveland.
He said he spoke with several of the guests who were having breakfast. “About 250 people got a warm meal in a warm place because the Church of Cleveland made it happen,” he said.
“Let the Church shut down completely for just one day and you’ll be able to see how important these programs are. You’ll be able to see the footprint of the Church immediately,” Bishop Perez said.
“You’re not part of the Church, you are the Church,” he told the group.
During a brief question and answer session, the bishop was asked about the size of Catholic Charities in the diocese. It’s one of the largest social service systems in the country, he said, adding that more than 400,000 people are helped each year by Catholic Charities in our diocese.
“In the Diocese of Rockville Centre (where he was an auxiliary bishop before being named bishop of Cleveland), the population is about 3 million, with about 1.6 million Catholics. I was the vice chairman of Catholic Charities there and they helped about 60,000 people each year,” he said.
“Most of the people served by Catholic Charities aren’t Catholic,” Bishop Perez said. “Catholics understand the meaning of charity. It’s not a means to build our relationship. It’s charity for the sake of charity – and that’s all.”