“Without Mary, there would be no Jesus. Without Mike and Kathy Cubera, there would be no Father Ryan,” Bishop Edward Malesic remarked at the Aug. 14 Mass during which he installed Father Cubera as pastor of St. Mary of the Falls Parish in Olmsted Falls.
“Thank you for your desire to be the pastor of St. Mary of the Falls. This is a wonderful, vibrant parish. Some of my happiest years were as a pastor,” the bishop added.
He reminded Father Cubera that as a pastor, he is the spiritual father to his parishioners – about 6,000 of them. “You’ll always remember this parish.”
In addition to Father Cubera, about 10 priests concelebrated the liturgy, including Father Wally Hyclak, St. Mary of the Falls pastor emeritus who preceded Father Cubera, several of Father Cubera’s seminary classmates and sons of the parish, including Father Joshua Cochrac, who was ordained in 2020.
Father Cubera described his installation as “scary, exciting, nervous and all that,” comparing it to a father awaiting the birth of his first child.
In the homily, he recounted his vocation journey, noting he never considered the priesthood until he was about 17. That’s when he started getting involved with retreats and “something touched my heart,” he said. He made a trip to Rome that summer and had two powerful experiences that continued to nudge him toward the priesthood, but he admitted being conflicted, especially since he had been dating a young woman.
After returning from Rome, he encountered Father Damian Ference, the recently named vicar of evangelization for the Diocese of Cleveland. He said Father Ference encouraged his interest in the priesthood, noting he was someone with many of the same interests, including movies and music. He eventually ended the relationship with his girlfriend and decided he had to explore the priesthood, so he entered the seminary after high school graduation.
“I had a long, ‘trashy’ beard,” he quipped, noting he didn’t look the way many expect seminarians to look. “I explored the seminary and I liked it,” he said, but he continued to have some doubts. He made a trip to Jerusalem during spring break his junior year at Borromeo Seminary and recalled how powerful it was to be in the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ walked during Holy Week.
He continued in the seminary and did his internship at St. Mary of the Falls, where he encountered Father Hyclak. “He taught me so much and I’m so glad he’s here today,” Father Cubera said.
As his formation progressed, Father said he went to the chapel and talked to the Lord asking him “to ‘tell me what to do.’ He spoke clearly, telling me if I wanted to pursue marriage, he would love me. And if I wanted to pursue the priesthood, he would love me. I was frustrated,” he said, explaining he had hoped for an answer. He decided on the priesthood and said his parish family fulfills the desire of having a family of his own.
“You’ve been an important part of my life and now you have a new role: Teach me how to be a pastor,” he said.
Referring to the Gospel, in which Mary visits Elizabeth, who although beyond childbearing years was pregnant, Father Cubera said our stories are woven together and God’s story becomes more clear. God’s power and love shine through and we see that we are not meant to walk alone – he is with us.
“Answers will come according to the will of God,” he said.
Bishop Malesic said each parish is a family of faith, a place where those who believe in Jesus come to serve him. “That’s why it’s so important to get outside of these walls and to serve him.”
He congratulated St. Mary of the Falls Parish for the three parishioners currently discerning the priesthood in the diocesan seminaries. One, Deacon Scott Swinerton, is on track for ordination to the priesthood next spring.
“These aren’t easy days to be a priest,” the bishop said. He encouraged Father Cubera to “Take no break from being a priest, but take a vacation from being a pastor. And parishioners, don’t break him,” he said.
“Thank you for making this parish a blessing to me,” Bishop Malesic added.
After Mass, the bishop joined Father Cubera, his family, parishioners and other guests for a reception in the parish hall.