Visiting each Catholic school in the Diocese of Cleveland, including the 20 high schools, is a goal of Bishop Edward Malesic. Now that the coronavirus pandemic is slowing, he is taking every opportunity to get acquainted with the schools, their students, faculty and staff.
Walsh Jesus High School in Cuyahoga Falls welcomed the bishop on April 6, as he celebrated Mass, was guided through the school by student tour guides and enjoyed conversation at lunch with another group of students. School President Karl Ertle greeted and welcomed the bishop. (See photo gallery above.)
While touring the school after Mass, the bishop stopped by a sophomore ecclesiology class where he shared some thoughts about the faith and talked briefly about Eastern rite religions with the students. He also dropped in on students in the learning center and another religion class and had a chance to view some of the school’s athletic and learning facilities.
The day began with an all-student Mass, where the bishop told those gathered that “Faith in Jesus must be at the heart of all we do. That is what makes our Catholic schools so different. The ability and desire to proclaim and practice our faith in Jesus is what makes Walsh Jesuit so different from other schools.”
He noted this still is the Year of St. Ignatius, commemorating the 500th anniversary of his conversion, which took place after he was seriously injured by a ricocheting cannonball that shattered his leg. While recuperating, Ignatius read about Jesus and the saints, deciding that he wanted to be a saint, too. He abandoned his life as a soldier, laid down his sword, gave away his possessions and set off on a journey to discern God’s will for his life.
Ignatius’ injury changed the course of his life. He later founded the Society of Jesus – commonly known as the Jesuits. “All of you are being formed in that great spiritual tradition. Walsh Jesuit can trace itself back to a cannonball shot 500 years ago,” the bishop said.
He told the students it took more courage for St. Ignatius to follow Jesus than to follow his general. Reflecting on the day’s first reading, the bishop said the three men who refused to defy the king and worship a false god stayed true to what they had been taught and believed. Even when thrown into a fire, they trusted that God would save them – and he did.
“Young Church here at Walsh Jesuit, I ask you to stay true to what you have been taught. Have faith. It will give you great bravery to stand up for what is true,” Bishop Malesic said.
He told the students their faith is somewhat protected in the walls of the school. They are given the tools they need to learn about their faith, pray and openly discuss things of God. But faith entails more than that. “We need the truths of the Church to be our anchor to reality. Still, at its highest pitch, faith requires us to know the person of Jesus, believe in him, follow him and trust in him. That requires us to speak to him and listen to his voice in our lives,” he said.
Faith is fragile and the devil constantly prowls looking for souls to devour, the bishop said, urging those gathered, “Don’t let your faith be taken away from you.”
He shared his faith journey, explaining he was always a believer, but not always a devout Catholic. However, the gift of a Bible during his first year of college changed his life. He read it and the Scriptures came alive for him.
“I began to know that the creator of this world, my creator, wanted to know me and wanted to be known by me. Jesus became alive for me by reading those Scriptures. He spoke to me, heart to heart. He wanted to save me. He wanted to love me. And I needed to let him save me and let him love me. I needed to let him into my life and I did,” he said. The bishop noted that he still has that Bible and plans to be buried with it.
“Knowing Jesus in a more personal way has made all the difference in the world for me. And when I felt the tug of priesthood, my faith in Jesus gave me the courage to say ‘yes’ to a very counter-cultural vocation.”
To live the life of Christ is radically different than the way the world would like us to live, the bishop explained. “But it is a fulfilling life, a joy-filled life, a life with meaning and purpose. Have the faith to live your baptismal calling to follow Jesus,” he said, adding the students also should not be afraid if they struggle with their faith.
“The salvation of your soul is the goal God has for you. If you follow Jesus, that is where he will take you – to the kingdom of your heavenly Father. God expects great things from you, because he has given a great thing to you – Jesus. Believe in him.”
The bishop also reminded the students that they are all blessed and each have gifts to give. “This time is a gift. Use it wisely.”
Click here to learn more about Walsh Jesuit, a coed school sponsored by the Jesuits with an enrollment of 1,000.