On September 20, more than 100 people drank “a pint with Bishop (Edward) Malecik” at the Forest City Brewery near Duck Island in Cleveland. The atmosphere was vibrant as young people and a few others gathered to update Theology on Tap. The group has been on hiatus, largely due to the pandemic.
“It’s been 930 days since we last met,” said Father Eric Garris, assistant career director and counselor for Theology on Tap, when he opened the program. “But we’re back.”
Father Damien Ferens, Evangelization Pastor and Director of Parish Life and Special Ministries, runs the program in partnership with Mike Hayes, Director of Youth Ministries. Father Ference and Hayes produce the weekly podcast and point to the TOT show as an extension of the show, with a live audience.
Bishop Malesic, who just celebrated his second anniversary as a parish shepherd, said he called the area “Ohio is good. Lawns are mowed; houses are painted. It reflects who is here,” he said, adding that people were “enthusiastic” , gentle, kind and understanding. You’re not perfect. Only Pennsylvanians,” he quipped, as the crowd laughed.
The parish has a sprawling school system with about 38,000 students, larger than some public school districts, the bishop said. He also praised the vision of his predecessor, Archbishop Nelson Perez, who led the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, to split youth and youth ministry into two separate offices. Bishop Malesic had several years of experience in campus ministry before being promoted to the leadership of the Diocese of Greensburg and Cleveland, Pennsylvania.
Hayes asked him how he was dealing with divisions in the church. The bishop explained that he tried to “keep in the middle. The church is a family, and there are few families without differences,” he noted. “The church sets boundaries, and you need to color in them.” However, he said disagreements and discussions can be healthy, and Jesus prayed that we would all be one. “
Hayes asked the bishop how he knew what God was asking of him, prompting the bishop to share his vocation story. He explained that he expected to leave the church at some point, but he became a conscious disciple in college and began to seriously study the teachings of the Catholic Church. “It’s all starting to make sense,” he said.
“Celebrating Mass excites me,” he said. “Ask God what he wants you to do and see where God takes you.”
Father Ferens asked the bishop if there were any scientific and religious books he would recommend. Bishop Malesic said Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, and founder of Word on Fire Ministries, offers some books on both topics. “Science and faith go hand in hand, like two wings on an airplane. You need both,” Bishop said. Some may see God as a mythical being, but he is a spiritual force who points to the relationship between religion and science.
Bishop Malesic also spoke about the three-year Eucharistic Revival that began this summer. He said the Church is emphasizing the Eucharist because many people do not understand the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Father Ferens and Hayes spent a few minutes asking the bishop a series of questions, including the best and worst things about being bishops: a wealth of knowledge of the church, the opportunity to meet the pope. But he said that while he never wanted to be a bishop, he was lucky to be chosen. As a priest/parish priest, he knows his parishioners very well. However, as bishop, he is responsible for the spiritual well-being of many more people.
He was also asked about the best and worst things in seminary life. “I like the structure. Etiquette is the best. It’s predictable,” he said. The worst part is what he calls “the war of etiquette.”
When asked what he misses most about Pennsylvania, he said his family and pastor friends.
What does Ohio have that Pennsylvania doesn’t? “A place to ski,” he quipped, noting that Ohio’s terrain is much flatter than his hometown, which has many hills and a few mountains.
When asked what Cleveland has that Pennsylvania doesn’t, he mentioned Playhouse Square. “I never thought I could walk and see a major Broadway play,” he said, noting that he lives downtown, a short walk from the theater district and a short drive to hear Cleveland For orchestral gigs, he enjoys living by the water (Lake Erie). “But I wish there were palm trees there,” he quipped, noting that he likes warmer temperatures.
As for favorite foods, Bishop admits he loves pizza and carbs, which he must eat in moderation.
For his favorite movie, he quickly answered, “Star Wars,” and added “Schindler’s List,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” and “The Purple.”
“What was young Ed Malesic like?” someone asked him. “Okay,” he replied with a smile. He worked for a newspaper as a child and said he often took the time to visit his clients.
The group also learned that he preferred the sound of the ocean to the nails on the blackboard.
When asked about his admiration for another religion, the bishop was quick to reply that he liked the Jewish religion’s sense of faith and history/.
His vision for young adult ministry is that it must be Christ-centered and that we must resist demons and outside forces that try to divide us.
Regarding the traditional Latin Mass, the bishop said there was a place to hold it, and many considered it a good spiritual experience.
The evening ended with a quick session during which the audience learned that St Thomas More, St Francis of Assisi, St Teresa of Lissie, St Padre Pio and Pope St John Paul II were his Favorite saints and blue are the colors that best describe him.
“It’s an honor to be here. I admire you,” the bishop said, noting that being Catholic today is not easy. “Don’t let the devil get your best. Be proud of your church and remember we all belong in the body of Christ.”
The next TOT will be at Forest City Brewery on October 18th at 7pm with Deacon Dave Chojnacki discussing “Cultivating the Missionary Heart”.