Persico establishes endowment, marks 5 years as bishop

From staff reports

Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of the Erie Catholic Diocese celebrated the fifth anniversary of his ordination as bishop on Sunday.

Persico took advantage of the milestone to formally announce that he has established the Bishop Lawrence T. Persico Endowment for Pastoral Ministry through the Catholic Foundation.

The endowment will provide funding for clergy as well as lay men and women interested in enhancing pastoral skills.

Persico became the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Erie on Oct. 1, 2012, and his tenure so far has included several initiatives, most notably a pastoral planning process that led to Building in Truth and Love, a comprehensive plan for Catholic schools in the diocese.

The plan initially included the closure of Venango Catholic High School in Oil City at the end of the 2015-16 school year, but Persico reversed course after a vigorous effort by the Save VCHS team and the school is still open.

The planning process also has meant restructuring for parishes in the 13-county diocese. The number of parishes decreased from 116 to 97 through a series of mergers and partnerships that took effect Feb. 13, 2017.

Most notably in the tri-county area, the five Catholic parishes in Oil City became two – St. Stephen and St. Joseph.

Even as the first two initiatives were unfolding, Persico took action on a third component of pastoral planning – increasing vocations to the priesthood and religious life, according to a press release from the diocese.

Persico continues to remind parishioners that encouraging vocations is everyone’s responsibility.

“Every parish is in need of good priests,” Persico has said. “I tell people to send me seminarians so I can send them priests.”

The press release says the fourth aspect of Persico’s pastoral planning – developing a roadmap to strengthen the Catholic community through an emphasis on lifelong faith formation – is underway.

During his five years in Erie, Persico has traveled to Rome to attend a mandatory training for new bishops, participated in the World Meeting of Families in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia as part of Pope Francis’ 2015 tour of the United States, and visited the Mission of Friendship in Merida, Mexico, where the Erie Diocese has been ministering to the poor since 1971.

Persico says his Endowment for Pastoral Ministry has been created in response to needs uncovered during pastoral planning.

“My hope is that by establishing this source of funding which will build into the future, our foundation always will have resources for people who want to build their skills and knowledge in pastoral ministry,” Persico said.

Persico said he envisions the endowment being used to help those who want to attend conferences, take courses or bring speakers into the diocese. It will be open to people involved with any aspect of pastoral ministry, from pre-school religious education teachers to those working in parish or diocesan offices, to professors teaching at the graduate level.

In conjunction with the anniversary, the diocese also has officially launched Persico’s Twitter account, @BishopPersico. To date, the bishop has used Twitter to salute teachers, encourage students and celebrate parish festivals.

Prior to his appointment as the bishop of Erie, Persico served as vicar general of the Diocese of Greensburg and as pastor of St. James Parish in New Alexandria.