Remembering Bishop Emeritus of Cleveland Anthony M. Pilla

November 12, 1932 - September 21, 2021 Bishop Pilla’s Legacy with COAR:

“Come with me on a pilgrimage of hope”

COAR joins in mourning the death and celebrating the life of Bishop Emeritus of Cleveland, Anthony Pilla.  (More details from news outlets click here.)  He was named the 9th bishop of Cleveland by Pope John Paul II on November 18, 1980, and he was installed on January 6, 1981.  However, he often talked of his “first duty as bishop” as being at Cleveland’s airport at midnight, December 6th, to receive the body of Sr. Dorothy Kazel, OSU, murdered in El Salvador on December 2, 1980.  (Click here for more on Sr. Dorothy.)

Bishop Pilla visited El Salvador in January 1981 including a visit to COAR.  He was a strong supporter of COAR these past 40 years.  In gratitude we honored him at our Annual Benefit in 2017.  Shown below are a selection of his remarks along with pictures from his past visits to COAR and a touching tribute by one of the war orphans who met him in 1981, thanking him for the security that the Bishop’s visit gave to all of the children at that terrible time.

Bishop Pilla's Remarks at the Annual Benefit 2017

Watch Bishop’s Pilla’s full speech here (10 minutes)

I was standing there with Ken, all those kids around me and I saw just a little girl, she must have been about kindergarten or younger. She was just sitting over there under a tree all by herself with her fingers in her mouth . . . After that picture was taken I went over to see her. I held her. I tried to comfort her. When I was ready to go and put her down, she wouldn’t go down. She clung to me.

I said, “Sister, she won’t let go.” Sister said, “Bishop, you don’t understand. That little girl . . . is all by herself. . . We don’t have an opportunity to hold them or for very long so when a human being picks her up, that is so comforting to her, that she doesn’t want to lose that feeling of being held.”

My goodness. I know how my nieces and nephews were born. They were smothered with love. They were smothered with love. And those kids didn’t have that. They didn’t have their mother to run to.

And that’s why what we are doing. . . you’re doing, to the best of your ability, by making COAR available, is to give them that human touch. It’s not words.

You are the mothers of COAR. You are the fathers of COAR. There’s no substitute for you. Thank God we’ve had that opportunity. What I’ve learned in ministry, is that whatever you do for somebody else, you bless yourself. . . You’re blessed. 

Jose, [see his remarks, below], I want you to bring this back to El Salvador: we may have done things for you. But I want to tell you, that we have been blessed by our association with El Salvador. We have received more than we have ever given. . . Maybe I had a part to play. But I could have done none of that without you good people. It would have been just words. . . And I want to thank all of you.

Jose's remarks thanking Bishop Pilla for his protection in 1981

I’ve been thinking, how many different evenings like this and meetings have there been over the past nearly 40 years? I’m here tonight to speak on behalf of every single one of the COAR beneficiaries, those whom you have helped at COAR over these years. More than anything else, I am here to thank Bishop Pilla for giving of himself, for having the strength and fortitude during those horrible dark and violent days, to support COAR.

Back in those days we were happy to just to be alive another day. Every day was a victory. When there was a new day of life, of peace, that was a victory. And especially to have a visitor from the United States to come see us, that was something very special.

We have also lost so many wonderful people who walked with us like Monseñor Romero and many priests. Back in those days, in the time of conflict, just surviving was the goal every day. So you can’t imagine how much energy it gave us, how much optimism, how much hope it gave us knowing that there were people here and around the world that were thinking of us and supporting us. . .

And so, I want to take this time to thank Bishop Pilla, not just for his support here in Cleveland, but for being present with us in El Salvador over the years. I want to take this opportunity to thank him for this dedication. . . Faith is universal whether you are among the rich or the poor, no matter where you live. Faith creates solidarity and brings us all together. Thank you..