Members of the First Catholic Slovak Union, a fraternal organization for those of Slovak heritage, gathered at the Holiday Inn in Independence July 31 to Aug. 2 for its 52nd quadrennial convention.
(See photo gallery above.)
Although he has Slovenian, not Slovakian, ancestry, Bishop Edward Malesic said he was honored to be invited to concelebrate Mass for the group. He said he also was happy to be reunited with his friend, Bishop Larry Kulick, with whom he worked at his previous diocese, Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
“Bishop Malesic was a great mentor in Greensburg. He was number five and I’m number six,” Bishop Kulick quipped, referring to their positions in the history of the diocese. Also among the concelebrants was Bishop Milan Lach, who heads the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma. Bishop Lach, a Jesuit, was born in Slovakia.
Bishop Kulick recalled growing up in a Slovak parish in Pennsylvania and some of the traditions they followed, including praying for those in Europe. He said it reminded him of the importance of freedom, something we should not take for granted. We are enjoying the prosperity and freedoms earned by our ancestors, many of whom left dangerous situations in order to seek a better life, Bishop Kulick added. He encouraged attendees to remember those in Ukraine who are suffering and fighting to retain their freedom.
He also reflected on the Gospel in which Jesus warns us not to become attached to earthly possessions because we cannot take them with us. Bishop Kulick mentioned a Slovak funeral song that says it doesn’t matter if you’re a king or a pauper because we all go into the grave.
“The things we accumulate here are because of God’s blessings,” he said. We shouldn’t forget to emphasize the importance of salvation, he added.
“Don’t be afraid of persecution. Be afraid of eternal judgment,” Bishop Kulick told the group, reminding them to live and exemplify the organization’s motto, “Faith founded, family focused, financially strong.” The organization promotes culture and Catholic fraternal life, providing support to families and clergy and offering competitive insurance and investment products to protect families.
Bishop Malesic offered some brief remarks after Mass, telling the group to never forget that “we are bound by the blood of Jesus.”
He said Slovaks and other are understandably proud of their heritage. In fact, both he and Bishop Kulick paid homage to their heritage by incorporating elements into their coat of arms.
He invited the guests to visit some of the attractions in Greater Cleveland while they were in town. Guests hailed from several nearby states.
Bishop Kulick thanked Bishop Malesic for allowing him to use his crosier for the Mass. “I put that together many times in Greensburg,” he said, referring to the times he acted as master of ceremonies for Bishop Malesic, “but I never carried it.”
FCSU was founded in 1890 and offered insurance to help Slovak immigrants, many of whom were employed in dangerous work. If they died, the insurance and organization would help their families through tough financial times. Bishop Kulick said this included burying the dead and ensuring they got the dignity they deserved.