“I am ready,” Father Michael Feldtz told parishioners, family and friends who gathered on Feb. 22 for his installation as the sixth pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Brooklyn.
Bishop Edward Malesic celebrated the Mass with Father Feldtz, Father John Singler, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Berea, Father Feldtz’s first assignment as a parochial vicar; Father Matt Cortnik, parochial vicar at Communion of Saints Parish in Cleveland Heights; and Father Richard Samide, parochial vicar at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Wooster, as principal concelebrants. Father Cortnik and Father Samide were ordained with Father Feldtz in 2018.
Deacon Tom Cully, who serves at St. Mary Parish in Berea, and Deacon Don Brandt who serves at St. Thomas More, assisted with the liturgy. Dozens of other priests and deacons also participated in the Mass.
Father Feldtz expressed his appreciation and gratitude that Father James Vesely, St. Thomas More pastor emeritus, was able to attend the Mass. Father Vesely served the parish for 18 years, 1987-2005, as pastor. St. Thomas More, which was established in 1946, recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.
During the Mass, Father Singler and Father Feldtz’s mother, June, presented his chalice and paten for the bishop to bless. They were a gift from the people of St. Mary Parish in Berea.
Reflecting on his journey to the pastorate, Father Feldtz said his phone indicated someone was calling from the Diocese of Cleveland. It was Father Dan Schlegel, vicar for clergy and religious, who asked him if he was willing to lead the parish.
“I asked him if he realized who he was talking to,” Father Feldtz quipped. Father Schlegel said he did, and asked him again. He agreed, and after serving since July 1, 2020 as parish administrator, he was installed as pastor.
Father Feldtz said a few of his brother priests gave him some advice as he prepared for the installation. “They told me to write out my homily because the bishop would know if I was winging it,” he said. “I wrote it out,” he added, holding up the pages, as the bishop, clergy and congregation chuckled.
The homily focused on service.
“If we are priests, are we not also called to be deacons, too?” he asked, noting the ministry of a deacon is one of service. They help care for widows, the poor, hungry, disabled and others in need of assistance.
No matter how many mistakes we make as humans in our weakness, “Mother Church always perseveres,” Father Feldtz said.
“We are called to be priests and also as deacons, to serve each other. At St. Thomas More, we move forward together. We’re all to serve each other,” he emphasized.
Bishop Malesic said a pastor “Is called to lead people to salvation. He is the beating heart of the Church.”
Sometimes, earthly, incidental things trap a pastor. While it’s important to run the parish efficiently, balance the budget, etc., the bishop said salvation is the big picture. “Follow Jesus. He was crucified for us – that’s the big thing.”
The bishop mentioned his recent trip to the diocesan mission in El Salvador, a land that he said, “runs with the blood of martyrs.” Many people – religious, priests and other faithful – were martyred because they refused to give up their faith, as was St. Thomas More, patron saint of Father Feldtz’s parish.
“We don’t need beautiful churches to follow Jesus. We need beautiful souls,” the bishop said, emphasizing the most important function of a pastor: leading people to God. A good pastor sees Jesus in those who are troubled, who have lost a job, are sick, dying or confused. “He brings peace to those who are angry. Be the priest who wants to serve Jesus in us. We are people who also want to see Jesus in you,” the bishop said. Using a phrase associated with Pope Francis, he added, “A pastor must get the smell of his sheep. Father Feldtz, remember that Jesus is our only savior. You’re not the savior and neither am I. That’s Jesus’ job. Lead people to Jesus.”
Too often, the bishop said, people tend to focus on the small percentage of priests who harmed someone, ignoring the 99% who are good priests. He offered his support to any young man considering a priestly vocation, noting there is a great need for more good priests.
“I also want to thank Father Feldtz’s mother, June, for offering her son up to the priesthood,” Bishop Malesic added.
“It can no longer be business as usual in our churches. We need to go out and share the news that Jesus is our salvation and our savior,” he said, encouraging the congregation to invite someone to Mass, to a Bible study or another evangelization opportunity.
“This parish is a gift to the community, a gift that is meant to be shared, to be given away. Many people need what we have,” the bishop added.
“Our faith calls us to say ‘yes.’ The Church is more than just bricks and mortar. This church and this school – its all of us. All of you are a part of my life and ministry. Thank you,” Father Feldtz said.