The message “Welcome Bishop Perez” scrolled across the digital sign on the front lawn of Lake Catholic High School in Mentor on Nov. 7. The bishop spent the morning with 700 students, faculty and staff there, offering Mass, touring the school and eating lunch in the cafeteria with a group of students.
When asked what was special about Lake Catholic, one student replied, “Everything.” When the bishop asked for some specific examples, he heard about the food; teachers; the principal and the girls’ volleyball and soccer teams, which remain in contention for state titles.
Bishop Perez encouraged the students to enjoy their time in high school, since it will be gone soon. He also asked them to thank their parents for making their Catholic education possible. This expression of appreciation was linked to the Gospel, in which Jesus told the story of the man who hosted a banquet, but no one came so he sent his servants out to recruit people for the event.
“Appreciate what you have,” the bishop said. “God invites us to a banquet – the banquet of his word, the Eucharist.” He said God also “sets an incredible banquet for us every day,” pointing out the beauty of nature and the world. “Don’t ever take it for granted,” he told the assembly.
“But parts of the world are nasty,” Bishop Perez said. “We are coming out of a bad time,” he said, referring to the murder of 26 people on Nov. 5 at a church in Texas. “And three people were killed in Cleveland that day. The world needs a lot of work,” he said.
The bishop told the students that “the world is in your hands.” He said Pope Francis laid out that challenge at World Youth Day two years ago when he told the millions of people assembled that “God expects something from you. We must decide our future. The Lord wants to turn your hands into signs of reconciliation to build our new world.”
He also echoed a statement he made during other high school visits: “Never, never, never underestimate what God’s spirit can do in, through and despite you — and many times unbeknownst to you.” He said God asks that we have generous hearts and that we share our gifts with others.
“I’m leaving you with two pieces of advice,” Bishop Perez said. “Be grateful for what you have; use it well and don’t let anyone or anything rob you of the Christian values you carry in your hearts.”
The Lake Catholic community presented the bishop with a miniature of the stained-glass window that is the focal point of the school chapel, as well as a few other gifts.
After Mass, the bishop posed with students for photos and autographed holy cards from his installation. One student with a knee injury asked the bishop to autograph his arm and his crutch, which he did – with a smile.
A tour of the building followed, with stops in the chapel to see the stained-glass window, the science department, several classrooms and a ministry space. The bishop chatted with students in an honors Spanish class and blessed those in a theology class. He also met teacher Scott Posey who sang the National Anthem at some Cleveland Indians games this past season, plus on Oct. 5 at Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field.
The bishop enjoyed lunch with students in the cafeteria and chatted with them for about a half hour before heading back downtown.
He is scheduled to visit Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School later this month.