By Keith Gushard
It’s a simple message that stands the test of time, according to the Most Rev. Lawrence T. Persico, bishop of Erie.
“It’s doing the basics — the sacraments and preaching the word of God,” Persico said Sunday following the 9 a.m. Mass at St. Brigid Roman Catholic Church. “Those are the two essential pieces. Those give us life and purpose as Catholics.”
Persico was in Meadville to celebrate the Mass in honor of the parish’s 150th anniversary year.
Installed as the 10th bishop of the Erie Roman Catholic Diocese on Oct. 1, 2012, he was named bishop last year by Pope Benedict XVI after then-Bishop Donald Trautman announced his retirement.
Though in a new role and a new location within the Roman Catholic Church, Persico said he feels at home in northwestern Pennsylvania due to the warm welcome he’s received from both clergy and parishioners.
“I feel very much at home because of them,” he said at a reception in his honor at St. Brigid’s Social Hall following Sunday’s Mass, which was attended by about 275 people. The parish has approximately 600 families.
The Erie Diocese held one major surprise for Persico, who came to Erie from St. James parish of New Alexandria in the Greensburg Diocese in southwestern Pennsylvania.
“How big it is,” he said with a laugh. “It’s 117 churches, but it’s 10,000 square miles — that’s a lot of traveling.”
The Erie Diocese has 9,936 square miles and covers 13 counties in northwestern Pennsylvania, including Crawford.
Asked if consolidation of parishes within the Erie Diocese is possible in the coming years, Bishop Persico it was conceivable, but not a certainty.
“All things are possible,” he said. “I know we have to have a serious look at things. It will be essential to be reviewed. We have fewer priests these days to staff these parishes.”
However, the bishop stopped short of saying consolidation will happen, noting he must talk to the people of the diocese “to hear what they have to say.”
“I have to be able to have an understanding of the diocese — the length and breadth of it — to be able to have a better understanding,” he said.
Last week’s resignation announcement by Pope Benedict XVI, who will leave office at the end of the month, caught everyone by surprise, Persico said.
“It shook up a lot of people,” he said. “It was never expected. But in hindsight, you could see the Holy Father was just not strong. He was getting older and slower. I’m sure it was a sacrifice for him to continue on.”
Persico isn’t surprised by the interest in the pope’s decision to step down.
“People are interested in church and what they do (to select a new pope),” he said.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know?
St. Brigid Roman Catholic Church in Meadville traces its roots to the spring of 1862, according to the church’s website. It began then when a group of English-speaking Catholics, mostly Irish extraction, decided to separate from the primarily German-speaking congregation of St. Agatha parish, then the only Roman Catholic Church in the Meadville area. The request was granted, and on May 18, 1862, a building known as “Divinity Hall” was rented for the fledgling congregation.
On Oct. 8, 1875, land at the corner of Arch and Liberty streets was purchased by the congregation from Alfred and Catherine Huidekouper for the sum of $1400, with the construction beginning in the spring of 1878. After three years under construction the new church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1881.
The seven Catholic sacraments are: baptism, confirmation, Holy Eucharist, reconciliation, marriage, holy orders, and anointing the sick.
Baptism is a demonstration to the church and God of a dedication to the faith.
Confirmation is the adult or mature choice to dedicate oneself to the faith.
Eucharist is the Holy Communion, or imbibing the flesh (bread) and blood (juice or wine), of Jesus Christ.
Reconciliation is about repentance including the three elements of conversion, confession, and celebration.
Marriage, or Holy Matrimony, is the public ceremony displaying the commitment of two people completely giving themselves to each other.
Holy orders is a priest being ordained and vowing to bring the sacraments to other parishioners.
Anointing of the sick is used for physical and psychological illnesses.