“I have been excited for several weeks now to be with you today,” Bishop Edward Malesic told parishioners at St. Agnes + Our Lady of Fatima Parish. He visited the parish on Aug. 28 to celebrate Mass and dedicate the newly built parish hall.
“This parish is an anchor in a very important community. I can tell it is not a wealthy community, but everyone here is important to Jesus. All of you are special to me and I am so grateful to be your bishop. Thanks for making me feel welcome among you,” he said.
Bishop Malesic told the parishioners and other at Mass that Jesus called us to look after one another, especially those who are more vulnerable. “This parish does that well and looks out for the neighborhood,” he said, “I am especially happy to be here tonight to bless and dedicate the parish hall. Dream big on what it can be used for. Use it to draw people together and feed their souls as well as their bodies. Use the gift of that building to bring the community closer to this church, and by bringing the people closer to this church, you will bring them closer to Jesus. Show them Jesus. You already have the life of Christ in all of you. Let it shine,” the bishop said.
“The world, as you know, can be a very cold place, Warm it up with the light of Christ.”
He also asked them to remember the people of Afghanistan in a special way, noting it had been “an awful week for them and for our troops who are still trying to help them. “Let’s pray hard for peace there, in our world, in our country, in our cities and neighborhoods, our families and pray for peace in our hearts. I think that is what Jesus is getting at in the Gospel. If we want a changed world, we need to keep our hearts clean and close to God. If we have any hope to end all oppression, violence and prejudice, we need to work on the heart,” the bishop said. “And it is sometimes very hard work to work on that heart.”
Soon after arriving in Cleveland, Bishop Malesic said the Fatima Family Center, across the parking lot from the church, was one of the first places he visited. “What blessing that place is for the community.” He recalled seeing children being encouraged to keep up with their schoolwork during the pandemic, pointing out education is the way out of poverty. “And so is justice, We must give to each other what is due to us in a fair, equal and balanced way. And we must treat each other as sons and daughters of God. Then we will know that we are brothers and sisters to one another. Only when we begin to realize how related we are to one another that we will be able to even want the justice that leads to peace,” the bishop said.
He told those gathered that the devil wants to divide us, but Jesus wants us to be one. “He prays that we be one. Let’s side with Jesus and unite ourselves in our God-given diversity. I know that I came as a stranger. I hope you will see me as your brother.”
The bishop said Pope Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” He also said that unless we recognize the dignity of every human being, we would always be at war with each other. “Let’s stop the fighting, the rancor, the violence, the rage, the racism – and give each other what we owe each other: and by the way, Scripture says that we owe the debt of love.”
He urged them to come to the Church to give their hearts to God so he can expand their hearts to receive the Holy Spirit, which allows us to take God’s compassion to others, including widows and orphans, the poor and the homeless, the physically sick, the mentally sick and the spiritually sick. “We cannot only sit in the church looking pious when there is so much work to be done in our world. Going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car,” he said.
The church and the new hall are a witness to the faith shared in the Church, he said, adding that everything we do should be a witness to our love of Christ.
The bishop encouraged the parishioners to keep their church and the new hall looking nice. “But the real work is to keep our souls looking nice. That is what really counts to God: a soul that shines to help others see the way to him.”
After Mass, during the blessing of the hall, Father Bob Marva, St. Agnes + Our Lady of Fatima pastor, thanked everyone who played a role in making the new hall a reality.
“This building is a historical marker for the parish. It can be used for great good and it is a great blessing,” the bishop said.