Bishop Nelson Perez celebrated two liturgies last weekend, one instituting three candidates for the diaconate as lectors and the other installing Father Charles Strebler as the fourth pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Avon Lake.
Donald G. Brandt of St. John Neumann Parish, Strongsville; Francisco A. Miranda of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Cleveland; and John V. Nelson of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, Mentor were instituted as lectors by the bishop during a special rite which took place during Mass on March 10 at Immaculate Conception Church in Willoughby.
All three men are second-year candidates to the permanent diaconate. The institution to lector is a step in their formational journey to become ordained as deacons for service in the Diocese of Cleveland.
The lector is instituted to proclaim the readings from sacred Scripture, with the exception of the Gospel. He may also announce the intentions for the universal prayer and, in the absence of a psalmist, recite the psalm between the readings. The lector also instructs children and adults in the faith and prepares them to receive the sacraments.
In his homily, Bishop Perez reflected on the Gospel of St. John 3:16 in which is told of “God’s great unconditional, faithful, stubborn love for us” and how He continues to come to us today to offer us His love through the Word and the Eucharist.
After Mass the bishop attended a parish reception for those who were instituted as lectors and their families.
The next day, March 11, Bishop Perez celebrated a Mass during which Father Strebler was installed as Holy Spirit’s new pastor. He has served in the diocesan legal office for 13 years as a faithful canonist and requested a parish assignment, the bishop said.
“I know where he was coming from,” Bishop Perez said, recalling earlier in his priesthood when he said he “negotiated” with the archbishop in Philadelphia to stay in parish ministry as a pastor.
Concelebrating the liturgy were nine priests with ties to Holy Spirit Parish or Father Strebler, including Father Ron Wearsch, pastor of neighboring St. Joseph Parish, Avon Lake, who served as administrator of Holy Spirit after the former pastor, Father James Beatty, retired last year. Other concelebrants were Father Gary Yanus, judicial vicar for the diocese; Father Edward Suszynski, new pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians in Litchfield; Father Lawrence Tosco, CSJ a professor at Saint Mary Seminary; Father Robert McWilliams, parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish, Strongsville; Father Dan Fickes, parochial vicar, St. Joseph, Avon Lake; Father Terrence Grachanin, parochial vicar, St. Brendan, North Olmsted, and a son of Holy Spirit Parish; Father David Bline, pastor, St. Francis de Sales Parish, Akron; and Father Timothy Gareau, pastor of nearby St. Raphael Parish, Bay Village.
Bishop Perez thanked Father Wearsch for his time doing double duty as pastor of St. Joseph Parish and administrator of Holy Spirit Parish. He also acknowledged the Strebler family and friends who were at the Mass.
“Mrs. Strebler and her husband gave Charlie as a gift to the Church and for that we are thankful,” he said.
The readings talk about God’s love for his people, the bishop said. “God looked down and saw sin after sin, abomination after abomination, but he kept sending prophets. Then he finally said, ‘I’m going down myself,’ and he sent his son. He had unconditional, faithful and stubborn love for us,” Bishop Perez said. He also referred to the well-known John 3:16 quote: “God so loved the world that he sent his only son.”
He got a laugh from the congregation when he offered this alternative take on the Last Supper.
During the dinner, the bishop said Judas, who was a traitor and already had taken a bribe to turn over Jesus, was seated at his far left. Peter, who would deny him three times by daybreak, was there, also.
“And he knew the others would disappear when the soldiers showed up,” Bishop Perez said, “so there was only one thing to do. He called the head waiter and said, ‘Max, separate checks, please.’”
The bishop used this humorous twist on the Last Supper to show how the Church stands on the symbol of God’s unconditional, faithful and stubborn love for us. “All he asks of us is to have a contrite heart and he’ll do the rest,” he said.
The parish is the center of a community and as a symbol of God’s love is the most immediate expression of Church. He also shared some thoughts from Pope Francis about parishes, saying they are not outdated institutions; they have great flexibility and can assume new boundaries depending on the creative abilities of their pastors.
“It’s the Church living in the midst of sons and daughters, a home within other homes,” he said.
Bishop Perez encouraged the parish “to support Father Strebler, to hold him up, to challenge him and to cherish him. He’s God’s gift to you.”
Father Strebler thanked all who helped plan the liturgy and those who give of their time, talent and treasure for the parish.
“You probably notice the pink flowers and vestments. It’s Laetare Sunday, the third Sunday of Lent, so we are rejoicing because Easter is near, the bishop is with us and we have a fourth pastor for the parish. And I’m rejoicing because it’s me,” he added.
After Mass, the bishop and Father Strebler greeted parishioners and visitors in Father Mosovsky Hall during a brunch reception.