Nearly 140 people left the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist sealed with the Holy Spirit after a pair of confirmation liturgies on April 23 and 30. Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries, OSB celebrated both liturgies.
“I am so glad to be with you today,” he told those who gathered in the cathedral each of the two Sunday afternoons. The church was nearly full each day with the confirmandi, their sponsors, families and friends.
(See the photo gallery above that includes images from both liturgies.)
The April 23 celebration included 61 confirmandi from eight parishes: Holy Redeemer, Cleveland; Immaculate Conception, Madison; Sacred Heart, Oberlin; St. Augustine, Barberton; St. Cyprian, Perry; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Columbia Station; St. Patrick, Wellington; and St. Paul Croatian, Cleveland. Candidates were presented by Father David Trask, pastor of Sacred Heart and St. Patrick.
Participating in the April 30 celebration were 77 confirmandi from the following 12 parishes: Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Sagrada Familia, St. Andrew Kim, St. Augustine, St. Colman, St. Jerome, St. Michael the Archangel. St. Patrick (Bridge Avenue), St. Stephen and St Wendelin, all in Cleveland; St. Adalbert, Berea and SS. Peter and Paul, Garfield Heights. Candidates for confirmation were presented to the bishop by Father Michael Gurnick, pastor of St. Patrick (Bridge Avenue) and administrator of St. Malachi Parish, also in Cleveland.
Pastors from the parishes participating in the diocesan confirmations were invited to concelebrate the Masses. In most cases, confirmation is celebrated at individual parishes or in a cluster of parishes. However, parishes have the option of registering for the sacramental celebration at the cathedral.
The bishop chatted briefly with the confirmandi prior to Mass, reminding them of the importance of the sacrament they were about to receive. The presenting pastors vouched that they had completed the appropriate preparation for the sacrament and were there “with the support of their parents and families, their catechists and their parish communities.” Father Trask and Father Gurnick asked Bishop Gries to accept them as candidates for the sacrament of confirmation.
At the April 23 celebration, Bishop Gries reminded those present that Jesus forgave those who abandoned him during his passion and crucifixion. After his resurrection, he appeared to the apostles and told them, “Peace be with you. From the moment of conception he forgives us.”
The bishop said when we die, our bodies are buried, but not our souls. “They live forever. We will live eternally with Jesus,” he added, explaining that Jesus told the believers who followed him, “Your faith has saved you. That same Spirit Jesus had is present here today.”
At the April 30 liturgy, which took place on Good Shepherd Sunday, Bishop Gries told the congregation that a bishop is a shepherd who cares for his people just as a shepherd cares for his sheep. Jesus was a shepherd – the Good Shepherd – he explained.
“Our challenge is to follow the shepherd,” he said, noting these are difficult times and the devil constantly tries to turn us away from God.
As a Benedictine monk, Bishop Gries said for many years his life centered around the monastery and Benedictine High School, where he served as a teacher, coach and administrator. However, when he was named a bishop, he had to broaden his horizons and learn where the 185 parishes of the diocese were.
To help locate the parishes, he got a global positioning system – a Garmin GPS – for his car. “I spent 40 years in a monastery and it was the first time a woman told me where to go,” he quipped, referring to the voice that guided him. He recalled his mother’s reaction and surprise when she first experienced the GPS. She wanted to know who and where the woman was who was speaking to him, he said, laughing.
“Today, you’re receiving a GPS – God’s positioning system – to guide you. But like my GPS, it only guides you if you listen,” he said. “Take the time to listen, to see and hear what God is saying to you. He has a plan for you but if you don’t listen, you won’t hear or know what he wants for you. Listen for the Holy Spirit in your life and find Jesus in the Eucharist today. Always listen to what he wants for you,” the bishop added.