CLEVELAND — Taking over a diocese the size of Cleveland is tough, doing it during a pandemic doesn't help to make it any easier.
"I feel like I want to run but I'm running in mud and that's kind of how I feel during the pandemic days," said Bishop Edward Malesic who was installed three months ago as the 12th bishop of Cleveland, a diocese of nearly 700,000 Catholics.
"I want to meet everybody because I think the job of a bishop is to draw people together and gather them and so I really can't do that part of my job right now."
He's been doing as much as he can virtually which he admits has presented another set of challenges.
"I see people with masks on most of the time and then if I see them on zoom without a mask on to me they look completely different so I'm going to have to learn people all over again. I know them now from the nose up," he said.
He's celebrated masses virtually since his installation as well as outdoors.
The pandemic is about being creative he said and that will be the case with Christmas.
"Our pastors and our parish pastoral teams have been doing their best to make the church environment a safe place for everyone but obviously this Christmas we are not going to be able to accommodate crowds that we've accommodated in the past."
"My message to parishioners is to be safe obviously, follow the rules of their parishes and to take advantage of the virtual masses that are parishes have and that I'm going to have at the Cathedral at 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve," he said.
"Obviously these virtual masses are not as good as attending Christmas mass in person and it's going to be a different feel but I think the Lord wants us to pray and be safe and this year we're just going to have to be creative about how we celebrate Christmas."
He has been overwhelmed by the reception he has received in Cleveland and the generosity of its people who have helped both parishes and programs stay financially stable through challenging times.
"I would say that we might be down a little bit this year but not, we're able to survive, our people are really seeing it is their church. People have ownership of their church and they want to make sure that there is a church present when they are able to come back when we return to normal."
His message to all this holiday season is in fact an age-old one proven true over the millennia. In darkness there is light.
"Astronomers go out and look for the darkest places in the world to see the light of the stars shine and God so often comes to us at the darkest moments and that's when we begin to see the light shine," he said.
While Malesic joked in his initial news conference about holding onto his "terrible towel," the Pennsylvania native said he's solidly behind the brown and orange.
"I had a phone call with [Browns Head Coach] Kevin Stefanski and he knew I was calling," Malesic said. "He didn't say hello Bishop or good afternoon Bishop, what he said was 'I hope you're not holding a yellow towel.' I said Kevin I'm not, I say go Browns. I'm in walking distance of the stadium and I'm a Clevelander now, this is my home."