Jesuit Father Lukas Laniauskas was excited to learn in the spring that he had been named pastor of Church of the Gesu in University Heights. A native of Euclid, it meant coming home to be closer to his family, which includes his parents, Dr. Marius Laniauskas, a dentist; his mother, Egle; two older brothers; a younger sister; eight nieces and nephews and his grandmother, Aniceta Giedraitis.
Bishop Edward Malesic made the appointment official when he installed Father Laniauskas as pastor during a Mass Nov. 10 at Gesu. About 18 priests – including some fellow Jesuits and pastors of nearby parishes – concelebrated the liturgy.
In his homily, Father Laniauskas told the congregation that Jesus called most of his disciples from one profession: fishermen.
“I can relate,” he said, explaining he loves to fish. It’s something he enjoyed with his father beginning in his childhood. He also learned some qualities from fishing that apply to his pastoral work. As a child, he would throw the line into the water and quickly pull it out. But nothing was there.
“Stop, wait, trust and believe,” Father Laniauskas said, listing the qualities needed to be successful at fishing.
“Stop. Take time to kick a ball with the kids on the playground. Stop enough to feed the needy, to recognize a brother or sister before us. We often go at breakneck speed. We need to stop, to wait, to find God, to hear the voice of God among us and to find the fingerprints of God,” he said.
Waiting might mean being with a parishioner at the casket of a loved one or waiting to see what God will do with the talents of the Gesu parishioners.
Trust may be more elusive, he said, but we must trust that we’ll make mistakes and heal. “We must trust each other and that trust must be earned,” he added. During the five and a half months since his appointment as pastor, “It has been a pleasure to sit with you, to learn and to trust,” Father Laniauskas said.
“And finally, to believe in the one we come to serve – the one this church is named after,” he said, to bring the sacraments and Eucharist to those we encounter. Father Laniauskas said he believes the mission doesn’t just live within the walls of the church. “I believe good will always overcome evil; unity will triumph over division. Faith will lead us through,” he said.
Recalling the image of the young boy on the dock who throws in his line, he reinforced the need to stop, wait, trust and believe. Then, when it’s time to reel in the line and pull it out of the water, the fish might be small – but the experience matters.
“Jesus said, ‘Come, let me make you fishers of men and women. Stop, wait, trust and believe,” he said.
“I am humbled to be asked to be your pastor and I can’t wait to go fishing with you.”
As Gesu’s 100th anniversary approaches – in 2026 – Father Laniauskas said he plans to work with the parish staff and advisors, to spend time celebrating baptisms, weddings, funerals and other sacraments, spending time together at school, sports and parish events with his new flock. “We will work together to bring the Gospel to the parish, our families and the world. For almost 100 years the people and pastors of Gesu Parish have been journeying together. I don’t know what the future will bring, but we will journey together.”
Father Laniauskas thanked he priests, staff, parish, pastoral and finance councils, his parents, grandparents and the faithful. “You are the body of Christ, his hands, feet and heart.”
Bishop Malesic shared his own story about fishing, relaying how he was trying to get an Ohio driver’s license after moving to Cleveland. However, he hadn’t been here long enough to have any bills or pay stubs with his new address, so he had a letter from the diocesan vicar general vouching for his residence. But the license bureau officials said they couldn’t accept it.
A clerk suggested that he purchase a fishing license, supply his address and then use that document to obtain a driver’s license, which drew laughter from the congregation. “I’ve never used it,” he said, referring to the fishing license.
“We are blessed as people of God and must share that,” the bishop said. “What we’ve received as a gift, we must share.” He also said we could have a personal faith, but not a private one.
And to Father Laniauskas, Bishop Malesic encouraged him to continue preaching to his flock and to be a gentle pastor.
“Remember, you also represent me and my episcopal motto is ‘Serve the Lord with gladness,’” he added.
To the Gesu parishioners, the bishop had this word of advice: “Don’t break him. Be as kind to him as he is to you, as understanding of his mistakes and he is of yours in the confessional.”
Bishop Malesic also quipped to Father Laniauskas, “I just gave you a fishing license by making you pastor. Make sure you use it.”
The celebration continued with a reception in the parish center, where parishioners toasted their new pastor.
To learn more about Gesu Parish, click here.