The saints flocked to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum Nov. 1, as Catholic schools from around the Fort Wayne area gathered for the annual All-Schools Mass. Around 1,300 fourth grade students dressed as their chosen saints, representing numerous holy men and women at the Mass. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated the liturgy, which was concelebrated by several priests from the schools that were in attendance.
After having canceled last year’s event due to the pandemic, numerous teachers, principals and parents expressed their happiness to be able to have the Mass this year. Dr. Joseph Brettnacher, superintendent of Catholic schools, stated that this is one of his favorite events of the school year.
All of the schools within the city of Fort Wayne attended, as well as those from the surrounding cities and outlying areas and as far away as Warsaw. The Bishop Luers High School choir provided the musical accompaniment, and Bishop Rhoades complimented them on their beautiful singing.
His homily focused on love – love for God and love for each other, which the saints themselves serve as examples of.
“Today we think about what it must be like to see God face to face, to be with God in perfect joy,” he told the students. “It’s beyond anything we can imagine.”
He elaborated on the reading from the book of Revelation, in which St. John described those who are already in heaven.
“They triumphed by the grace of God. That’s a great first reading for us to think about the saints in heaven, and we honor all of them today.” He went on to say all people are called to lead holy lives, even as young people, and encouraged them to strive for the kingdom of heaven.
“God wants us to join Him in heaven. God wants us to be with Him, to live with Him forever. He loves us so much, He created us so that we would live with Him forever. And that’s why He sent us His Son, that’s why He sent us Jesus — to save us and to open the gates of heaven for us.”
He reminded the students that building a strong prayer life was vital to attaining eternal life. Prayer draws one closer to God and into His love.
“And if we want to get to heaven, that’s the No. 1 thing, to love God and to love one another. That’s what the saints did.”
Bishop Rhoades spoke of the examples of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Francis, St. John Paul II and St. Mother Teresa, who exemplified love of God and neighbor in their words and actions.
“The more we love one another, the closer we are to Jesus, who loved us so much that He gave His life for us. The more we love, the holier we become.”
At the end of his homily, Bishop Rhoades stated that: “We don’t just love in our words, but in our actions.” The students present demonstrated this love by bringing forth donations of nonperishable food items at the offertory. The donations were given to the Community Harvest Food Bank in Fort Wayne to help those in need.
St. Jude principal Mike Obergfell expressed his gratitude at attending the Mass with his fourth grade students.
“It was so nice to be able to gather together again for the Coliseum Mass. Last year’s class was the first that has not experienced this Mass since it began. It has become such a tradition, and the fact that the students are so excited about coming out dressed as a saint is something we hope will continue. I think it is a great witness to the community at large when we gather to share and celebrate our faith in such a public way.”
Fourth grader Emily Hogg dressed as St. Joan of Arc. “I really like St. Joan of Arc because she’s really cool, and I’m also dedicated to her because she died for Jesus at just 19. She’s fierce, and I identify with that part of her.”
Emily was blessed to receive holy Communion from the bishop that day and was affected by his emphasis on praying first thing in the morning.
Emily is a student at Most Precious Blood School in Fort Wayne. Her mother, Kathryn Hogg, attended the Mass with her.
“The Mass was wonderful to witness. The best part for me was at the end when as the students were singing ‘We are the Light of the World,’ said Hogg. “It reminded me that there are great things to come in our future.”
Click here for more photos from the Fort Wayne All-Schools Mass Nov. 1.
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