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Why Catholic? Meet Bishop Edward C. Malesic
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Theology on the Rocks Akron welcomes Bishop Malesic

News of the Diocese

August 24, 2023

Theology on the Rocks Akron welcomes Bishop Malesic

About 150 attendees at Theology on the Rocks’ Akron area program heard Bishop Edward Malesic discuss several topics including our call to be evangelists and his vocation story.

The group, which offers food, fellowship and faith for adults, met Aug. 21 at Our Lady of the Cedars in Fairlawn. Father John Valencheck, pastor of St. Sebastian Parish in Akron, introduced the bishop and did a “roll call” of parishes that were represented at the event.

During the unscripted, casual program, the bishop spoke from his heart as he shared information with the group.

Going back to his roots near Hershey, Pennsylvania, Bishop Malesic said he was the youngest and the only one of the four children in his family who did not attend a Catholic school. Instead, his parents sent him to the nearby public school where his aunt was the first grade teacher.

He said he always believed in God. “Someone put everything that is out there out there and organized it,” he said, referring to the stars, planets, earth and all forms of life. During his high school years, the bishop said he had some interesting conversations about that with some of his friends who had varied religious backgrounds.

Theology on the Rocks Akron welcomes Bishop Malesic

Attending Sunday Mass wasn’t his favorite thing to do. He recalled how much simpler Sundays were when he was young, thanks in large part to the “blue laws” that prohibited many businesses from opening on Sunday. The Malesics spent Sunday attending Mass, enjoying a meal, relaxing, spending time with family and maybe taking a drive. “If there was enough gas in the car or if there was a gas station open,” the bishop quipped.

Hs a child, he never had thoughts of a religious vocation. “I never played priest,” he said. Instead, when he began college, he harbored thoughts of becoming a medical technologist.

“I was expecting to leave the Church,” he said, but he decided he should find out more before making that decision. So, while in college – and much to his surprise – he started finding the answers he needed – at least in part, thanks to a free Bible he received.

“I accepted the Church and Jesus,” he said. He played several musical instruments and eventually began playing the organ at a nearby church and attending daily Mass. “I was noticed,” he said, laughing, since he was the only young person at daily Mass.

Theology on the Rocks Akron welcomes Bishop Malesic

One day, the pastor surprised him when he asked if he’d ever considered the priesthood. “I hadn’t,” he said, but the vocation seed had been planted and it stayed with him. “I started wondering what God wanted me to be,” he said. While on a retreat, he recalled looking at a light outside and suddenly realizing that God wanted him to be a priest.

His parents weren’t thrilled about the idea, he said, so he spoke to the vocations director who then talked to his parents. They began to understand his position and agreed to let him begin discerning his vocation. After three years, he left college and entered the seminary.

His desire was to be a parish priest. After ordination, he began parish work but also was assigned to be a campus minister. He was “noticed” by the bishop who wanted him to study canon law, which he did. He also served 11 years as pastor of a young, large, growing parish. Things were going well. The parish had just poured and blessed footers for a new church when everything changed for their pastor.

The bishop recalled receiving a surprise phone call one day from pope’s representative to the United States. “The Holy Father wants you to be the bishop of Greensburg (Pennsylvania),” he said. After requesting and receiving permission to pray about it for a day, “I accepted,” Bishop Malesic said.

He spent five years in Greensburg and remembered hearing news of the appointment of then-Cleveland Bishop Nelson Perez – whom he knew – as archbishop of Philadelphia.

“I thought, the people of Cleveland only had him for about two years,” he said. Not long after, he got a call. “The nuncio told me the Holy Father had appointed me bishop of Cleveland.”

Theology on the Rocks Akron welcomes Bishop Malesic

He was installed on Sept. 14, 2020 and told the group the answer to an often-asked question. “Yes, I love it here. I am very happy to be here.”

The bishop said he firmly believes he wouldn’t be a priest today if his pastor hadn’t asked him about it. “Don’t be afraid to ask a young man if he’s ever considered the priesthood,” he said, also encouraging attendees to support each other and their priests. “We have good priests in the diocese. Be sure to thank them.”

And he reminded the audience to “Be happy. Nobody wants to be in an unhappy church. We’re all called to be evangelists. We’re all members of the Church – even me. Tell the story of Jesus by and how you live your lives.”

He shared the story of how his own mother was an unintentional evangelist. When she was ill, his sister-in-law who was unbaptized, helped care for her. His mother was always peaceful and grateful, despite her illness and the fact that she had buried two of her four children. His sister-in-law asked how that could be and his mother credited her faith. Soon, his sister-in-law began the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and she was baptized before his mother’s death.

Theology on the Rocks Akron welcomes Bishop Malesic

“My mother was an evangelist,” he said, stressing the importance of telling the story of Jesus and sharing our faith. “We have something others don’t.”

The bishop also reminded the group that Mass is a mission. We come to Mass, we are fed with the Eucharist, and then we go as we are sent to share our gift and the good news.

He also mentioned some of the good things happening in the diocese, including the Anne and Joachim Grandparenting Workshops organized by the Marriage and Family Ministry. They are unique and have drawn national attention as a way for grandparents to help nurture the faith in their grandchildren. Campus ministry efforts also are important and are having an impact, he noted.

“Just think of how Jesus made or makes a difference in your life,” the bishop said.

After a few minutes of questions and answers, the bishop chatted with guests and posed for some photos.

The next Theology on the Rocks (Akron) program on Sept. 18 will focus on The Crusades. Father Lou Thomas, pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Norton, will be the speaker. Watch the group’s Facebook page for information. Doors open at 7 p.m.

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