“I turned around and there he was. Pope Francis was using the microwave.”
That was Bishop Nelson Perez’s story to a small group of students on the morning of Wednesday, November 1st—the Solemnity of All Saints. The newly installed leader of the Diocese of Cleveland was explaining the humanity of the man formerly known as Jorge Bergoglio, a.k.a. Pope Francis, when Perez spent a week at the pope’s residence in Rome.
“He’s not an it, he’s a human being,” Bishop Perez explained.
That message of holy men and women also being very human was central to the bishop’s visit to Saint Ignatius on All Saints Day. As he gave the homily at the all-school liturgy in Fr. Sullivan Gymnasium, he shared another story from his youth about being intimidated by the statues of saints in his church.
“I always thought that saints were a different breed, but I came to understand their stories and learned that their hearts were enflamed with the love of Jesus. I learned that we are all called to be saints.”
Easy to talk to, humble and inspiring are words used by members of the Saint Ignatius community to describe the new bishop, whose visit included breakfast with students, an interview for "The EYE", a campus tour and the Mass concelebrated with the Jesuit community.
Bishop Perez, the students at the breakfast learned, is an avid diver and studied to be a clinical psychologist—but God had other plans for him. The students also learned that he was greatly inspired by the late St. Pope John Paul II, whose model for leading a global missionary church that involved being present among the people remains with him to this day.
Perez also told students that they are the future of the Church. Citing President Fr. Ray Guiao, S.J. ’82 and Principal Dan Bradesca ’88 as examples, he said that Saint Ignatius students wouldn’t be just the future leaders of the school, but they would also be critical to carrying on the faith in their homes, parishes and wherever it is they go.
“Who knows where you will be in 25 years?” the bishop asked. “You don’t, but God does. Over time He will reveal that to you.”
He also called the students to an attitude of gratitude toward their families and teachers for the opportunity to attend Saint Ignatius High School. Like church, he said, Saint Ignatius is not just a place you go to, it’s a place from which you’re sent.
For the students, faculty and staff who welcomed the bishop on Wednesday, it was a fitting reminder of how everyone from the saints, to the pope, to the bishop, to all people are called to live their lives: by being men and women for others.
View photos from the Bishop's Visit below: