The faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland got their first look at the new diocesan shepherd this morning when Bishop Edward C. Malesic, bishop of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, was introduced at a livestreamed press conference at diocesan headquarters in downtown Cleveland.
“I met with him last night and found him to be a wonderful, kind and gentle soul,” said Father Don Oleksiak, diocesan administrator, as he introduced Bishop-designate Malesic.
The newly named bishop, who will be 60 on Aug. 14, will be installed as the 12th bishop of Cleveland one month later -- on Sept. 14 -- in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland. The appointment was made by Pope Francis.
“I am so happy to be here,” the bishop-designate said, acknowledging that he is coming to a much larger diocese. “I am looking forward to it,” he added. But still, he admitted it was a shock when he received a phone call two weeks ago from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, telling him the Holy Father wanted him to serve as bishop of Cleveland. He echoed remarks made by Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez, his predecessor in Cleveland. “Be careful when you answer a call coming from the 202 area code,” he quipped.
“I love the Diocese of Greensburg. I thought I’d die there,” he said, reflecting on his five years as leader of that diocese. Previously, he served as a priest in the Diocese of Harrisburg.
Bishop Malesic said every change in his career has come with new blessings “and God provides me with the grace to do what I need to do.”
He succeeds Archbishop Perez, who served as the 11th bishop of Cleveland from September 2017 until his appointment as archbishop of Philadelphia in February.
“I called Archbishop Perez after I spoke with the nuncio. When I told him I had been appointed bishop of Cleveland, he said two words: ‘Lucky you.’”
The bishop-designate said he is extremely grateful to Archbishop Perez for the work he did in Cleveland, including strengthening the schools and making deep strides in connecting with the community. He said he is looking forward to getting to know and work with the diocesan staff, the clergy and the faithful throughout the eight-county diocese.
“I was filled with great joy this morning to learn that our Holy Father has appointed Most Rev. Edward C. Malesic as the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland. Bishop Malesic brings to his new diocese vast administrative expertise, a priestly heart and a deep commitment to serving the pastoral and temporal needs of the Church with zeal and energy,” Archbishop Perez said. “It has been a privilege to work with him here in Pennsylvania since my appointment as archbishop of Philadelphia in January. The Church in Ohio is receiving a true gift from Pope Francis in the person of Bishop Malesic. I know he will serve joyfully as a faithful shepherd and spiritual father.”
The bishop-designate also thanked Father Oleksiak, who will continue to serve as diocesan administrator until Bishop Malesic’s installation, for all his hard work.
Bishop Malesic said coming to a diocese with 700,000 Catholics is a bit overwhelming, but he is looking forward to learning about the diocese and promised to be responsive to the needs of the people. When asked what the clergy could expect of him, he responded, “I’m a brother to them I am a priest at heart. I understand their challenges and will treat them fairly and kindly.”
He also addressed some remarks to the faithful in the Diocese of Greensburg, expressing his sadness as leaving. “It will not be an easy transition,” he said, but he told them their prayers will make the change easier. “You helped me learn to be a bishop. You walked with me and we did m any good things. I will never forget my time in Greensburg.”
As an act of thanksgiving for his new appointment, Bishop Malesic said he will celebrate noon Mass today in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, the mother church of the Cleveland Diocese. The Mass will be livestreamed on the diocesan website and archived for later viewing.
The bishop-designate also asked the people of Cleveland to keep him in their prayers as he transitions to the diocese and his new role.
During his time in Greensburg, Bishop Malesic, who has been a priest for 33 years, immediately recognized the severity of the opioid epidemic in Western Pennsylvania. He said heard any stories from parents and clergy about young people lost to addiction, which prompted him to establish an Opioid Task Force. The task force conducted a series of listening sessions focusing on education and prayer. He also released his first pastoral letter, “A Pastoral Letter on the Drug Abuse Crisis: From Death and Despair to Life and Hope,” on June 29, 2017, in response to the opioid epidemic in the region. In it, he called on the people of the diocese to take action against the opioid scourge and outlined diocesan and parish efforts focused on prayer, education and cooperative actions with social service agencies already engaged in the fight against addiction.
In response to the clergy abuse crisis and the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and in order to increase diocesan transparency and outside oversight, Bishop Malesic established a Safe Environment Advisory Council to assist the Diocese of Greensburg. The advisory council oversaw a series of seven listening sessions around the diocese, each of which was attended by Bishop Malesic and gave parishioners the opportunity to express their feelings about the grand jury report, make observations and offer suggestions.
In February 2019, Bishop Malesic announced details of a Comprehensive Reconciliation Initiative, which includes a Survivors’ Compensation Program, to support survivors of abuse.
He also is a strong supporter of Catholic education and earlier this month, announced the formation of the Saint Pope John Paul II Tuition Opportunity Partnership in Greensburg. The partnership was made possible by the single-largest donation from a family the Diocese of Greensburg received in one year. The anonymous $2.4 million donation, combined with $1.7 million in existing funds donated by other individuals and businesses, make $4.1 million in scholarships and tuition assistance available for the 12 Catholic schools in the Greensburg Diocese during the 2020-21 academic year.