The Hungarian community at St. Emeric Parish in Cleveland welcomed Bishop Edward Malesic on Nov. 7 as they celebrated their parish’s patron saint.
The bishop was the principal celebrant at the Sunday morning Mass, which included readings in Hungarian. Concelebrants were Father Richard Bona, pastor, and Father Ted Marszal, senior parochial vicar at St. Monica Parish in Garfield Heights. Representatives of the parish’s Hungarian Scouts processed into Mass wearing traditional costume and they presented the bishop with a bouquet of flowers before Mass. Father Bona welcomed the bishop to the parish for his first official visit. In place of his traditional crosier – the bishop’s staff – he used a wooden one carved by Hungarian Scouts from the parish.
Bishop Malesic said he discovered the church while visiting the nearby West Side Market soon after arriving in Cleveland. He saw that it was a Catholic church, so he stopped in. The bishop said he was dressed casually and there was a funeral in progress – in Hungarian, which he does not understand.
“Even though the language was unknown to me, I felt some comfort in being here. There is comfort in the Eucharist and the other sacraments that are celebrated here. There is power in the word that is proclaimed here,” he said.
“It is good to be here with you to celebrate our faith, to honor your Hungarian heritage and, from what I hear, to have some of the best food in the Diocese of Cleveland after this Mass,” he told the congregation.
His surname is Slovenian, but his maternal grandparents were German the bishop said, so he attended the German Catholic church a block from his childhood home, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There weren’t many Hungarians in town and they also worshipped at the German parish, he said.
Founded more than 115 years ago, St. Emeric Parish has a great history, the bishop noted. The Hungarians who came to Cleveland looking for work and freedom found the parish to be a place of comfort, faith, culture, support and security.
“The church building itself is a testimony to the Catholic faith, a faith that communism could not destroy. But we must be careful that the Catholic faith isn’t taken away from us by the slower sapping of its energy from a materialist and agnostic culture that has taken root among us,” the bishop cautioned.
“We must preserve not just our cultural heritage, but our spiritual heritage. Both are woven together so well in this parish. It is our Catholic faith that must be constantly renewed in our hearts each day,” he said, adding, “We must wake up and say, ‘Today I once again choose to follow Jesus.’ We must remember that we have been baptized into Christ Jesus, and for those of us who have been confirmed, we must remember that we were given the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.”
He challenged the congregation to continue to make St. Emeric’s “a beacon of Christian faith to the world that surrounds it, and especially those of Hungarian heritage.” While he’s happy that their mission is to people of Hungarian heritage, he cautioned that as a parish matures, it must look outside of itself, constantly looking for others to join in the celebration of the sacraments.
“A parish is a place where God’s word is proclaimed so that our hearts might be changed enough to want to bring that same Gospel to those around us, especially in our service of the poor – both the materially poor and the spiritually poor,” Bishop Malesic said.
We can’t just sit behind the protective walls of our churches, he said. We must learn to make the churches open, to invite others to join. “Let people know the faith, culture and beauty of the people who worship in your sacred church. Shrine Jesus in your heart so that others will want to join in the pilgrimage to the kingdom of heaven with you.”
Referring to his recent visit to St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Bishop Malesic said he asked the students to be inspired by the saints, to live holy lives and to seek what is best for the Church. He told them to be the saints of today who point us in the direction of Jesus, noting he is asking the same of the St. Emeric parishioners.
“Be the best the Lord has made you to be by his grace. Be Christians – always first – be disciples of Jesus before being a disciple of any other movement or trend,” he said.
The bishop asked the congregation to use St. Emeric as a helper. “He is praying for you to make more saints for heaven. He is inspiring you to remain close to God.”
Life is short, he said, adding God does all he can to place us on the path to salvation, but it’s up to us to walk on that path. “We must rid ourselves of all jealousy, hatred, selfishness, gossip, slander and all those things that are so common outside of this church. They should not be common in here. The way to God is by fostering the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which include patience, joy, long-suffering, generosity and charity among other signs of God’s presence.
He told the congregation they are a blessing to him and he hopes he can be the same for them.
“We travel the journey together. Pray that I may be a good shepherd for all of you and all the people the Lord has asked me to serve. Let’s be Christians who continue to build each other up in faith until at last we are together with the saints – St. Emeric included,” he added.
After Mass, the bishop greeted parishioners and posed for photos before heading downstairs to the parish hall, where he enjoyed a traditional Hungarian meal and entertainment provided by the Hungarian Scouts and dancers.