There was plenty to celebrate last weekend at St. John Vianney Parish in Mentor during Bishop Edward Malesic’s Oct. 1 visit.
In addition to blessing the newly repaired roof, the parish was observing its second Founders’ Day event, Respect Life Sunday, the launch of a Year of Evangelization coordinated by parochial vicar Father Marty Dober and the end of the parish’s Rays of Mercy capital campaign that helped finance the roof project that stayed on schedule and on budget, according to the pastor, Father Tom Johns.
Pointing to the new roof, the bishop said like every home, a church should be a place of shelter. “I also hear that this church building was constructed using the theme of mercy. But I want all of us to make sure that the Church that worships under this roof has a heart of mercy. Mercy flows from people who have experienced it,” he said, noting that Jesus is under the roof as he comes to “dine with sinners. So let’s not brag about it, but at least let’s admit that we are not perfect; we are not God, but we know who is God and his name is Jesus.” He is with them in a special way under the roof as they celebrate the Eucharist.
In his homily, Bishop Malesic said according to Richard Needham, there are seven ages of man: spills, drills, thrills, bills, ills, pills and wills. “Life has a beginning and an end and hopefully, a long in between,” he added.
Reflecting on his own life, the bishop said he’s “deep into the stage of bills, ills and pills. Life is a journey and what a journey it has been.” He was a surprise to his parents, arriving when his mother was 40. Life was god in elementary school, “with plenty of pills and drills. And then I moved on to junior and then senior high school with its thrills,” he said. Adolescence and awkwardness followed as he experienced several kinds of growth – physical, personal and in social skills – and trying to find himself.
In college, the bishop said he decided to remain Catholic and his faith life became an important part of things. “How many times have I asked for what the apostles wanted in today’s Gospel: ‘Give us an increase of faith?’” he asked.
As adulthood loomed, he was faced with discerning his purpose and what to do with his life. Ultimately, he chose the priesthood.
After his 1987 ordination, Bishop Malesic said his sister died and since then, he also lost a brother, his mother, several aunts, uncles and cousins and just a few months ago, his 104-year-old father. “And if that taught me anything, it taught me the importance of appreciating people while you have them. Life is limited. It is sometimes short and it is always fragile,” he added.
But his parents taught him some important things, including that life should be enjoyed. Also, God is good and we must be responsible for our actions, but everything is forgivable. And finally, faith helps us survive the crosses of this life. “They taught me that faith is what eventually leads us to the glory of the resurrection – our own. Again, Lord, give us an increase of faith.”
Using his life as an illustration, the bishop explained that he had a beginning – as two cells – and he has grown much. “Ultimately, I want you to know that my life is a mystery – and yours, too. I have learned to live life, enjoy it, but explaining it completely is not exactly possible. And yet, I know there is a purpose to my life because every human being has a purpose. Right now, my purpose is to be here, celebrating the holy sacrifice of the Mass and preaching God’s good news. We find strength for our faith when we come together as God’s children,” he said.
In connection with Respect Life Sunday, he noted that Catholics believe on earth life has a beginning, an end and an in between. Life begins at conception, according to science. But with faith, we believe all life should be respected from beginning to end and legally, it must be protected. He noted abortion and the increase in euthanasia in Western Europe as two things that contradict that belief.
Pope Francis recently said “Killing is not human. Period.” If a person kills with motivation, eventually he or she will kill more and more. “It is not human. Let’s leave killing to the beasts.” The bishop said the more innocent life is killed the easier it becomes to kill again until we are numb to the violence in society.
While we may enjoy focusing on our freedoms as Americans, he said we should enjoy our God-given liberties while also recognizing our obligations to God and one another. Every life is a gift from God, the bishop said, adding we are all equally loved by God, our heavenly father. “We are brothers and sisters, each to the other, no matter the color of our skin, the nation of our origin, differences of politics or opinion or way of life. We are all members of the family of God, made in God’s image and likeness.”
He encouraged the congregation to always do what they are obliged to do and respect the mystery of life, where it is found and in whatever circumstances it exists and to do all that is possible to protect life.
The bishop said he has hope because he believes everyone wants the harmony that God desires for his family, to which we all belong. “Let us continue to work for justice so that peace will flourish in our time,” he added.
After Mass, Father Johns presented the bishop with a bright blue St. John Vianney T-shirt. He greeted parishioners and posed for photos before heading to the Founders’ Day celebration. Food trucks, music and games were available. Children also enjoyed playing on the exercise/rope equipment, trying their hand at mini golf and taking a ride on the miniature train -- built by a parishioner -- that traveled through a portion of the property.