Erie’s new Catholic bishop plans to listen first

Erie Times-News

By DANA MASSING, Erie Times-News

Just a few months ago, Monsignor Lawrence T. Persico was a parish pastor who tended a vegetable garden in the summer and shoveled snow from parish sidewalks before morning Mass in the winter.

By the end of Monday, he’ll be a bishop and the leader of a 13-county Roman Catholic diocese with about 221,500 parishioners spread out over 10,000 square miles. Persico will take an oath of fidelity at vespers tonight and be installed and ordained during an invitation-only Mass on Monday.

What does Persico want people in the Catholic Diocese of Erie to know about their new bishop?

“That he’s a nice guy,” he said with a smile. …

Persico had served as pastor in New Alexandria since 1998, but that was one of only several positions he held in the Greensburg diocese. His other roles included vicar general, moderator of the curia, chancellor and bishop’s delegate for clergy sexual abuse.

He said he believes the sex-abuse scandal led the Catholic Church to do a great deal to rectify such problems by implementing training for clergy and others who work with youth.

“Even dioceses, today, are audited by an outside firm to make sure that each diocese is in compliance with the Charter (for the Protection of Children and Young People),” Persico said.

He encouraged Catholics not to abandon the church because they’re upset with it over sex abuse or disagree with its stance on abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage or female ordination.

“I would tell them not to walk away from it, but to seek, to learn, to pray and to try to deepen their relationship to Jesus Christ,” Persico said. “Because without Christ, what are we?

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