Bishop Perez :It’s not about my goals, it’s about the goals of the people, of the church in Cleveland.

By Marie Yesenia Summers

Vocero Latino would like to welcome Bishop Nelson Perez to Cleveland. For many Latinos faith is essential in their lives. Bishop Perez is passionate about his faith and spreading a message of hope to all Clevelanders. He also believes empowering and uplifting the Latino community. I had the honor and pleasure of speaking to him.

Q: “Can you please tell me about yourself?”
A: “I was born in Miami, Florida. I grew up in a little town called West New York, where a lot of Cubans migrated to. My parents are Cuban refugees from the 60s. In a sense, I’m a refugee too, I came in my mother’s womb to the United States. I was raised in northern Jersey, went to school there, went to college there. I lived in Puerto Rico for a couple of years, I taught at Colegio La Piedad en Isla Verde. I was ordained a priest in Philadelphia. Five years ago, I was appointed a Bishop and sent to Long Island, where I’ve been really for the last 5 years. July 25th is my 5- year anniversary as a Bishop. A lot of my work has been working in multi-cultural settings, working with Hispanics from all over the place”.

A: “You’ve mentioned you wanted to reach out to young adults and youth, what are your strategies?
Q: “Most important, more than my strategy, is where they are here and meet them where they are. I need to learn where they are here and talk together with the community. Not so much impose a strategy but work together”.

Q: “What are some immediate goals that you hope to accomplish?”
A: “Right now, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have any goals. It’s not about my goals, it’s about the goals of the people, of the church in Cleveland. To be a church is joyful, Pope Francis is calling to be in a church that is a missionary church. Pope Francis also talks about Iglesia en salida. I hope borrowing, again from the joy of the gospel of Pope Francis, a church that is proactive, a church that is in involved in life of the people in the community. A church is that fruitful and joyful…”

Q: “Cleveland and Lorain are very diverse but with all these negative comments about immigrants, what is your position on making people feel welcome? Allowing people to know all these different ethnic groups are blessings to the community?”
A: “Obviously, there is a conversation about immigration, around immigrants, about immigrants in this country. It’s an American conversation, a political conversation and the church also has a conversation about it. The church recognizes the dignity of all people, the sanctity of families. We have, to work to keep families together. The Bishop conference of the United States has been very clear, any country, any sovereign country has the right to preserve and protect its borders. Yeah, I got that but the Bishops have been very clear, it has to be done in a way that respects human dignity, respects human rights, respects the sanctity of family and holiness of the family. The church stands strong and by our immigrant community in those profound values, that have always been values and the heart of the church, always. The bishops of the United States, long before this conversation, have been calling for comprehensive immigration reform. It is a legal system that is broken and this country, in charity and respect for human dignity, needs to change that”.

Q: “What is your opinion on Obama’s approach in forming a better relationship with Cuba, versus Trump’s approach?”
A: “Pope Francis always talks about dialogue, right? I think the level of dialogue with Cuba is important and at the same time, I think the United States is in the position to demand the respect for human right because they continue to be trampled left and right. I think that has, to be said and so dialogue is important and creating bridges is important. I also think on the other side of that, we have to stand to defend the rights of people to live their faith, pursue their happiness and their human rights respected”.

Q: “In what direction would you like Catholic education to go towards?”
A: “Catholic education is very important to me, both of my parish communities when I was pastor had schools. I am very passionate about Catholic education. It’s a place where young people and families can join in faith and, also get an incredible education. We are blessed here in Cleveland with a very powerful and strong school system, with over 40,000 students and 20 high schools and 90 some elementary schools.
That’s a really, powerful place of formation schools for young people. I’m so thrilled to know in the state of Ohio, we have school vouchers here and supports families that that may not otherwise to afford a Catholic education”.

Q: “What’s your impression of Cleveland? What do believe Cleveland’s strengths are?”

A: “The greatest thing I’ve seen right from the get go, is the hospitality of people. The warmth which I’ve been received. The city of Cleveland, Cleveland rocks, right? It really does, it’s vibrant and it seems to be going through a revitalization. I’m just thrilled, I’ve always been a city type of guy so I love it! The Diocese of Cleveland, is not just Cleveland, it’s 8 counties. So, when I speak of counties as a diocese, I’m speaking of eight counties. It’s called the Diocese of Cleveland but it’s bigger than just Cleveland. I was just speaking with people this morning from Akron, it was wonderful. I look forward to getting out there. So, for me, Cleveland is all those eight counties in this area of Ohio”.
*The eight counties included in the Diocese of Cleveland are: Cuyahoga, Summit, Lorain, Lake, Medina, Ashland, Geauga and Wayne*

Q: “Do you plan on working with the public schools and if so, how?”
A: “I would have to explore that. I don’t really know much about the public school system here, but I would be happy to. Absolutely, I’ll be happy to help in any way that I can”.

Q: “What message do you have for Clevelanders?”
A: “For the whole Diocese of Cleveland, all eight counties. I am very happy to be here, I’m thrilled and excited. I can’t wait to come and be here full-time. We as a church have to be people of hope and joy, that is at the center of being a Christian, right?”

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