A beaming Father Tom Woost, pastor of St. Brendan Parish in North Olmsted, scurried around the church and sacristy before Sunday Mass on Aug. 7 ensuring candles were lit, servers were ready, flowers were arranged properly and other last-minute tasks were handled.
It wasn’t just an “ordinary” Sunday Mass. Father Woost’s older brother, newly ordained Auxiliary Bishop Michael Woost, was preparing to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at his brother’s parish. Among the concelebrants was another Cleveland native and member of the episcopate: Bishop Neal Buckon, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA. Another Woost brother, Father Dave Woost, pastor of Divine Word Parish in Kirtland, also concelebrated, as did several other priest friends of the new bishop.
(See photo gallery above.)
Bishop Woost was ordained the prior Thursday – Aug. 4 – during a Mass in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. His priest brothers played a role in that liturgy, also, accompanying him in private prayer before Mass, walking with him in the procession, flanking him as he walked through the cathedral displaying the document from Pope Francis announcing his appointment and standing, sitting or kneeling with him during the ordination. The also concelebrated the Mass with dozens of other bishops and priests.
As he began his homily on Aug. 7, Bishop Woost explained to the congregation that he was walking gingerly because of what he called “a liturgical accident” the prior Sunday. He said he injured his knee while genuflecting.
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel, the bishop said sometimes Jesus answers questions with questions, which can be an invitation for us to reflect more deeply on the issue.
“Part of my answer to Jesus in the past few months (since the May 9 announcement of his appointment) was ‘Really? Why me?’” the bishop quipped. “There has been no clear answer yet, simply an invitation to go deeper, to trust. He knows what he’s doing – even if I don’t know yet,” he added.
“None of us knows how our lives could be changed because of God. Our God is trustworthy. As we walk the journey of faith, we trust God’s promise will be fulfilled,” he said.
The bishop reiterated we may not always get a clear answer, but there always is an invitation to trust and go forward with the Lord. Promises are made and God speaks to our needs. “He will provide for our needs, because the God who loves us is trustworthy,” he added.
Bishop Woost said his prayer is that as we go forward in faith and believe our God goes with us, we can place our trust in him, trusting that he will guide and care for us.
After Mass, Father Tom Woost offered a few remarks about his brother.
“I have some brief remarks, although as you (the bishop) said at your ordination, ‘brief’ is open to interpretation,” he quipped, drawing laughter from the congregation.
Commenting on the new bishop’s stature, Father Woost quoted another brother, Jon, who said, “Mike has gone from being the shortest Woost to the tallest (because of his miter),” again drawing laughter from the congregation.
“The Lord has changed you, and so the task begins,” Father Woost said, recalling what Bishop Edward Malesic said at ordination. “He (God) called you by name. When talking to the nuncio (the apostolic nuncio who informed him of the pope’s appointment), you went silent and the nuncio had to ask if you were OK,” he said.
On a more serious note, Father Woost offered some thoughts on what is in a name, explaining the meaning of each of the bishop’s names.
Michael, his first name, is taken from the archangel. “Your task and responsibility is to do battle with those who put impediments in the way of our faith. You said it’s not about you, it’s about God,” he said.
Gerard, his middle name, was given to all seven Woost brothers. Father Woost explained that his parents had trouble conceiving and promised to give the name Gerard to all their sons in thanksgiving.
His confirmation name, Peter, is the name of the first pope, the rock upon which Jesus built his Church. Father Woost shared how Jesus asked Peter repeatedly if he loved him. That Gospel was read the day the nuncio called to share the news of the new bishop’s appointment. On a more personal note, Father Woost said it also was the Gospel used at their late mother’s Mass of Christian burial.
He said Jesus is asking the new bishop if he loves Jesus more than his brothers, family members, students, colleagues, seminarians and others. “Peter will help you to be our rock. You have been called by name – your name.”
Their last name is German for “wild,” Father Woost explained. “And this all has been wild. Who knows where the wild, disruptive work of God will take you?” he asked.
“Big brother, I am thrilled and terrified for you. We love you, we pray for you and Dave and I work for you,” he said.
All were invited to the parish’s Father Kenny Center for a reception after Mass, a chance to greet the new bishop and to receive his blessing.
Father Dave Woost will welcome his bishop brother to Divine Word Parish for another Mass of Thanksgiving at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 20. The church is at 8100 Eagle Road, Kirtland.