He arrived just before midnight on Monday, July 10 and returned to New York on Thursday morning July 13. However, in that brief window, Bishop-designate Nelson Perez was immersed in learning about the Diocese of Cleveland. His appointment as the 11th bishop of the diocese was announced locally at a press conference on July 11.
During his whirlwind, first-ever visit to Cleveland, the bishop-designate wasted no time reaching out to his new flock. Accompanied by Bishop Daniel Thomas and Father Don Oleksiak, delegate to the Apostolic Administrator, he kept a dizzying schedule beginning with a 9 a.m. press conference on July 11, followed by one-on-one sessions with local media.
Bishop Thomas was the principal celebrant of the noon Mass on July 11 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and Bishop Perez was the homilist. After Mass, he and a group of diocesan priests met for lunch at the cathedral rectory and then he walked across East Ninth Street to tour the diocesan offices at Cathedral Square Plaza, where he greeted employees and posed for photos. Next was a meeting with Bishop Richard Lennon and a meet-and-greet with several retired diocesan priests before he headed to the WKYC- TV3 studio, where he was a guest on a segment with anchor Russ Mitchell during the 6 p.m. newscast.
On July 12, Bishop Perez was a guest on the Fox 8 morning show with hosts Wayne Dawson and Kristi Capel. Then he met with the senior staff before making a trip to the nearby Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services offices, where he met staff members, spoke with some clients, observed part of an English class, posed for photos and learned about the services Catholic Charities offers to help immigrants. Bishop Perez also visited the Hispanic Senior Center, chatted with guests and staff members in Spanish and posed for more photos and a few selfies.
He greeted residents of St. Augustine Towers, an assisted living facility, before a quick tour of St. Augustine Health Ministries, located across Detroit Avenue in the former St. John Hospital. He also stopped next door to visit Sagrada Familia, a Hispanic parish, and chatted with the pastor, Father Robert Reidy, a former member of the diocesan El Salvador mission team who, to the delight of Bishop Perez, is fluent in Spanish.
The next stop was a tour of the Bishop Cosgrove Center in downtown Cleveland, where he learned about the services the Catholic Charities agency provides to people in need. After a quick lunch break back at the rectory, there was a meeting to discuss plans for his installation Mass and a formal photo session to round out the afternoon.
He also found time to meet privately with retired Bishop Anthony Pilla, make a guest appearance on an Akron radio station, tape a video message for faithful in the diocese and conduct an interview for the next issue of Northeast Ohio Catholic magazine, the official diocesan publication, before catching his flight back to New York.
The new bishop will be installed on Sept. 5. Until then, he will remain in his ministry as an auxiliary bishop in Rockville Centre, New York and Bishop Thomas will continue to oversee the diocese.
“I’ll be back,” promised Bishop-designate Perez.