Bishop-designate Nelson Perez delivered an engaging homily at the installation-eve Solemn Vespers liturgy on Sept. 4 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
The nearly 15-minute homily was a combination of humor, wisdom and teaching. The bishop drew applause and laughter from the faithful at times during the homily.
Here are a few of the more memorable comments.
- After introducing a cohort of fellow bishops who travelled to Cleveland for the installation ceremonies, Bishop Perez specifically mentioned Bishop Robert Brennan of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York. The two were consecrated as bishops in the same ceremony on July 25, 2012, by Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput. “Bishop Brennan is my episcopal twin. We were born to the episcopacy together, but I’m older,” Bishop Perez quipped.
- Referring to his ordination as a priest in Philadelphia in 1989, Bishop Perez noted, “The Archdiocese of Philadelphia taught me to be a priest. The Diocese of Rockville Centre began the process of teaching me to be a bishop and that is handed off now to the Diocese of Cleveland.”
- About the celebrations connected to his installation as the 11th Bishop of Cleveland, Bishop Perez said: “This is not my celebration. It’s a celebration of the whole Church. It’s our celebration.”
- As Vespers began, Bishop Perez was waiting in the vestibule of the cathedral to be welcomed officially by Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas, Apostolic Administrator of the diocese. “They had me standing behind the door and wouldn’t let me peek in. I felt like a bride. Then the doors opened, but I wasn’t dressed in white.”
- When speaking about the serious car accident he was involved in six months after arriving in Rockville Centre, Bishop Perez said there was a steady stream of visitors, many of them fellow priests. “I must have been anointed 20 times a day. I guess it didn’t hurt,” he quipped.
- A fan of Italian food, Bishop Perez and a seminary classmate headed to a restaurant in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood, which is known for its concentration of Italian restaurants and bakeries, after he arrived in town. “I was eating a bowl of pasta when Bishop (emeritus Anthony) Pilla called. Not that I like pasta,” he said, hinting at Bishop Pilla’s Italian heritage. Bishop Pilla’s late mother was renowned for her spaghetti sauce and Italian cooking.
- Bishop Perez referred several times to Pope Francis’ vision of the Church. “We are called to celebrate . . . We are called to be a Church of missionary disciples, a Church on the way, a Church on a mission. We must meet people where they are with the power of truth . . . the Holy Father tells us constantly to be joyful . . . sometimes we look like we’re sucking on a lemon,” he said. “The source of our joy is rooted in an encounter with Jesus Christ . . . We experience him and we are never the same after those encounters.”