On July 16, at 12:14:15 a.m. EDT I received an email from my great friend Fr. Tom Weber with a two word heading: Habemus Episcopum! – We have a bishop!
Because of my early-to-bed-early-to-rise internal clock I was in dreamland when it arrived, but it was the first thing I saw upon awakening and it brought great relief: amidst everything else going on in the world it is important that a diocese – any diocese, but especially one the size of ours – have a bishop.
The new man is Edward Charles Malesic, presently the Bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. His appointment comes just a little less than six months after the appointment of Bishop Perez as the new ordinary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Bishop Malesic is a native of Harrisburg, and so this will be his first assignment outside of his native Pennsylvania, although he did study at and receive his bachelor’s degree from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus in 1983, so he has some familiarity with the Buckeye State.
Having been ordained into the Diocese of Harrisburg and having served as Bishop of Greenburg, Bishop Malesic will certainly be stepping up his game as he takes on the leadership of Cleveland, a diocese twice the size of those two Pennsylvania dioceses combined. From early reports, and from his background, he seems more than equal to the task.
Because of the roles he filled as a priest in Harrisburg prior to his elevation to the episcopate in Greensburg, Malesic can be viewed as a triple threat: parish priest, campus minister, and canon lawyer. Work that he has done in those three areas will have provided our new bishop with the kind of experience that will enable him to focus with great confidence on areas of critical concern for the Church in these times of great flux.
A bishop who has spent time in parishes prior to his appointment is more likely than someone who has just worked “downtown” to be sympathetic to the plight of a pastor who is dealing with issues related to fully re-opening, including bringing back those who have been away since March as well as attracting those who have been away for much longer.
Included in both of those MIA groups is a large number of young people. In a world where so many voices propose that the choice in life is not between virtue (Logos/Christ) and vice (Chaos/Satan), but between science (smart people) and religion (the great unwashed), there is a need for bishops who understand adolescents and young adults and who are comfortable working with them and engaging in dialogue with them while holding firm to the truth of the Gospel.
And finally, in an era when the leader of every diocese needs to steer a true path amidst a variety of conflicting and many times dissident voices within the Church it is good to be not just conversant, but skilled, in the Church’s often intricate legal system. One cannot be charitable in dealing with sensitive situations without knowing exactly what the boundaries are as well as having insight into both expected and unexpected consequences of implementing the Church’s code of canon law.
Only a brave man would be willing to move from a diocese of 78 parishes and 141,000 Catholics to one of 185 parishes and 683,000 Catholics. With that jump in parishes and population there must certainly be a similar jump in the number of things that either keep a bishop up at night or will wake him from his slumber in a cold sweat. Bishop Malesic is that brave man, and one who has been described by his fellow bishop, Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, as: “a humble man of God who will guide Catholics closer to Jesus and help to strengthen all communities in his new assignment.”
With that endorsement it is easy to see why Bishop Malesic was chosen by the Holy Father to lead our Diocese of Cleveland. Let us continue our prayers for him as he begins his time as our pastor and guide, the humble voice of the Gospel of Jesus in these difficult times.