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Why Catholic? Meet Bishop Edward C. Malesic
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Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild

News of the Diocese

October 4, 2021

Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild
Justice Melody Stewart receives St. Thomas More Award from Catholic Lawyers Guild

The Lawyers Guild of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland had its annual Red Mass and awards luncheon on Oct. 1, which coincides with the beginning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s fall session. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody Stewart was the recipient of the 2021 St. Thomas More Award.

Bishop Edward Malesic was the principal celebrant for the Mass in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Concelebrants included Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries, Father Bob Marva, pastor of St. Agnes + Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Justice Stewart’s longtime parish, and priests who work in the diocesan tribunal, as well as Father Gary Yanus, judicial vicar. Father Richard Bona, Father Matt Jordan, Father Jonathan Zingales and Father Charles Strebler are assigned to the tribunal Father Sean Gallagher, cathedral rector, also concelebrated.

“Many of you know I am a canon lawyer,” the bishop said, adding it’s not what he aspired to be. He was a campus minister when he was asked by his bishop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to study canon law in 1996. He admitted he felt it was a mistake, but decided to give it some time, finally earning his license in canon law. “And let me tell you, it was worth it. My life has been enriched by attempting to practice the law, understand the law, apply the law and try to live the law myself,” he said.

“The study of canon law is the study of the Church’s theology as well as its legal discipline,” he said. Those who studied with him “were not trying to learn the law to use it as a brick to be thrown at people. No, they were there to apply the law in as pastoral a way as possible. That means they wanted to practice law with a heart of love, without denying the importance of law. As one professor put it, lying to people is never pastoral,” he added.

Also, the final canon of the code of canon law for the Latin Church says the highest law of the Church “is to keep before our eyes the salvation of souls. Our worship, discipline and belief is directed to finding our way to our ultimate and permanent peace with God,” he said.

According to the bishop, this is something that also can be applied to civil law. He said lawyers of faith have an obligation to do that. “Everything we do as people of faith must be done out of love for God (above all things) and the love of our neighbor,” he said. St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as to will the good of the other. “The principle of equity demands that we even temper our need for justice with God’s desire for compassion,” he added. The patron saint of lawyers, he also said that he was the king’s servant, but God’s first.

Loving our neighbor isn’t easy, the bishop said, especially when the neighbor is an offending criminal, an unreasonable client or an unbearable constituent.

The Red Mass was celebrated on the feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, a virgin and doctor of the Church who was known as the Little Flower. A French discalced Carmelite sister, she discovered her vocation saying, “In the heart of the Church, I will be love.” She also said that true charity consists in bearing all of our neighbor’s defects, not being surprised at their weakness but edified at their smallest virtues.

“Even the person in prison has the ability to edify us, and when we see that virtue, we should see God’s DNA alive in the person made to be in the image of God,” Bishop Malesic said. He connected this thought to Respect Life Month, which is observed in October. “All life has value since all life is given to us by the author of life, God,” he said. “From life’s beginning to its end and in every moment in between.”

The bishop said the legal profession is sometimes meant to use its long arm to exact justice and repair scandal. “We want our communities to be safe, and we want to make sure that we deter the behavior that is detrimental to our peaceful existence, but all of that must come from a heart of love for the victims as well as the victimizers, at least if we are to love as Jesus asks us to.” He said there is the other purpose of law: to reform the offender because we want the offender to be healed, too, something that could take a lifetime. Sometimes that takes tough love.

We should follow the example of God who is love itself, Bishop Malesic said. Every human can call God “Father.” His perfect love can touch our hearts in such a way that causes us to want to share that love with others.

A second lesson from the day’s readings is about humility, the bishop said, reminding the congregation that Jesus told us we must humble ourselves and be like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. He said we should “guard against permitting our education, our professions, our titles and our positions to go to our heads. We are only children of God,” he said, explaining that we are dependent on God like an infant is dependent on its mother. It’s important to remember that criminals, bothersome clients and unbearable constituents are not that different than we can be when placed together on the scale of the universe and compared to God, who is larger than all created matter combined.

“Using the saintly model of Therese of the Little Flower, we might become lawyers, judges, legislators and legal practitioners who are thankful for God’s grace and blessings in our lives – a grade that is meant to be shared with all God sends our way,” Bishop Malesic said.

After Mass, the group moved to the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center for the awards luncheon. where Justice Stewart received her award. She expressed her gratitude for the honor and acknowledged the impact her faith, family and other supporters had on helping her have a successful career as an attorney, including serving on the Eighth District Court of Appeals and currently as an Ohio Supreme Court justice, where she is the first African American woman to be elected.

She has more than three decades of combined administrative, legal and academic experience. The justice earned a bachelor of music degree from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, a law degree from Cleveland Marshall College of Law and a Ph.D. as a Mandel Leadership Fellow at Case Western Reserve’s Mandel School of Applied Sciences.

Justice Stewart served as an assistant law director for Cleveland and East Cleveland, a lecturer, adjunct instructor, assistant dean and full-time faculty member at Cleveland-Marshall. She also taught at University of Toledo College of Law and Ursuline College and was director of services at CWRU School of Law.

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland’s Bishop William M. Cosgrove Center received a special recognition award for its work in human services, which was amplified during the height of the pandemic. The center is one of the largest drop-in centers in Greater Cleveland. The Cosgrove Center served more than 83,000 hot meals and 27,000 pantry meals in 2019.

Accepting the award were Eric Milkie, the center’s executive director, and Meghan McGuan, director of emergency assistance services for Catholic Charities.

Also, Jack Geffert, a sophomore at Saint Ignatius High School, received the Martin T. Galvin Memorial Scholarship. He is the son of Alexandra and John Geffert, an attorney at CBIZ. Jack plays hockey and lacrosse for the Wildcats and trumpet in the jazz ensemble. He participates in Lifeteen at St. Basil the Great Parish in Brecksville.

The scholarship was established in 2018 by the Lawyers Guild with support from the Reminger Foundation in honor of Galvin, an attorney with Reminger who died after a battle with cancer.

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