The Lawyers Guild of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland gathered on April 6 in the diocesan offices for an evening of fellowship and to hear the annual Lenten reflection from Bishop Edward Malesic.
Father Gary Yanus, diocesan judicial vicar, also introduced the group to its first chaplain, Father Gerald Bednar, who retired last summer after more than three decades of service to Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology, where he was a professor of systematic theology, department chair and seminary vice president/vice rector.
A Cleveland native, Father Bednar spent five years as an attorney in Washington, D.C. before answering his call to the priesthood. He was ordained in 1983 and ministered in the Diocese of Cleveland. He also helped found Project Hope for the Homeless in 1993, Lake County’s only emergency shelter.
“I’ve never been a chaplain and I understand you’ve never had a chaplain, so I hope we can figure it out together,” Father Bednar quipped.
He said he entered the seminary because he wanted to “do Christianity, not just talk about it.”
Through his work as a priest, professor, attorney and his community work with the shelter, Father Bednar said he’s been able to do that. He also invited the Lawyers Guild to take advantage of volunteer opportunities at Project Hope and elsewhere, offering to help connect them and to provide tours to those who are interested in seeing the ministry.
Father Bednar said he’d like to help launch a major fundraiser to make Project Hope an independent organization and said he welcomed any assistance and participation.
“I will pray with you, be with you, celebrate life with you. You’re not part of the problem, you’re part of the solution,” he added.
In his Lenten reflection, Bishop Malesic told the group how glad he was to meet with them in person this year after speaking to them virtually in 2021. He noted the group is “deeply dedicated to the observance of high ethical standards” and members “call attention to legal and societal issues that affect morality, justice and faith.
The diocese is in the midst of the Synod on Synodality, called by Pope Francis. “He asks us to walk together with a common goal – salvation. It is good to walk a few steps forward tonight as the Church with all of you,” the bishop said.
He reminded the gathering of the suffering being endured by the Ukrainian people and asked for their prayers.
It’s a good time to “stop and check your spiritual dashboard” during Lent, the bishop said, especially looking for any internal warning lights. “Are we experiencing a meaningful Lent this year?” he asked, “Or perhaps, the busyness of our life is getting in the way.”
Lent is a time set aside by the Church to seek a new heart and to experience a profound personal conversion, he said, adding, “We need to bridge our separation from God and see the face of God in others.”
During Lent, we are called to increased prayer, greater fasting and more generous almsgiving, the bishop said. He told the group that Jesus is asking us to “fast from sin,” to give it up, thus making room for the virtues – the habit of doing the right thing. This will allow for growth in mercy and kindness, the virtues that should guide us through Lent and beyond. This also means remembering the power of our words so that they portray kindness and holiness. When speaking the truth, even if difficult, he encouraged the group to say it with charity. “It must come from a heart that seeks the salvation of all persons.”
Lent is a time to seek a new heart and experience a profound personal conversion, to turn away from sin and toward a life deeply focused on the death and resurrection of Christ and the hope he has for our renewal, the bishop said.
Recalling the life and death of St. Thomas More, patron saint of lawyers, Bishop Malesic said his life was dedicated to mercy and kindness until the end, when he even forgave his executioner.
“Even today, the kindness of his words lives on. Listen to the advice he gives all of us when facing the challenges of life,” the bishop said. “He tells us where to seek help in being merciful and kind. It is the Eucharist, which is a great source of God’s kindness and mercy toward us.”