The most recent parish to receive a visit from Bishop Edward Malesic is also one of the oldest in the diocese, which was established in 1847.
Catholics had been living in the Wooster area since about 1812 -- primarily Germans and Italians who moved from Maryland and Pennsylvania. Times were tough, but their numbers grew gradually until about 15 charter families formed St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Wooster.
They laid the cornerstone for the first church in 1847, and added a school by 1865. Tragedy struck in 1913 when the original church was destroyed in a fire, but the parishioners rallied, raised the needed funds and built a new church, which was dedicated in 1918 and remains in use.
During his Nov. 15 visit, Bishop Malesic connected St. Mary Parish’s story with the day’s Gospel, noting that we all are given the talents we can handle, each according to our ability. Those talents are meant to be shared and used, he said. “The more we share these gifts, the more they grow. The bottom line of today’s Gospel is ‘use it or lose it,’” the bishop said.
Looking at the gift of faith, he said we may be tempted to see what others are doing in the Church and may say we don’t have that type of faith, so we do nothing.
“But Jesus said even faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. What we have been given by God is enough to do great things. But it all starts by planting the tiny seed that we have. If we don’t use the seed, nothing will grow.”
The bishop also told the faithful that he once met a woman who said she no longer went to Church and that no one missed her. He disagreed, telling her “I know that our Church is less because you aren’t with us anymore. I hope that made her think. We all have something to share with each other, even if we think it’s something that we consider to be very small,” he said, noting “it might be huge to someone else.”
There are no insignificant people in the world; each of us is here for a reason, Bishop Malesic said. “We are the body of Christ. And if we play our part and share what God has given us with one another, something great happens.”
When our lives end, Jesus won’t ask us if we protected the gifts he gave us, the bishop said. Instead, he will ask, “What did you do with the gifts I gave you? When he comes back, he will not ask us, ‘Did we know the story?’ But he will ask us, ‘Did we tell the story?’”
People came together and formed St. Mary’s Parish in order to share Jesus’ story. “We received the Gospel from them. Now, will we share the Gospel with others? What will we pass on to them?” he asked.
Father Stephen Moran, pastor, Father Rich Samide, parochial vicar, and Deacon Bob Zerrer assisted with the liturgy. Father Moran welcomed Bishop Malesic to the parish, saying how pleased they were to have him visit.
“I’m so happy to be here, visiting the outer areas of the diocese,” the bishop said. He told those gathered for Mass both in the church and on the livestream that the Wooster area reminds him of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Both are rural and similar in population.
The coronavirus pandemic is making it difficult for him to meet as many of the faithful as quickly as he’d like, but the bishop said he is pleased to drop in and celebrate Mass. Once the pandemic subsides, he said he looks forward to meeting large groups of people. But for now, it’s important to remain safe, he added.
“No matter how socially distanced we are, we are united with the same God,” Bishop Malesic said.
After Mass, he chatted – socially distanced and wearing a face mask – with parishioners. Several families greeted him and one young boy relished the opportunity to hold the bishop’s crosier and try on his zucchetto (the fuchsia skullcap-type hat bishops wear under their miter).
The bishop also spent a few minutes talking to members of the parish confirmation class who gathered after Mass in the parish hall for their weekly class.