After a break of nearly two years, Bishop Edward Malesic returned on Nov. 3 to address the First Friday Forum of Lorain County.
An enthusiastic crowd, including a contingent of students from Elyria Catholic High School, welcomed the shepherd of the Diocese of Cleveland. The bishop focused on six main topics: peace, the sanctity of life, vocations, Catholic education, the Eucharistic Revival and the diocese’s newly established grandparent ministry.
(See above for a photo gallery from the event.)
“Clubs like yours do so much to foster Catholic thought and conversation,” he said. “You help keep the faith vibrant and add to the depth of knowledge about the faith for so many. Your work in staging these forums is exceedingly important,” he added, as he acknowledged the leadership, clergy and volunteers involved with the First Friday Forum for their continuing work in spreading the Gospel of Christ.
The bishop asked the group to focus on the state of the world today and the need for all to pray for peace in Israel, Ukraine and anywhere else there is conflict. “Let us pray without ceasing that these conflicts will soon be resolved so that all might experience the safety that every human being deserves. Never underestimate the power of prayer,” he said, as he led the group in a prayer for peace offered by Pope Francis.
This is an amazing time in the diocese with so many good things happening, the bishop said. In addition to the Nov. 7 approval of Issue 1, which enshrined abortion rights in the state constitution, Bishop Malesic reminded the group of the ongoing campaign against the death penalty. Catholic bishops in Ohio signed and delivered a letter to state legislators asking them to abolish the death penalty. “Every human life from its very beginning has inherent worth and dignity that is bestowed by God, the author and Lord of life,” he said.
While admitting the death penalty is a thorny topic, the bishop said Catholic bishops worldwide and three popes are opposed to it. “The Church recognizes the immense harm a crime causes to victims, their family members and society, especially the taking of human life.” He said there are more effective systems of detention that ensure due protection of citizens “but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.”
Recently, priests of the diocese gathered for their annual convocation to discuss matters of importance to the faithful. One of the most pressing issues continues to be clergy staffing and the aging of priests. There are fewer younger priests working in parishes and more priests approaching the retirement age of 75, he said. Ongoing discussions are looking at ways to ensure the mission of the Church in the diocese remains vibrant and focused on always bringing people closer to Christ, the bishop noted.
One thing that is happening is inviting English-speaking priests from overseas to help ease the clergy shortage. The bishop asked that if anyone encounters one of these new priests that they welcome him.
He also talked about the recently concluded and successful Heart of a Shepherd campaign that raised $52 million and sent $10 million back to parishes to support their needs. Borromeo and Saint Mary seminaries benefited from major structural renovations, some funds were set aside to support retired priests and some funds were earmarked for student loan assistance for newly ordained priests.
“Who would have thought this campaign could be so successful?” the bishop asked, noting it was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The credit goes to all the faithful in the diocese who understood the needs and acted, generously sharing of their time, talent and resources.”
Shifting to Catholic education, Bishop Malesic said the recently launched Keeping the Faith strategic plan for elementary schools will solidify those schools to continue to be “irresistibly Catholic, academically excellent, operationally sound and geographically accessible throughout the diocese for years to come.”
He is asking every parish in the diocese to formally associate itself with a Catholic school to ensure that Catholic education is an integral part of every parish. Updates on Keeping the Faith are shared through various diocesan sources including the website, weekly e-newsletter and Northeast Ohio Catholic magazine.
The next major focus of his presentation was the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Catholic faith. Fewer Catholics say they believe in the Catholic doctrine that Jesus is present in the Eucharist – not merely symbolically or metaphorically – but in a true, real and substantial way, the bishop said.
“The bishops of the United States realized a few years ago that our world is hurting. We all need healing, yet many of us are separated from the very source of our strength. Jesus Christ invites us to return to the source and summit of our faith in the celebration of the Eucharist,” Bishop Malesic said, explaining that the National Eucharistic Revival is a movement to restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery in our country by helping to renew our worship of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
This is the second year – the parish year -- of the three-year revival, which ends with the National Eucharistic Congress July 17-24, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. About 80,000 Catholics – including a delegation from the diocese -- are expected to gather and reconsecrate their hearts to the source and summit of our faith, the bishop added.
His final topic focused on the emerging grandparenting ministry in the diocese that began last year with offering Anne and Joachim workshops – named in honor of the Blessed Mother’s parents and Jesus’ earthly grandparents. This ministry is a way for grandparents to empower, accompany and encourage passing on of the faith to the younger generation. The ministry and workshops are offered in collaboration with the vicar for evangelization and the diocesan offices of Missionary Discipleship, Marriage and Family Ministry and Young Adult Ministry.
He encouraged grandparents not to be discouraged, to continue praying and inviting their children and grandchildren to attend Mass or parish events.
“Say grace before and after meals. Give thanks to God when in their company for the blessings we all have been given. Use joyful events in your kids’ lives as a springboard moment to thank God. And always, always pray to the Holy Spirit for grace to share the faith effectively each day in your life,” he said. Parents and grandparents are the first and most effective teachers of the faith, the bishop said. “Know that Jesus is with you always as you do the things you know will help them grow ever closer to our Savior.”
After his presentation, the bishop answered a few questions and took time to mingle with the audience and Elyria Catholic students. The young people showed him a photo from the diocesanwide Mass he celebrated the previous day (All Saints Day) in Cleveland Public Auditorium downtown. About 3,200 high school students from across the diocese attended the Eucharistic Revival Rally and Mass