By Diane Freeby
SOUTH BEND — The Catholic All Schools Mass, a celebration always near and dear to Bishop John M. D’Arcy, deceased bishop emeritus, brought children from the South Bend area together at Notre Dame’s Joyce Center Feb. 5. Along with their teachers and 18 concelebrating priests, they joined Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in prayer, remembering the man who served as bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for nearly 25 years.
“That sadness is also mixed with joy,” said Bishop Rhoades, “because we know Bishop D’Arcy was such a good and holy bishop. So we also have that joyful hope that the Lord Jesus welcomes him into the Communion of Saints in heaven.”
Bishop Rhoades welcomed the area grade schools along with students from Saint Joseph and Marian high schools who served as altar servers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. Three schools from the Kalamazoo diocese were also on hand.
The All Schools Mass is traditionally a time to celebrate religious vocations. In his homily, Bishop Rhoades explained that the word “vocation” is from the Latin “vocare,” which means “calling.”
“A vocation is a calling from God,” said Bishop Rhoades. “God has a loving plan for every one of us and it’s up to us to try to figure out what that plan is.”
That is done in prayer, and by listening. A common vocation is being called by God to be His disciple.
“Following Jesus Christ is the most important thing we do,” said Bishop Rhoades, going on to explain another level of vocation called “state in life.” Many are called to the vocation of marriage.
“It’s not too early to think about if God might be calling you to be a husband or a wife, a father or a mother,” smiled Bishop Rhoades. “It’s a very holy vocation and we need good, strong, holy marriages, because the family is the Church of the home, the domestic Church.”
Another state in life is God’s call to men for the priesthood. Bishop Rhoades turned and pointed to his brother priests on the altar.
“You see, our priests up here answered the call to give their whole lives in service to God and the Church as priests of Jesus Christ,” he continued. “And what a beautiful vocation that is, to continue the ministry of Jesus on earth, to preach the Gospel, to celebrate the sacraments and to lead and shepherd God’s people like Jesus did.”
Bishop Rhoades encouraged the boys and young men to pray and ask God if He is asking them to share in the mission of His Son as priests of the Church, pointing out the two deacons now preparing for ordination to the priesthood after years of discernment and formation.
Eric Murillo, a seventh grader at St. Adalbert School in South Bend, said he is open to that calling.
“I think Jesus has kind of shown me some signs,” said Murillo. “I’m not sure but maybe He wants me to be a priest. Then the teacher asked me if I wanted to be an altar server and maybe that was not just a coincidence.”
Bishop Rhoades said others may be called to be consecrated religious brothers or sisters.
“That’s another beautiful vocation,” said Bishop Rhoades. “Men and women called to follow Jesus in a very close way, in poverty, chastity and obedience. Making those vows and giving their lives totally to imitating Jesus who was poor, chaste and obedient.”
The Mass readings reflected two different answers to God’s call, with Samuel in the Old Testament and the rich young man described in the Gospel. Samuel didn’t know his vocation but heard God’s call while he was sleeping. He opened his mind and his heart and said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” In the other vocation story, the young man chose worldly riches and didn’t say ‘yes’ to God’s call.
“Jesus had a special vocation for this young man … Jesus wanted him to follow Him completely, but the young man was too attached to his material things,” explained Bishop Rhoades. “If he had followed Jesus he would have been happy and joyful the rest of his life. He thought he would only be happy and fulfilled if he kept all his possessions. He made money more important than his faith.”
Bishop Rhoades told the children he hoped their response will be like Samuel and not like the rich young man because it is in doing what God calls each to do that great joy, peace and happiness is found.
Brielle Wilkins, a sixth grader at Holy Cross School in South Bend, summed it up: “Everyone has a job to do. If you pray, you can find that job!”
“We should always ask God for help,” added her classmate, Elizabeth Mellor, “and God will help us. God is calling us to do something and we need to go do it!”
Prayers were offered throughout the Mass for Bishop D’Arcy, a man remembered well by the older children for his encouragement of vocations.
“It was really touching,” said St. Adalbert seventh-grader Jesus Ortiz. “I felt really sad about Bishop D’Arcy passing away, but it was nice we were able to pray for him at Mass.”
“I always remember the vocation prayer he would teach us,” added Saint Joseph High School senior Therese Taylor. “I would go home and pray it, asking the Lord to teach me my vocation in life.”
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