Collaboration and working together for the good of the Church community is the primary mission of the Center for Pastoral Leadership.
Cleveland Bishop emeritus Anthony Pilla emphasized those things during his remarks prior to the Sept. 9 opening liturgy at the CPL in Wickliffe. Newly installed Bishop Nelson Perez was the celebrant at the liturgy and Father Allan Laubenthal, rector emeritus of Saint Mary Seminary, was the homilist.
The liturgy, which traditionally begins the new year for those in formation, included seminarians in priestly formation, those in diaconate formation and those preparing for lay ecclesial ministry.
Bishop Pilla shared the history of the CPL, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, explaining how diocesan officials and consultants examined operations of the priestly formation programs at Borromeo High School, Borromeo (minor/college) Seminary and Saint Mary (major/graduate) Seminary. He said cost was a consideration, “but it’s not the only thing . . . so I went up on the mountain and prayed.” He eventually decided the best way to proceed was to move the formation programs to one campus, the spacious CPL site.
“I didn’t think closing our seminary was the best decision for our diocese,” he said, adding that the diocese would lose many assets, including the seminary faculty, the library and the ability to train and mentor those preparing for ministry.
“There is a presence of Church in this institution,” he said.
The transition wasn’t as smooth as he had hoped when the formation programs came together on one campus, Bishop Pilla said, adding, “being ordained makes you different – and necessary – but not better. We’re different with different responsibilities, but we shouldn’t be competitive. We should collaborate and work together.”
“It sounds like Bishop Pilla was at a crossroad. Thankfully he went to the mountain – not the wall – and that he heard the one voice of the shepherd. Thank you, Bishop Pilla,” said Bishop Perez as he began Mass. “This is a Mass of thanksgiving that brings together those in formation for priestly ministry, the diaconate and lay ministry.”
Father Laubenthal echoed Bishop Pilla’s remarks, emphasizing that both Bishop Pilla and Bishop Perez recognize the mission of the Church. “Jesus made it clear his only mission was to serve the will of his heavenly father.”
The CPL helps prepare men and women to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world, to share the glad tidings of Jesus’ message and to equip them for their ministries. He mentioned the CPL mission statement, which includes the following verbiage: “. . . Under the direction of the Council of Leaders, we strive to provide a setting for forming Christian men and women that authentically reflects the true collaborative nature of the whole Church and its ministries today (August 23, 1999).”
Collaboration is the key to successful ministry, Father Laubenthal said.
“Today we celebrate 25 wonderful years under two bishops (Pilla and Bishop emeritus Richard Lennon) and start the next 25 or maybe 20, but at least 19 under the leadership of Bishop Perez,” he said.
After Mass, Bishop Perez thanked Bishop Pilla for his vision and the establishment of the CPL. He has said multiple times how pleased he is that there are 80 young men in priestly formation at the seminary.
“The seminary is a place to come, be welcomed, to be formed, but then we must be courageous enough to leave,” Bishop Pilla told the congregation. “Our end goal is to be missionary disciples.” He explained how the people of Philadelphia helped him learn how to be a priest, the people of Rockville Center (New York) helped him to become a bishop and the people of Cleveland will help him continue that ministry.
After lunch with the faculty, those in formation and invited guests, Bishop Perez mingled with the crowd, posed for photos and chatted with seminarians, diaconate candidates and those training for lay ecclesial ministry.