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Published: Saturday, 2/26/2005

Bishop's impressive as listener

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Julie Taylor speaks to Bishop Leonard Blair at a 'listening session' Sunday night with University of Toledo Catholic Student Association members at Corpus Christi University Parish on Dorr Street. Julie Taylor speaks to Bishop Leonard Blair at a 'listening session' Sunday night with University of Toledo Catholic Student Association members at Corpus Christi University Parish on Dorr Street.
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His first responsibility as a bishop is to teach, but Bishop Leonard Blair went to Corpus Christi University Parish Sunday night to listen and learn.

A group of about 50 members of the Catholic Student Association at the University of Toledo met with the bishop after he celebrated evening Mass, discussing how their faith affects their lives on and off campus.

Among the students who addressed the bishop were CSA president Brian Dee, vice president Julie Taylor, publicity director Sarah Landry, and UT quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.

"I really, really enjoyed it. I think it went really well," said Miss Taylor.

She said that with the disquieting news reports of the diocese considering closing 17 parishes and merging 16 others into 6 new churches, she was surprised by Bishop Blair's kindness and compassion.

"I was expecting someone a little cooler than he was. I was very, very surprised. He was so warm, very understanding, and an amazing listener. I was very impressed with him."

Mr. Dee told Bishop Blair, who was installed as leader of the Toledo diocese in December, 2003, that about 40 percent, or about 8,000, of the students at UT are Catholic, but it's difficult getting them involved in CSA activities.

Mr. Gradkowski said the UT Rockets had a successful football season but that the athletes look beyond the sports themselves to get involved in community outreaches. Among the programs and activities he volunteers for are Big Brothers, an annual wheelchair football game, and promoting literacy by reading to elementary children.

"My Catholic faith got me where I am today," Mr. Gradkowski said.

One student urged the bishop to persuade parishes to offer more youth-oriented music and to give young musicians an opportunity to play in church.

"We have to encourage the arts more," Bishop Blair said. "We've fallen short at times."

Miss Taylor agreed that the Catholic Church needs to encourage the youth.

"The church is so tradition-driven," she said. "For so many people, it seems sort of an older-person's religion. But what are we going to do about those younger people? We are that younger generation. We are going to be leaders in the church one day. I think it was a very good opportunity, and an important one, for the bishop to speak to us."

Bishop Blair said at one point that he sometimes "feels the weight of the world" in trying to meet the needs of all 300,000 Catholics in the Toledo diocese. He called for more emphasis on what lay people can do.

"We're cheerleaders," he said, speaking of ordained clergy. "Our goal is that all Catholic people can go out and make a difference in the world."



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