Diocesan priests celebrating the 60th, 50th, 40th and 25th anniversaries of their ordination gathered on May 23 at St. Basil the Great Church in Brecksville for Mass followed by class photos and a special lunch. Bishop Edward Malesic celebrated the liturgy.
Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries, OSB, who is marking the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination, concelebrated the Mass and was the homilist. He greeted his fellow jubilarians, priests, deacons and the faithful in his usual way: “God is good! All the time! All the time! God is good!”
(See photo gallery above.)
He noted that during his years of ministry, he discovered the Holy Spirit provides daily readings that are appropriate for the occasion. Bishop Gries recalled one year when the late Bishop Richard Lennon was hospitalized and unable to attend the annual Alleluia Ball, a major fundraiser for the diocesan schools, so he was called in to pinch hit as Mass celebrant, homilist and emcee for the event.
He looked at the day’s Gospel, which had the message: “It will be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.”
The room was filled with important people, donors and benefactors and the goal was to raise $1 million for Catholic education.
“Well, I began my homily with: ‘If you have heavenly plans, tonight might be a good time to start giving your treasure away,’” the bishop quipped.
The first reading for the jubilee Mass was about the presbyters of the Church being summoned to Paul who reminded them, “You know how I lived among you the whole time from the day I came first.” Bishop Gries used that as a launch point for his homily, pointing out that God uses human beings as his agents. “Thus, when God calls us from nothingness into being, he does it in the context of the human love of our parents, using their human relationship as a means of his own creative power.”
He said God teaches us about the world and our fellow human beings through the expertise and patience of human teachers, noting the same principle holds true in the deepest aspects of God’s relationship with us. “He approached us as a human being, he came to us through the human nature of the Son; he reached out to us in human words and human gestures and human suffering.”
The bishop reminded his fellow priests that they minister in persona Christi – in the person of Christ. It’s Christ who baptizes, anoints the sick, forgives sins, witnesses marriages, buries the dead and celebrates the Eucharist, he said.
In a special way, the ministry of all the jubilarians – living and deceased -- was being celebrated at the Mass. “Through the love and example of our parents and teachers we learned how to minister in the Lord’s name. The ordinary human affection we extend to our parishioners and all the faithful has been a means of extending God’s love for them,” he added.
“God lives in us in the depths of our minds and in the center of our hearts. He loves us in the silent kernel of our beings; he loves us eternally. But he loves us most closely, most warmly, most clearly through people like our jubilarians and all our brother priests who he sends to be part of the lives of all his people,” Bishop Gries said.
Sometimes the agents of God’s blessings are taken from us in death, which is part of the human experience, and we experience a sense of loss. But, the bishop said those who have died are touching the face of God and those who died with Christ will rise – as he did – and we will be together with them and each other forever.
“This morning we all have sharp insight into what God has done for us and given us through our lives and the work we were given,” the bishop said. “My brothers, it has been a blessing for me to work with you and to become a member of the Cleveland presbyterate. God is good! All the time! All the time! God is good!”
At the end of Mass, Bishop Malesic recalled how blessed he was to ordain six men to the priesthood the previous Saturday (May 20). At least one of the newly ordained – Father Ian Kelly – attended the jubilee celebration.
“He can probably still smell the chrism on his hands,” the bishop quipped, as he encouraged the jubilarians and other priests to remember their own ordination and the first time they celebrated the sacraments as priests.
“We have something special and the people know it. They may grumble sometimes, but they always come to us when they need us,” he said. “Congratulations to all of you and thank you for you saying ‘yes’ to your vocation and for your fidelity.”
Photos were taken of each jubilee group with Bishop Malesic, Auxiliary Bishop Michael Woost, Bishop Martin Amos, retired bishop of Davenport, Iowa and a son of the diocese, Abbot Gary Hoover, OSB and Bishop Gries.
Lunch for the jubilarians and their guests followed.
Priests marking their jubilees this year are:
60 years: May 18, 1963 ordination: Bishop Roger W. Gries, OSB; *Father John G. Crawford; Father Norman A. Gajdzinski; *Father Thomas J. Hyland; *Father Augustine Pham Van Lan; *Father Cornelius J. Murray; *Father Anthony J. Muzic; Father William B. Padavick; *Father Joseph G. Stolz; and *Father Gordon A. Yahner.
50 years: June 9, 1973 ordination:* Father Edward P. Czech; *Father Michael S, Dyrcz; Father Frank S. Godic; Father Thomas S. Haren; Father John P. McNulty; Father Paul J, Rosing; *Father Paul F. Smith; Father Donald E. Snyder; Father Charles J. Stollenwerk; and Father Raymond A. Sutter.
40 years: June 11, 1983 ordination: Father Gerald J. Bednar; *Father R, John Cooper; Father Thomas M. Dragga; Father Dave R. Ireland; Father Dennis J. Kristancic; Father James G. McPhillips; and Father Kevin C. Shemuga.
25 years: May 30, 1998 ordination:
Father G. David Bline, Father Michael K. Gurnick, Father John T. Ostrowski, Father Thomas E. Stock and Father John C. Valencheck.
* Indicates a deceased member of the class.