Eleven students entering their senior year of high school had a unique experience on June 29.
They’re attending the weeklong Tolle Lege Summer Institute at the Center for Pastoral Leadership in Wickliffe and the highlight was a private dinner meeting and discussion with Bishop Edward Malesic.
The bishop, who spent several years in campus ministry, said he was happy to join them for a casual dinner and conversation. After introducing themselves, including their parishes and schools, they shared something new they learned during the week. One student talked about touring the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and recalled learning about the theft of St. Christine’s relics – which were later recovered – from the cathedral’s Resurrection Chapel.
The conversation also included movies, music, hobbies, family connections and things of beauty like the Grand Canyon, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the aurora borealis.
Bishop Malesic shared his background with the students, telling them he is youngest in his family and the only one who attended public schools. He also talked about his discernment and vocation. The bishop had an interest in other religions and said, “I expected to leave the Catholic Church at some point,” an admission that surprised the students. “I certainly never expected to be a priest, let alone a bishop,” he added.
While studying biology in college, Bishop Malesic said he attended an event where he received a free Bible.
Catholics hear Bible stories at every Mass in the readings and Gospel, so they “probably know the Bible better than other Christians, but they may not be able to quote chapter and verse,” he said. After reading the Bible he received, “I realized what Jesus did for me. He loves me and wants me to be in his Church,” he said.
Later, Bishop Malesic attended a conference with his pastor and a religious sister. Afterward, the priest asked him if he’d ever considered the priesthood. He said he hadn’t, but not long afterward, he realized that he was being called to the priesthood.
At first, his parents were a bit reticent about his decision, he said, but they supported him.
He received his priestly formation at Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus. “All I ever wanted to be was a parish priest,” he said. And that’s what he was – for several years until his bishop asked him to study canon law.
In addition to his duties in the Diocese of Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Tribunal, he continued in parish ministry, including serving as pastor of a parish before being named bishop of Greensburg six years ago. He served there five years before receiving the call last July telling him the pope appointed him bishop of Cleveland.
“I love being a priest and a bishop,” he said, adding, “and there’s no place else I rather be than Cleveland. I hope to be here for the next 15 years – until I retire.”
And that little Bible he received in college is still with him. “Everyone I live with knows where it is and knows that it’s to be buried with me.”
Tolle Lege was founded in 2011 by Father Damian Ference, who was named recently to the new position of vicar of evangelization for the diocese. The name means, “take up and read,” after the divine call received by St. Augustine – patron saint of the program – in the fourth century.
Staff members include Father Patrick Anderson, a Borromeo Seminary faculty member and director of formation, is the institute director. Beth Rath, a philosophy professor at John Carroll University and Borromeo, Father Joseph Koopman, a professor of moral theology at Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Philosophy, and Father Kevin Klonowski, parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Strongsville and chaplain for the Cleveland Catholic Medical Association. Father Bill Bouhall, spiritual director for Borromeo and Father Jeffrey Barnish, who has been pursuing an advance degree in moral theology in Rome, are chaplains for the institute. Seminarians Sean Neville, Saint Mary seminarian, Arthur Bodenschatz, Borromeo, and Josh Stecz, Borromeo, are institute administrators.
For more information on Tolle Lege Summer Institute, click here.