Retired prelate, still busy at 81, remains a Benedictine at heart
CLEVELAND CHAPLAIN, BISHOP ROGER GRIES, FINDS LEGATUS A ‘SOURCE OF FORMATION’
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Roger Gries may no longer be a member of a Benedictine monastic community, but he still writes “O.S.B.” after his name to let people know he was formed in the Order of St. Benedict.
“I think that’s why Pope Francis likes to recognize his origin as a Jesuit. That’s the way he was formed, and he carries that with him now as pontiff,” said Bishop Gries, 81, who officially retired in 2013 but remains as active as ever.
Bishop Gries has also served as chaplain of Legatus’ Cleveland Chapter since 2002. He spoke with Legatus magazine.
How is the Cleveland Chapter doing?
Our chapter is close-knit. It’s like a family working together to build up all the members to a more active participation in the faith, and a better understanding of it.
What have been your impressions of Legatus in your time as a chaplain?
I love the whole atmosphere of our Legatus community. I’m always so anxious to be there for our monthly meetings. It’s an honor to offer Mass for the members who are having wedding anniversaries or who have suffered the pain of losing someone in their families. Even though I was formed by the Benedictines, I continue to find a wonderful source of formation in working with Legatus.
You were the abbot of a monastery, preparing to retire, when you were appointed bishop. What did you think of that?
It was on the feast of St. Benedict that year that the bishop called me down to this office to tell me that Pope John Paul II had invited me to be an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Cleveland. This was one year before I was supposed to resign after 20 years as abbot of the monastery. I had to give it some thought. The following Monday was the Feast of the Annunciation. At Mass that morning, I’m listening to the Gospel where Mary is asked to be the Mother of God. I figured well, I had to say “yes” to being a bishop.
When did you first remember thinking you were called to the priesthood?
From the time I was in grade school, I always served Mass, and I loved Mass. In high school, I was captain of the football team and dated a girl for a couple of years. After the last dance in senior year, I had to explain to her that I was going to the seminary. It was a tough transition, but I’ve never been sorry I made that choice.
What drew you to the Order of St. Benedict?
I love the community life. I love the Rule of St. Benedict because it’s a way to organize your life. St. Benedict has the whole day broken up into eight hours for prayer, eight for work, and eight for sleep. One thing I miss as bishop is that I don’t have that community life. I miss praying in the monastery, eating with the other monks, and recreating with them. Here, I’m by myself most of the time, but I still organize my life the way it was in the monastery so that I get the time in for prayer and for rest.
At 81, how active are you still?
I’m still working full time. I assist the bishop with confirmations, jubilees, funerals, and other celebrations. I have a role like a chaplain for one of the inner-city elementary schools here in Cleveland. I celebrate Mass with that student body once a month, and I get quite involved with their operation. I just love what I do.