Members of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland’s Heritage Society, overseen by the Catholic Community Foundation, gathered June 7 for Mass, dinner and introduction of the new members, which included Bishop Edward Malesic.
The Heritage Society consists of people who have included either their parish or a diocesan ministry in their estate plan and disclosed that information to the diocese, said Patrick Grace, executive director of the Catholic Community Foundation. The foundation fosters faith-based stewardship in the community for the spiritual, educational and charitable needs of all.
(See above for a photo gallery from the event.)
This year’s celebration was hosted by St. John Bosco Parish in Parma Heights, where Father Matt Byrne is pastor. He concelebrated the Mass with Bishop Malesic, Father Tom O’Donnell and Father Bob Sanson, both of whom are Heritage Society members.
“We have some strange readings today,” the bishop noted in his homily. “But maybe we can take something from them as we prepare to honor new members of the Heritage Society. Because members of the Heritage Society trust that God will make good use of what they leave behind — and that God will reward those who are generous and want to leave a legacy for future generations. There are threads of those themes in today’s readings.” The readings dealt with life and death, he said, and each talked about a woman who had – and lost – seven husbands because of death.
In the first reading, Sarah lost seven husbands on her wedding night when a demon killed each of them before the marriage was consummated. “But God will not be defeated by mere demons,” the bishop said.
Sarah found another husband – her eighth, Tobiah -- and they secured their future by prayer.
“Prayer is what allows us to trust in God as we give ourselves to him and we ask him to provide for us and for those we love, not only now but always,” the bishop said. “Reflecting on the first reading again, we can presume that the love of Tobiah and Sarah produced a family that inherited the legacy of their faith and their fortune. So, we ask the Lord to bless us and let us use the blessing that comes our way as good steward that produce lasting fruit.”
The Gospel tells a parable about a woman who also was widowed seven times – but not on her wedding night. The Sadducees tried to trick Jesus by asking him whom she would belong to after death. Jesus knew they didn’t believe in life after death and he used the parable to make two statements of faith, the bishop said.
“First, there is a resurrection from the dead. We are meant to be eternal and we proclaim that even our bodies will rise up again someday. But what will our bodies be like?” the bishop asked.
They will be glorified, he said, explaining that in the Resurrection, Jesus gave us a glimpse of our future. He said our bodies would be different; we would be changed to become like angels, which was his second point.
“This means that our relationships will be transformed too. So, marriage as we know it on earth will be raised to a higher pitch — and all of us will be in communion with each other and with God, as the angels are. Marriage is a great foreshadowing of the communion that we will enjoy together when we rise up from the dead. As St. Paul told us, ‘Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love him,’” the bishop said.
“This is the good news we profess. Jesus has forgiven our sins and promised eternal life to us. We don’t want this message to end when we pass from this life. Nor do we want the goodness of God in the works of the Church to end. In fact, we want to be good stewards who provide for the ongoing message of the Gospel and the ongoing works of the Church that we have come to love,” he added.
“Thank you for keeping the message alive by asking God in prayer to bless us now and always and then to leave behind what we have been given as seeds for others to harvest.”
After Mass, the group moved to The Bell Tower for a dinner and Heritage Society introductions.
Andy Schuler, Catholic Community Foundation Board of Directors chair, welcomed the group and gave an overview of the foundation and society. The foundation was founded in 2000 to support the advancement work of the Church in Northeast Ohio. “It supports diocesan ministries including Catholic Charities, Catholic education and priestly formation. We are here to celebrate and thank you for your commitment to the Church. Thank you for all you have done to pass on the faith to the next generation and to help the Church in its mission,” he added.
“My family was impacted profoundly by ministries of the diocese,” Schuler told the group.
In his remarks, Bishop Malesic said he is a member of the Church, like everyone else.
“God created each person with a specific purpose and gave each unique gifts with which they are called to bless the world. I am grateful to each one of you and your example of stewardship in sharing your gifts, whatever they might be. We gather this evening to recognize and lift up the examples of Christian stewardship in our midst,” he said, adding, “Today and every day we celebrate how this faithful stewardship builds up the kingdom of God on earth.”
The bishop said gifts through an estate or longtime generosity create a legacy of Catholic faith for future generations.
“I want to commend you for the example you set and your commitment to the works of our Church,” he added. “It takes all of us to move the Church forward.”
More information on the Heritage Society, click here. Learn more about the Catholic Community Foundation and the various ways to support diocesan ministries here, or contact Jean Ann Montagna t 216-696-6525, Ext. 8070 or email email@example.com.