Text and photos by Gregory A. Shemitz
Riverhead—A day before leaving Long Island in advance of his installation next week as bishop of Cleveland, Bishop Nelson Perez celebrated the noon Mass Aug. 27 at St. Isidore Church here, using the occasion to thank the clergy and parishioners for their hospitality during the five years he was in residence at the parish.
Bishop Perez had been based at St. Isidore’s since arriving as a newly minted bishop in July 2012, when he and then-Msgr. Robert Brennan were ordained to the episcopacy. In addition to his duties as an auxiliary bishop, Bishop Perez headed the diocese’s Eastern vicariate and was the episcopal vicar for its Hispanic apostolate.
In July, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Perez, 56, as the new bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland. His installation Mass is Sept. 5.
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Bishop Perez concelebrated Sunday’s liturgy with Father Robert Kuznik, St. Isidore’s pastor, and Father Piotr Narkiewicz.
At the end of the Mass, Father Kuznik presented Bishop Perez with a crucifix as an expression of the parish’s gratitude for the bishop’s service to the people of St. Isidore’s.
“I want to thank you for the words and guidance you have offered to this little community of 1,500 families or so,” said Father Kuznik, adding that he was also grateful for Bishop Perez’s support “of our children and our school and (Catholic) education on the East End.”
Several children dressed in traditional Polish folk costumes subsequently entered the sanctuary to hand a bouquet of flowers to the bishop.
Before imparting the final blessing, Bishop Perez gave the congregation some food for thought.
“I’ll leave you with these words, the same words that I told to all the kids at all the different confirmations I did over the last five years: Never underestimate the power of God’s Spirit working in you, through you and despite you … God bless you,” he said.
Following the Mass, clergy, parishioners and other well-wishers joined Bishop Perez at a reception in the church basement. Two sheet cakes, one featuring the bishop’s official portrait and another decorated with his episcopal coat of arms, were among the many sweet treats placed on tables in the middle of the room.
The day before his final Mass at St. Isidore’s, Bishop Perez celebrated a liturgy for members of the diocesan Hispanic apostolate at St. Matthew Church, Dix Hills. The bishop was the guest of honor at a reception following the service there.