CLEVELAND — Even though the coronavirus pandemic may have limited the size of the congregation and the number of clergy and special guests gathered for his installation as bishop of Cleveland, Bishop Edward C. Malesic said he soon hoped to begin visiting parishioners across the eight-county diocese.
Malesic admitted Sept. 14 during the homily at his installation Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist that the restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic are frustrating to him.
“It feels as though I have hit the ground, but I can’t quite run yet,” he said.
“But trust me, there will be a time, soon, I hope, when we will be able to gather again in large crowds to meet each other, shake hands, see our unmasked faces, worship as one community in our churches with boisterous singing and be with each other again at our festivals. I want to visit each of our parishes as soon as possible,” he told the congregation.
“There are 185 of them, so please be patient with me,” the bishop continued. “And I’ll get out to our schools, seminaries, other ministries and religious communities, too. Give me some time.”
Malesic, 60, was the bishop of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, for the past five years. The native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, succeeded Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez, who was named by Pope Francis to be Philadelphia’s archbishop Jan. 23 after serving in Cleveland for two and a half years.
The traditional outdoor procession of clergy into the cathedral for such celebrations did not take place because of the pandemic. Instead, clergy processed inside the church to assigned seating, widely scattered throughout the massive cathedral.
The diocese said attendees were provided with red face masks in keeping with the liturgical color of the day for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, the metropolitan of Ohio, welcomed Malesic as the ceremony began. The bishop then received a crucifix from Father Sean Ralph, cathedral rector, before processing to the altar.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio, read the papal bull announcing Malesic’s appointment to Cleveland. Malesic showed the document to diocesan officials and then walked throughout the cathedral showing it to the rest of the congregation.
Malesic said the Cleveland assignment is a homecoming of sorts for two reasons. He described how he was a seminarian for six years at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and that the parish just outside of Harrisburg where he grew up received the sacraments of initiation and celebrated his first Mass also was named St. John the Evangelist.
“It was the same parish church, St. John the Evangelist, as a college biology major that God began to call me to the priesthood,” he said.
He cited his example of responding to God’s call in urging young people to “listen to your heart, the place where God speaks to you.”
“God has a plan for you,” he continued. “You are on this planet at this time for a reason. Don’t stop searching until you find God’s will for you. He is calling you to a life of holiness, to discipleship, to service and to do something special for him. Follow Jesus. He will show you the way.”
Noting that his installation was occurring on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Malesic said the day reminds Catholics “just how central the cross is to our lives as Christians.”
“The cross is more than a decoration on our walls or jewelry around our necks. In the cross, Jesus teaches us how to face our challenges with courage and hope. And, boy, do we have challenges these days. Jesus says to us, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.'”
He called on the congregation to not ignore the challenges of daily life but to face them, “admit them, carry them, but always with our eyes focused on Jesus, the man we follow, the God who suffered for us and still suffers for us.”
“He will lead us forward in our struggles. If we walk in his footsteps we will always move from death to life. That is the direction of Jesus, that is the direction of his church, that is the direction for all of us who believe in him and who follow him, from death to life,” Malesic said.
COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus that has swept the globe, is one of the crosses people face today, he added, saying that with hope and God’s help, people can move beyond it to deeper faith and greater comfort.
Malesic also prayed for police officers, “who are carrying the cross of violence in our communities.” He offered a Hail Mary for Cleveland Police Detective James Skernivitz, who was killed Sept. 3 along with a police informant during an apparent robbery attempt while working a special detail on the city’s west side.
Other crosses the bishop cited in his homily included clergy sexual abuse in the church, abortion, poverty, urban blight and restrictions on religious freedom.
He concluded by inviting the congregation to be witnesses to the life of Jesus, God’s love and the power of the cross in their lives. “Let’s be people who serve the Lord with gladness,” he said.