About 65 canonists from 14 states gathered at Cathedral Square Plaza, the headquarters of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, for a joint conference May 16-18.
The Midwest Canon Law Society and Eastern Regional Conference of Canonists heard presentations from a variety of speakers. Among the presenters from the Cleveland Diocese were Father Gary Yanus, judicial vicar; Bishop Edward Malesic; Vincent Gardiner, chancellor; and Father Richard Bona, adjunct judicial vicar.
(See photo gallery above.)
In his welcoming remarks, Bishop Malesic noted that like those in the group, he also is a canon lawyer. He shared information about the diocese explaining it was established in 1847 and is celebrating its 175th anniversary. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, is one of the largest social service networks in the country.
The bishop said in 1935, the diocese hosted the seventh Eucharistic Congress, which attracted tens of thousands of people. “Now we’re working on the Eucharistic Revival,” he said, referring to the multi-year initiative launched by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The local event is scheduled to begin on June 11.
He also talked briefly about the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, located across the street from the diocesan offices. Construction began in 1848 and the cathedral underwent major rebuilding/enlargement and renovation 1946-1948. Currently, it is in the midst of an extensive exterior renovation.
Father Yanus invited the group to visit a display assembled by Emily Ahlin, diocesan archivist, showcasing some artifacts and events from the 175-year history of the Cleveland Diocese.
On May 17, Bishop Malesic celebrated Mass for the group in the cathedral, with 15priests from the group concelebrating.
In his homily, he spoke briefly about his foray into canon law, something he never foresaw. “When I became a priest, I only wanted to be a pastor,” he said. But, when his bishop asked him to study canon law, he agreed – although a bit reluctantly at first. He studied at The Catholic University of America.
“I met people who wanted to use the law as a helper, not a hammer,” he said. The bishop noted he had some great teachers who made the law come alive. “I also found that most of you are a lot of fun,” he quipped.
By studying canon law, Bishop Malesic said he was enriched as a disciple of Jesus and as a person in ways he never could have imagined. “The heart of a canon lawyer is shaped by Christ with truth and charity. We must encounter Christ in our practice of the law. We must look for him and his peace,” the bishop said, noting peace was the main theme of the day’s Gospel.
From time to time, most of us will experiencer an emptiness in our prayer lives, but Jesus assures us we will not be abandoned, he said. And when the canonists face a difficult case, finding Christ’s peace will help them cope.
“We find God in many places,” he said, mentioning the smile of a child and the sun hiding in the clouds. “The sensibility of our faith tells us the sun will come out and peace will come. Jesus will calm the storms and lead us to the other side at the end of our earthly life. Let us go to bed with the peace of Jesus in our hearts and rest because we know that Jesus will take care of all things.”
After Mass, the group headed to a nearby restaurant for a social hour and dinner. The conference concluded on May 18.
The diocese will host a much larger meeting of canonists when the Canon Law Society of America gathers in October in Cleveland for its 84th annual convention.