Mercyhurst students had the opportunity to meet the Erie Catholic Diocese Bishop, Lawrence Persico, last Friday at Allegheny College in Meadville. The Bishop’s Dinner is held at different colleges in the Diocese every year.
Students enjoyed this opportunity to meet in fellowship with other schools in the area, engage in a formal dinner and ask the bishop several questions, ranging from personal interests to concerns of the church today.
The event began with a prayer service at Ford Memorial Chapel led by the campus ministry team from Gannon University, consisting of a few songs of praise and a reflection on a writing from John Henry Newman. This was followed by a dinner at a nearby reception hall where students had the chance to converse and compare their campus ministries while discussing their faith.
The main part of the event was the question and answer session.
“The goal for every faithful Christian should be to grow in holiness and that campus ministries allow students to lead others to the Lord in community,” said Persico. “My favorite aspect is being able to have dialogue with others, while my least favorite aspect is recognizing that the Erie Diocese is heavily understaffed and the changes I have had to make to recognize changing numbers.”
One of the biggest topics discussed was the contentious 2016 presidential election. Persico believes that both candidates are disastrous and that Catholic voters need to focus on the concerns of the sanctity of life. He made reference to the Diocese of Erie’s lawsuit against the U.S. government over the Affordable Care Act.
“I am concerned about religious freedom and the Supreme Court. I recommend that voters pray and examine the Catholic Voter’s Guide published by the U.S. bishops before following their conscience in voting,” Persico said.
Persico was also asked questions regarding human relationships. A student asked how to respond to others feeling offense toward the teachings of Christianity.
“The scripture cannot be changed and social teachings were instituted by Jesus Christ, following natural law. We should not be intimidated by the political correctness movement. Jesus was not politically correct,” said Persico.
While Catholics need to accept church teaching regarding sexuality and life, there is still a need to be respectful so that dialogue can occur and people can learn from each other.
When asked about the state of the church today, Persico articulated two main concerns: the transmission of the faith to future generations and for creating a culture of vocations. It is no secret that the number of priests is decreasing and he asks students to contemplate their personal vocation, whether they wish to marry, live celibately, or enter either the religious life or the priesthood.
Bishop Persico’s take-home message for all of those in attendance consisted of constant prayer and witnessing to others as a way to demonstrate the Christian’s relationship with Jesus Christ.