“It is great to finally be with all of you,” Bishop Edward Malesic told the students, faculty, staff and other members of the Saint Martin de Porres community. The bishop began his first visit to Cleveland’s Cristo Rey high school on Jan. 17 with Mass in nearby St. Vitus Church.
“Your school is a great gift to all of us,” he told them, reminding them it also is a gift to you. “And, as every gift that God gives to us, he wants us to use it well. Use your time at Saint Martin de Porres well.”
He told the students they work hard, study hard and he hopes they pray hard. “You get ready for your future by letting your faculty and even each other mold you into the person that God wants you to be. And all of this takes work,” he added.
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The bishop reminded the students that it took many people and hard work to create their school. “God does not overlook your work. In fact, place your work and all you do both inside your school and outside of it into the hands of God and say, ‘Bless my work, Lord. Lord, give success to the work of my mind, my heart, my soul.’”
Reflecting on the miraculous biblical story of the loaves and fish in which a multitude of people were fed with very little food, Bishop Malesic those gathered for Mass that God can work miracles with what we give to him. However, if we don’t give our gifts to Jesus, he wondered what he would multiply within us.
“Give what you have and more than you know. Give your mind to Christ,” he said. “And give your soul to Jesus.” He encouraged them to let their hearts be big enough to receive Jesus’ love so they can share it. “And never be discouraged,” he said.
The bishop reminded the students they were attending a Cristo Rey school, named after Christ the King. “Viva Cristo Rey, long live Christ the King” was the battle cry of the Mexican Christians who would not let the government that opposed religion in the early 1900s take their faith from them, he explained. “Viva Cristo Rey” also were the last words of St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, the14-year-old Mexican boy who was tortured and martyred because he refused to renounce his faith.
“It is people who put their faith in Christ the King who are able to do things that others think impossible,” Bishop Malesic said. He recalled the late Richard Clark who had the idea for Saint Martin de Porres, a school to help young people of modest economic means in Cleveland have access to the best education and the best preparation for their souls. Clark worked hard to make that dream a reality in 2004. “Now that Mr. Clark is gone, his dream must live on in you and future students, faculty, administration, families and other supporters,” the bishop said.
He also noted the work of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights activist, was remembered and honored the previous day – Jan. 16 – on a holiday in his honor. The bishop said King dreamed of a world where all would live in peace; where poverty would be eliminated; where racism would be erased and where war would be no more. “His dream was God’s dream,” he said.
Although that dream has not yet come to fruition, we continue to move ahead. In the Bible. The Israelites were freed from Egypt but it took many more years before they reached the Promised Land. “They had to walk with faith and so do we,” he said.
The bishop also warned the students they might have aspirations but it is important to listen to God’s plan and to discern his dreams, which may be different from theirs. “Each of you is on this planet for a reason. God has a plan for you and when your dream is to do what God’s dream is for you, then great things happen.”
Each of us is a son or daughter of God, who wants the best for us. Since we are God’s creations, we are close to him and are loved – despite what some outside forces might want us to believe.
“When the God who made all of this universe looks down on us with love, we can accomplish great things,” he said.
The bishop shared his conversion story, noting he always believed in God. “But to believe in God is different than knowing God and accepting God’s love for us,” he said. He explained his first year in college was a tough time, but recalled a chance encounter with some men who were handing out free Bibles. He read the Bible and realized that God had prepared him to receive what he hadn’t really heard or believed before, that Jesus loved him, offered himself on the cross for him and when he rose from the dead three days later, he didn’t abandon the world, he came back to it.
“Jesus came to me in a special way that night,” he said.
Although is dream was to study biology, God’s dream for him was the priesthood.
“This is my dream for you: that you listen to God and have the courage to follow his call in your life,” he said, encouraging them to go to college, get good jobs and make the world a better place. “But make sure God is with you and you are with God.”
By doing this, they will fulfill the dreams of people like Clark and King. They will be prepared to succeed in life and to be prepared for eternal life, “when this school is not just a name, but a decision to make Cristo Rey, to make Christ your King.”
After Mass, the bishop was applauded when he told students they would get a day off once Chaz Napoli, the school president, Adam Trifiro, principal, and other school officials determined a suitable date.
He greeted students outside the church before heading back to campus for a tour and an opportunity to chat with some students, faculty and staff. The bishop received a bag of Saint Martin de Porres “swag” before leaving.
Learn more about Saint Martin de Porres, which has about 400 students in grades 9-12, here. The school is endorse by the Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and the Sisters of the Humility of Mary. It is a college preparatory school that is part of the Cristo Rey Network of schools. Students combine academics with a work-study program that is a partnership with more than 100 Cleveland-area businesses, including the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.