On Thursday, November 29th, we attended the monthly First Friday Club of Cleveland luncheon which took place at the Westin Hotel instead of the City Club, its usual location, because it was the annual address by our beloved Bishop Nelson Perez and thus more space was needed.
To no surprise, so many people turned out for this occasion that a large ballroom at the Westin was filled to capacity. We ourselves were seated at the same table with Mr. John Diemer who is the Vice President of the First Friday Club 2018 Leadership Team who will be its President in 2019.
At the start of his presentation, Bishop Perez asked that everyone engage in an exercise involving walking over to a nearby table and introduce themselves to someone that they did not previously know and have a brief conversation with the about the most inspiring aspects of their Catholic faith which, of course, all of us did.
We ourselves talked with a man named Bob about how committed the Diocese is about providing assistance to those in need of some form of economic help. We also talked to a woman named Liz who told us how excited she was about recently becoming a grandmother and how much she looks forward to raising the child according to the teachings of the church.
At the close of the sharing, Bishop Perez noted that he had been asked to speak about two themes which were “how to enrich the faith of others” and “how to pass faith to the next generation”. The Bishop then said that he, himself, had been inspired by the words of Pope Francis regarding the creation of a “culture of encounter” wherein we could realize our potential to witness on behalf of our faith.
Certainly, such interactions could work for the benefit of all parties. Bishop Perez went on to share with us an encounter that he had with a person when they were both passengers on an airplane. He couldn’t remember the person’s name but he remembered their conversation and how much it affected them both.
In order to have the desired effect, our Bishop contended that we should bring passion about our faith, practicality, and personal experience to such sharing. Above all, we must “listen” to what the other party has to say instead of just “hearing” them superficially.
Bishop Perez’ words were well-received by the large group and Bishop Roger Gries, OSB recalled an instance where the members of three congregations, that had just been combined, got to know each other through encounters like the one initiated by Bishop Perez on this day. He also told the young people that through encounters they could get to know better their classmates at school.
Prior to his speech, Bishop Perez had been introduced by Mr. Jerry Schroer, Jr. , the 2018 Bishop’s Luncheon Chair, who praised Bishop Perez for making himself so accessible to all of the people of Cleveland and sharing his passion about his faith and how much it has been a guiding force in his life.
Mr. Schroer concluded his introduction by playing a little bit of the Johnny Cash song, I’ve Been Everywhere as a tribute to Bishop Perez which contained the lyrics:
I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
Crossed the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere
As for Bishop Perez, he seemed to just love it!