When installing a new pastor, Bishop Perez often tells the story of his own installation as a pastor. He said he told parishioners at his first parish, “Do not make the mistake of making this about me. I came with the ring of the phone and I will leave with the ring of the phone.”
The first time his phone rang, it was to make him the pastor of a parish in Philadelphia, he said. A few years later, another call moved him to a different parish in the archdiocese. When the next call came, he was asked to move again -- this time to Long Island, New York to become an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. And finally, two years ago, the phone rang again and he was sent to serve as bishop of Cleveland.
The same is true for Father John Retar, Bishop Perez said. Father is now the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Elyria because his phone rang.
“Don’t answer your phone,” the bishop said, laughing.
Bishop Perez told the parishioners that like married couples, priests take vows. This is what they signed up for, he said. And just like in a marriage, they don’t know what the future holds, but it’s important to have faith and to remain faithful to those vows.
“Today begins a new chapter,” the bishop told the congregation.
Often referring to Pope Francis, the bishop referenced the Holy Father’s reflections on a parish. According to the pope, “A parish is not an outdated institution precisely because it possesses great flexibility. That flexibility comes from the creativity of the pastor and the community.” The bishop said the pope also points out that “a parish is the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.” While driving through the community on his way to St. Vincent de Paul, Bishop Perez said he passed by many of those homes.
Seventy years ago, the bishop said the community received a gift from the people who established St. Vincent de Paul Parish. “Seventy years from now, another group will be here celebrating because of the gift you handed on,” he added.
Father Retar thanked everyone for their support and asked for their continued prayers and assistance as he begins his duties as pastor of both St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Lorain and St. Vincent de Paul in Elyria.
“You are all lights of Christ. Shine your lights all around,” Father Retar told the congregation.
Concelebrating the Mass were Father Donald Dunson, former pastor of St. Vincent de Paul, Elyria, who now is parochial vicar at St. Angela Merici Parish in Fairview Park, and Father Salvatore Curro, CSJ who is visiting from Italy and is staying at the Congregation of St. Joseph in Avon. Assisting with Mass were Deacons John Slatcoff and Edgar Gonzalez.
Father Retar’s mother, who attended the Mass, received a standing ovation when introduced by Bishop Perez. “This day would not be possible without her,” the bishop said.
A reception followed the liturgy and the bishop was able to speak with many parishioners, including future seminarian Paul Baker.