On the morning of Monday, October 16, hundreds of students, teachers, staff, administrators, volunteers, and diocesan officials streamed into the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum Expo Center for the annual All-Schools Mass, which is held annually in the days or weeks leading up to All Saints’ Day.
As is tradition in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, fourth-grade students from Catholic Schools across the Fort Wayne area came to the All-Schools Mass dressed as their favorite holy men and women – the “capital ‘S’” saints Father Mark Gurtner, Vicar General of the diocese, mentioned in his homily at the Mass.
Father Gurtner stressed to the students in attendance that there are two types of saints: those who are living with God in heaven (the capital “S” saints, some of whose names we know, as they have been proclaimed as such by the Church) and all those who are baptized and living in God’s grace (the lowercase “S” saints, who quietly strive to live out the Faith on a daily basis).
In his homily, Father Gurtner said the capital “S” saints – many of whom were represented in the fourth graders’ costumes at the Mass – help the lowercase “S” saints on our earthy journey to heaven. They do this in two ways, Father Gurtner said – first, by praying for us, and second, by inspiring us to live as they did.
Father Gurtner mentioned the example of several saints whose charisms we can emulate – many of whom fourth graders dressed up as for the Mass. St. Mother Teresa, for example, exemplified a love of the poor, Father Gurtner said. St. John the Baptist is a model of following the preaching of God’s word, no matter the personal cost. And on her October 16 feast day, Father Gurtner held up the example of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, through whom Jesus revealed the tremendous love and mercy He has for all of us.
Several parish priests from the area concelebrated the Mass with Father Gurtner, who told the students he was filling in for Bishop Rhoades, who was chosen to serve as a member of the Synod of Bishops in Rome throughout the month of October. Father Gurtner closed his homily by asking the students to think about the saint they had chosen to dress up as. He asked: “What aspect of their lives do you want to imitate so that you can love God and others better?”
Derek Boone, Principal of Huntington Catholic School, said his students always look forward to the All-Schools Mass “as a way to continue strengthening our Catholic Identity.” He continued: “Seeing students from neighboring schools within our diocese is important for Huntington Catholic School since our closest Diocesan School is roughly 20 minutes away. Hearing the stories of our saints is inspiring, educational, and also strengthens our bond with Our Savior,” he said.
Vanessa Diller, Principal of St. Louis Academy in New Haven, said the All-Schools Mass is one of her favorite events of the year.
“It’s a great reminder to those who attend and work in our schools that, although we all operate throughout the year as individual entities within the diocese, we see that we are all one body in Christ’s Church during the All-Schools Mass. It’s a tradition for our fourth graders to learn and represent a saint at this Mass and share what they’ve learned about that saint with others. In our Catholic schools, it is the first step in their personal responsibility to continue to grow in our faith as they ask for the guidance and intervention of the saints who have walked before us.”
Rob Sordelet, Principal of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Fort Wayne, agreed, telling Today’s Catholic that “the energy and excitement of the fourth-grade students dressed in their saint costumes and being able to join with all the other fourth-grade saints from their neighboring schools is very unifying.” Sordelet added: “For many, it is the first time that students can visually understand that they are part of a larger whole – a culture of Catholicism, a diocese. … Add the always beautiful high school choirs and musicians, the celebration of the holy Mass, the sharing of the Eucharist, and seeing all the priests concelebrating upon the stage – ‘hey, there’s our priest!’ It’s a good day to be a Catholic school student!”
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