Bishop Perez greets people following Mass at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception last September. Gregory A. Shemitz photo.
Statement from Bishop Nelson J. Perez upon being named Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland:
I must confess that I am deeply humbled, and at the same time, filled with great joy and gratitude to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for calling me to serve the Diocese of Cleveland, as its eleventh bishop. I was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on May 20, 1989. I certainly never imagined then, that I would one day serve as auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Rockville Centre and now, here today, to begin my service as your bishop. God’s ways and thoughts are not ours, but I know and trust that His ways are always better and deeper than our comprehension. I thank God for this awesome, incredible privilege, to embark on this journey with you, the wonderful people of Cleveland. I am absolutely thrilled to be here with you.
I am grateful to Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, for his joyful encouragement and support, upon calling to inform me of the Holy Father’s desire, that I come to serve you here in Cleveland.
We join together in thanking God, for the faithful and loving service of Bishop Richard Lennon. I remember watching the video of the announcement of his early retirement, due to his medical condition, and saying to myself . . . this is a man of profound humility and courage, embracing his limitations and making a decision out of love for you and for the Church. He truly still serves the Church, and in a particular way, our diocese, through the offering of his prayers and sacrifices. This is certainly a powerful and loving gift that sustains all of us. While our physical abilities may change with time, our hearts and minds are always capable of being shared, for the glory of God and the good of others; Bishop Lennon is a powerful witness to this enduring truth.
Bishop Thomas and I go back many years since we were priests in Philadelphia. I know that he has been a truly wonderful shepherd for you during the last seven months as your Apostolic Administrator, as the Church discerned who your next bishop would be. I know that you join me in expressing our deep gratitude for being so present here in your midst, in addition to his continuing faithful ministry to the people of the Diocese of Toledo. We also express of deep appreciation to Fr. Donald Oleksiak, Vicar General of the Diocese of Cleveland, who had the added responsibility of serving as Delegate to Bishop Thomas. I will continue to depend on their guidance and wisdom, as I begin to learn of the great work of the Diocese of Cleveland – your service to the Gospel, your history, and the inherent beauty that is reflected in all of you, as gifts from God. I know that I will see the face of the Lord reflected in the many new friends that I look forward to meeting here in the days ahead.
I come to all of you, with a eep love for the Lord, His Church, and a profound love for the priesthood, that I received as a wonderful gift twenty-eight years ago. I am filled with excitement and enthusiasm to get to know my brother priests, deacons, religious, and faithful of this great diocese and learn all I can possibly learn to serve you, with the grace of God, to the very best of my ability.
For the last five years, I have been blessed to serve as auxiliary of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, on Long Island.
To Bishop William Murphy, bishop emeritus, Bishop John Barres, the newly installed bishop of Rockville Centre, and my brother auxiliary bishops, Brennan and Andrzej, I don’t have words to express to you the gratitude that I feel for your kindness, your friendship, and the joy and enthusiasm with which you received and embraced me. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia taught me to be a priest; you have taught me how to be a bishop. While I have so much to learn, you have laid a wonderful foundation in me, and I hold very dear the friendships made with so many caring, dedicated people during these past five years serving the people of Long Island.
In 1960, my parents, David and Emma, along with my older brother, David, who watches the unfolding of these events from heaven, came to this country from Cuba, seeking to preserve the freedom that God had given them, but which was quickly taken away. As I said to Pope Francis last year in Rome, I was made in Cuba and unpackaged here, for six months later, I was born in Miami, Florida. A few years later, we moved to Northern New Jersey, where I grew up in a little town called West New York, overlooking the inspiring, magnificent skyline of the City. My brother Louis Martin, was born in Hoboken a few years later. I have been so blessed to be raised in a faith-filled family; one that nurtured my faith and ultimately, my vocation to the priesthood. Without them, I simply would not be here today. I continue to rely on their support, and learn from their devotion.
And now, I would like to say a few words in Spanish to our brothers and sisters in our Hispanic community.
Deseo expresar un saludo especial y cariñoso al pueblo Hispano de esta diócesis. Es con gran alegría que vengo hoy a comenzar mi camino como obispo entre ustedes. Como muchos de ustedes, mi familia, inmigrantes de Cuba, vinieron a este país buscando una vida mejor y un lugar para realizar sus sueños. Estoy muy consciente de los desafíos y las inquietudes que esta realidad presenta para el pueblo Hispano, pues lo he vivido también en mi propia vida. Deseo ser para ustedes su voz y un signo de esperanza y del amor tan especial que Dios tiene por todo su pueblo. Espero con gran entusiasmo conocerlos pronto y que ustedes me conozcan a mí. Les pido que oren por mí al comenzar esta nueva etapa de mi ministerio en la Iglesia.
In closing, I ask for your prayers and patience as I get to know you, and you, me. In particular, pray fervently, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, who has always been an integral part of my life. I look to her each day for wisdom and inspiration.
Again, thank you for your wonderful, warm welcome! I am so very happy to be here with you, to learn from you, grow with you, and serve you with pastoral devotion. Please don’t hesitate to say hello, if you see me as I venture out, eager to experience my new home! God Bless You, all.