During his first pastoral visit to St. Brendan the Navigator Parish in North Olmsted, Bishop Edward Malesic quipped that the parish was a magnet for bishops. The Sunday before his Aug. 14 visit – which also happened to be the bishop’s birthday – he noted that newly ordained Auxiliary Bishop Michael Woost celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving at the parish.
The pastor, Father Tom Woost, is the new bishop’s brother.
Bishop Malesic recalled how Father Tom Woost and his brother Father Dave Woost, pastor of Divine Word Parish in Kirtland, stayed with Bishop Woost until Bishop Malesic ordained him by laying on his hands.
“I commented that they were standing beside their brother to ensure that he didn’t run away before I had the chance to ordain him,” he said smiling.
The bishop told the faithful that we all are called by God to do something good for him. What that is varies from person to person. It could be marriage and a family, religious life, single life or being ordained as a deacon, priest or bishop. He pointed out three seminarians in the congregation who are discerning the Lord’s call for them and encouraged any man who might feel a nudge toward the priesthood to consider it.
We are all called to pray for those who are seeking to do God’s will, he said. “It is God’s providence that puts us in the same time and place,” he added, explaining it is God’s will that they continue to be a community of faith gathered under the patronage of St. Brendan the Navigator where they can grow into Christ together.
A parish has three main purposes: worship, evangelization and service. The parish – a family of families – gathers at the most important table – the altar – where Christ fees and calls us to give our lives to him as he did for us.
“So to you members of this parish, continue to worship God, proclaim the Gospel and serve one another with live as God loved you. God is pleased that you are doing this for him,” the bishop added.
Reflecting on the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the bishop explained it begged the question of if people were for slavery or against it. And, if they opposed it, what were they going to do about it?
This corresponds to what Jesus did when he came into the world to start the fire of revolution. He divided people into camps of what he called sheep and goats. The bishop pointed out how Jesus outraged people by preferring the poor and outcasts. “He scandalized them by claiming to be God’s son. He antagonized the priests and Levites when he said the Samaritan was the good neighbor … He divided people when he ate with sinners and told them to love their enemies, pray for their persecutors, turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. He brought division to the crowd when he broke the Sabbath rules and healed the sick. He was crucified because of the change he was bringing and the revolution he was starting,” Bishop Malesic said.
“Every day we are challenged to make a choice to stand with Jesus or separate ourselvels from him,” he added.
The early Christians were considered troublesome because they challenged the status quo and questioned traditional accepted practices like treatment of slaves, denigration of women, acceptance of prostitution, living conditions of the poor, the practice of idolatry and other issues opposed to their faith in the God of love.
“They meant it when they repeated the words of Jesus that we must love one another,” he said. “They wanted to change culture, not accept it.” That is why Jesus called them leaven in the world because they were lifting it up even if their contributions to society were not welcome.
“Yet, the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the faith and their message spread to the ends of the earth – even to North Olmsted,” the bishop said. “So, today, like every day, we must make a choice: Which side will we take?”
There are no easy answers to the pressing questions of the day, the bishop said, but he told the faithful that if they confront any of these issues without love in their hearts and without the faith of the Church, “then we have rejected the message of Jesus.”
“If Christianity were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict me of it?” the bishop asked. “I hope so.”
There was a reception after Mass where parishioners could chat with the bishop, send him birthday greetings and pose for photos.