It was a jam-packed weekend for Bishop Nelson Perez and he continued getting acquainted with the faithful throughout the Diocese of Cleveland.
His first stop was a pastoral visit and celebration of the Sunday vigil Mass on March 3 at St. Jude Parish in Elyria, where he was welcomed by Father Frank Kosem, pastor, and parishioners. Concelebrating the Mass with Father Kosem was Father Richard Gonser, who retired in 2012 as pastor of St. Julie Billiart Parish in North Ridgeville and is in residence at St. Jude.
They were assisted by Deacon Armando Emmanuel Padilla Contreras, CSJ. Bishop Perez told the parishioners he was happy to see Deacon Padilla and asked everyone to pray for him as he will soon be ordained a priest for his native country of Mexico.
In his weekend homilies, the bishop reminded the congregations that it’s not too late to begin their Lenten journeys. The origin of the word Lent is Old English or Scottish and it means spring or a time for cleaning, he said.
“Think about what happens in the spring,” he said, referring to farmers and gardeners who pull weeds, turn and prepare the soil for planting so it can be used for new growth and ultimately a harvest. During the winter, the soil is dormant and becomes packed down by snow and ice, he said. In the spring, it’s necessary to remove the old to make way for the new.
“That’s what we do in Lent,” he said. “We remove what is not God’s from our lives.” He said Lent is like “an internal spring cleaning.” In the Gospel, Jesus cast the money changers out of the temple he said, explaining they had become corrupt. So Jesus cleansed the temple, which was God’s home.
Lent began at a time when people prepared for baptism and entered into an internal retreat — a type of spring cleaning of the soul, Bishop Perez said.
He noted that St. Paul said, “We are the temple and God dwells within us. Just as the temple needed to be cleansed, so do we.” Lent is a time to look into the temple of our hearts and see what needs to go.
“God wants to help us with that cleansing,” he said, encouraging the congregation to pray and ask the Lord what he sees and to help us clean our temples.
Before Mass, students from St. Jude’s School presented the bishop with a ceramic miter that was made in art class. St. Jude School has 470 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade.
After Mass, the bishop greeted parishioners and took posed for photos with them. One child was fascinated with his crosier, so the bishop allowed him to hold it. And he put his miter on the young boy’s head.
On his way back to his residence, the bishop paid a surprise visit to a group of teens who were participating in the St. Thomas More High School Youth Ministry annual “Time Out” retreat at the St. Leonard Youth Retreat Center in Avon. The center is operated by the Congregation of St. Joseph.
During his visit, Bishop Perez asked the 35 teens about their weekend and then let them ask him questions. Their topics included vocations, sports, books and advice for the college-bound students.
March 4 brought double-header pastor installations at St. Mary and Our Lady of Hope parishes in Bedford. Father Joe Seebauer, who leads both parishes, was appointed as administrator nine months ago and was named pastor in December.
Bishop Perez installed Father Seebauer at the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Mary Parish and at the 11 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Hope. The installation ceremonies included introducing him as pastor.
“It’s a joy to welcome him,” the bishop said, adding he enjoyed being pastor of a parish.
The staff, parish and finance councils from each parish were called to welcome Father Seebauer at the respective liturgies, and then the new pastor led the congregation in the profession of faith. He placed his hand on the Book of Gospels and promised to follow the authentic teaching of the Church and to assist the bishop. After making his promises, both Father Seebauer and Bishop Perez signed the documents formalizing his installment as pastor at each parish.
The bishop noted that Father Seebauer, who was ordained in 2011, was a chemist before answering his call to the priesthood. Since his ordination, he had served as a parochial vicar at St. Bernadette Parish in Westlake and St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Wooster before being named administrator of the two Bedford parishes. He replaced Father Dan Begin who died Feb. 18, 2017.
“Pray for your pastor,” the bishop said. “Take care of him. Challenge him, but don’t give him a hard time.”
And he had some advice for Father Seebauer, telling him, “Be a gentle shepherd and a wise teacher for your people.”
Father Seebauer acknowledged his family, including his mother, two brothers and two sisters-in-law who travelled from Illinois and Columbus, Ohio to attend both Masses and receptions. During the liturgy at Our Lady of Hope, he also introduced Martin Dober, a seminarian who served as an intern at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Wooster while Father Seebauer was serving there. Dober, who is nearing the end of his formation for the priesthood, is on track to be ordained a transitional deacon later this year.
Father also acknowledged all who worked to help plan the liturgies and receptions at each parish, including the parish and finance councils, parish staffs and other organizations, music ministries, servers and those who prepared refreshments for the receptions at the two parishes.
“Thanks for such a warm welcome,” he said.
Bishop Perez and Father Seebauer greeted hundreds of parishioners and posed for photos at each parish after the installation Masses.