Sister Rita Mary Harwood, SND, secretary for Parish Life and Development for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, announced her intent to leave her position in August. She is completing a 26-year ministry in the diocese, during which she led major initiatives affecting parish life and a variety of diocesan initiatives.
The Secretariat for Parish Life and Development supports the work of the diocese and parishes by helping to build vibrant communities of faith and service.
“I consider the opportunity I have had to serve the good people of our diocesan and broader community a tremendous blessing,” Sister Rita Mary said. ‘The Lord has blessed me during this time with the opportunity to guide the work of a very faith-filled and dedicated staff who committed themselves to serve in ministries of vital importance in the life of our local Church. I have deeply loved working with the bishops, priests, deacons, religious men and women, lay ministers, volunteers and all the good people of our communities. In these 26 years, I have come to know and to love you; I will be forever grateful for the grace you have been in my life.”
Sister Rita Mary served as the provincial superior of the Sisters of Notre Dame prior to joining the diocesan administrative staff in 1995 during the episcopate of Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland.
“I am deeply grateful to Sister Rita Mary for her tireless and passionate dedication to pastoral ministry, evangelization, spiritual growth and outreach with other faith communities throughout the diocese,” said Bishop Edward C. Malesic. “While I have just gotten to know Sister Rita Mary, her reputation as a bridge-builder within our community is well known, and she is revered for her compassionate wisdom and deep institutional knowledge of the diocese. She will be greatly missed.”
Bishop Malesic appointed Father Damian Ference to the new position of vicar for evangelization. Father Ference is a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland and serves on the formation faculty at Borromeo Seminary in Wickliffe as assistant professor of philosophy. As vicar for evangelization, Father Ference will be charged with sharing the beauty of the truth of the Catholic faith for everyone to see, leading all seekers to a transforming encounter with Christ.
“I know Father Damian possesses an unquenchable zeal to share the truth of the Gospel of Jesus,” Bishop Malesic said. “I believe Father Ference will make a tremendous impact on the Church’s efforts to bring others closer to Christ.”
“I offer my sincere appreciation to Bishop Malesic for his faith and trust in my ability to inspire others to deepen their relationship with the Lord, or to encounter Him for the first time,” said Father Ference. “I accept this new mission with great excitement and joyful hope in sharing the Good News of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
Father Ference graduated from Borromeo Seminary/John Carroll University in 1998, and after earning his M.A. and M.Div. from Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology, he was ordained for the Diocese of Cleveland in 2003. He served as parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Hudson from 2003-2007. In 2009, he earned a licentiate in philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Father Ference has been part of the formation faculty at Borromeo Seminary since 2009. He is concluding his doctoral studies in philosophy at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and will return to Cleveland to take up his new role as vicar for evangelization in addition to his work at the seminary.
Father Ference is the author of “The Strangeness of Truth” (Pauline Books & Media, 2019) and writes regularly on the intersection of faith and culture for Word on Fire. He also has published articles in a variety of periodicals, including America, Commonweal, Dappled Things, Emmanuel, First Things, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, The Plain Dealer, The Priest, U.S. Catholic, Worship and the Flannery O’Connor Review.