Competing against Steeler football and vice presidential politics, the Most Rev. Lawrence Persico admitted he had a difficult task to perform Thursday night in Hermitage.
The new bishop of the Erie Catholic Diocese celebrated a Mass to introduce himself to Mercer County-area churches at Church of Notre Dame in Hermitage.
Bishop Persico called for a renewed fervor for the gospel message in his homily.
“Let this be a time in which we renew and deepen our personal relationship to Jesus Christ,” he said.
Bishop Persico succeeds the Most Rev. Donald Trautman, who was required to resign his post when he turned 75. Bishop Persico was named to the post on July 31, and he was ordained as bishop on Oct. 1.
Thursday’s Mass was celebrated, “To pray that Jesus the good shepherd will lead us as we begin a new chapter” in the Erie diocese, Bishop Persico said.
“This is the time for us to share our faith like the early church,” Bishop Persico said.
Catholics are challenged to do this at a time when “we find ourselves in an era of profound secularism,” Bishop Persico said.
Today’s culture “fosters a mentality in which God is left out of life and human consciousness,” he said.
“As we begin a new chapter in the life of our diocese, we must rekindle in ourselves the courage of the church,” Bishop Persico said. “My friends, this is our call as a Christian community.”
The pews of Notre Dame were mostly filled for the Mass, and the music of a large choir made up of singers from across the region was presented for the new bishop, who lauded their talents.
Rev. Jeffrey Noble, pastor of Notre Dame, took the pulpit at the end of the Mass to return thanks to the bishop.
He also helped to present the bishop with some of Mercer County’s finest wares: a hammered plate from Wendell August Forge in Grove City, ice cream cones from Joy Cone in Hermitage and shoes from Reyers in Sharon.
Rev. Noble also chided the bishop for celebrating the Mass on a football night.
“I really tried for a bye week, but you know how much influence bishops have,” Bishop Persico joked.