During a visit to St. Jude Parish in Elyria on May 9 – Mother’s Day – Bishop Edward Malesic celebrated Mass and blessed two new statues that were donated to the parish.
The hand-carved statues – one of Mary, Queen of Heaven and the other of St. Joseph, her spouse – were sculpted in Ortesi, Italy by Ferdinando Perathoner Artists. Father Joseph Scalco, CSJ, St. Jude administrator, provided input to the sculptor.
“Statues in Catholic worship are visual reminders of a certain saint – in this case, Mary and Joseph,” Father Scalco said. “For Catholics, all prayers are directed to God and saints are powerful intercessors that help us to obtain blessings and to foster holiness through imitation of their virtues.”
When the benefactor wanted to leave something visible to the parish in honor of his parents, Father Scalco suggested the statues. He said he would like to have a statue of Mary “that inspires love and closeness while maintaining the dignity of heaven” and a statue of St. Joseph “that inspires peace, confidence and serenity.”
In his homily at Mass, Bishop Malesic focused on love, recalling the story of a relative whose marriage he witnessed. She was excited to start a family, but was diagnosed with cancer soon after becoming pregnant. She opted to forego aggressive treatment in order to save the baby’s life and by doing so, sacrificed her own life. He said she died about a year after his birth.
While the story is sad, the bishop said it illustrates what love really is.
“As Jesus defines it, love is a decision to give of ourselves, our whole self, to another person. He says it in this way, ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ Love never comes without some sacrifice of self.”
And sometimes, we must sacrifice a lot – if not everything – for the sake of another. The bishop said the love of family is what causes a solder to be willing to give his life in order to keep his family at home free and able to live in peace. It can cause a person to dive into a river to save a friend, or sometimes even a stranger, who has fallen in.
“There are countless other examples of love and we find them whenever we encounter generosity flying in the face of selfishness,” he said. The bishop cited health care workers who cared for the sick during the pandemic, becoming almost like family to their patients and sometimes risking their own lives.
“Love is best shown on the cross, in a God who loved us so much that he was willing to give his life for us,” Bishop Malesic said. “On the cross, Jesus made a choice to give himself for the world, for you and me, not because of an emotional feeling of love, but because he wanted to save us.”
He said the love that Jesus asks of us is not always an easy decision to make. It can require things like changing diapers daily, waiting at night for a teenager to return home, worrying about a spouse’s health and more, he said, explaining that marriage involves sacrifice.
“Love is even at the heart of the Mass,” he said, adding that Jesus is giving his flesh and blood for us. “It is a real sacrifice of love. But he asks that we give our hearts to him in return. We must make a sacrifice of love in return to our God who first loved us. We come to holy Mass to give our love to God and not just receive God’s love for us,” he said.
On Mother’s Day, we can reflect on what Christian love means by considering the examples of love shown by all types of mothers: birth mothers, adoptive mothers and spiritual mothers. He said with God’s help, our mothers reared us, disciplined us and forgave us, noting that mothers put up with many things and gave up many of their own plans “so that we could grow into the man or woman God wanted us to be. You loved us and that makes all the difference in the world for so many of us today.”
Also on Mother’s Day, we should remember that Jesus gave us his mother at the foot of the cross, Bishop Malesic said. “She is the perfect mother for all of us. When Jesus gave Mary to his disciple, Mary adopted each of us, and we can cling to her in our most difficult days. She is the mother that loves us with love beyond all telling. What she sacrificed for Jesus she did out of love for us, too.”
Recalling the woman who sacrificed her life so her baby son could live, the bishop said he witnessed the young man’s marriage a few years ago.
“Her sacrifice was not in vain. True love never is. True love is what is good for the other person. True love gives life. God’s love, the perfect love that we see on the cross, gives eternal live and for this, we return to God and give him our thanks,” he said.
The bishop greeted parishioners and posed for photos after Mass before heading over to see the work of the parish’s Helping Hands Food Pantry, which he also blessed.
Volunteers presented him with a Helping Hands T-shirt and showed him around the building, which served as a home for the religious sisters who once helped staff St. Jude School.
Before the pandemic, the pantry allowed clients to visit and select or “shop” for their items. However, since the issuance of COVID-19 safety protocols, clients now can receive pre-packed boxes of shelf-stable food and some frozen meat twice monthly.
One large room was stacked with the pre-filled boxes of non-perishable food, received through a collaboration with Second Harvest Food Bank. Parishioners, St. Jude School students and others also donate non-perishable food, personal hygiene products and cleaning supplies that pantry volunteers organize and neatly stack on shelves. Meat is stored in several large freezers
The pantry, established 2007, has assisted nearly 20,000 families – about 67,000 individuals – with its food distributions, free farmers markets and open hours emergency food distributions. Other assistance includes client aid for medical bills, utility payments gas cards, clothing, Blanket Sunday drives, back-to-school backpacks and supplies and more.
In 2020, Helping Hands aided more than 3,000 families or 9,375 individuals, 29% of whom were younger than 17 and 23% of whom were senior citizens. The pantry also served nearly 800 families during the 2020 holiday season.