By Corine Erlandson
FORT WAYNE — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades visited St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish to celebrate Mass and bless the new educational wing on Saturday, Aug. 16. The wing was recently constructed for the opening of the new St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, as well as the start of the school year for the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton religious education program.
Bishop Rhoades spoke of generosity as being one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. “I cannot thank you enough for your generosity in the capital campaign here at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish,” Bishop Rhoades said. “I am happy to celebrate this Mass with you today and to bless the beautiful new addition to your education wing.”
Bishop Rhoades complimented the parish on building the new education wing so quickly. “It is a sign of your faith and your commitment to the children of this parish and their formation in the faith,” Bishop Rhoades said.
The bishop spoke of his own devotion to Mother Seton; beginning with the time he started college at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland. “She was canonized the first American-born saint two weeks after I began at the Mount in 1975,” Bishop Rhoades said. “I prayed often at her tomb in the basilica in Emmitsburg, both as a college student and later as rector of the seminary. We can all be inspired by her faith and holiness. She was a great pioneer of the Church in our country.”
Bishop Rhoades quoted Cardinal Terrence Cooke of New York who ordained him a deacon: “In Elizabeth Ann Seton, we have a saint for our times. In Elizabeth Ann Seton, we have a woman of faith for a time of doubt and uncertainty. … A woman of love for a time of coldness and division. … A woman of hope for a time of crisis and discouragement.”
Bishop Rhoades addressed St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners. “Those words are very true. I encourage you to continue to grow as a parish community of faith, hope and love, learning from your patron saint and also asking for her intercession,” he said.
Building the new wing, Bishop Rhoades said, is “to pass on the faith and to form disciples of Jesus Christ. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a valiant woman of God’s Church, Cardinal Cooke said. May we be valiant men and women of God’s Church today!”
Bishop Rhoades touched on an idea that Pope Francis has spoken about — the Church’s mission to evangelize. “The mission of the Church and of a parish is to evangelize. A truly vibrant parish is one that evangelizes and is not turned in on itself,” Bishop Rhoades spoke with passion.
With the building of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton education wing, this allowed St. Joseph School to stand alone as its own Catholic school and to offer a Catholic education to 254 students from the central city area of Fort Wayne. Bishop Rhoades added that Catholic education was not readily available to these 254 students previously.
“That’s why you built the new addition for Catholic education. You are heeding Pope Francis’ call to the Church to not be self-centered or self-referential, but to be missionary disciples. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a great missionary disciple.”
Towards the end of Mass, Bishop Rhoades performed the rite of sending for two new seminarian students from the parish. He gave the two young men, Mark Hellinger and Ben Landrigan, holy medals to wear and blessed them as well.
After the Mass, Bishop Rhoades, Father Jim Shafer, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Father Ben Muhlenkamp, parochial vicar, and Deacon Jim Kitchens processed to the parish gym, where parishioners gathered.
The bishop, priests, deacon and students walked through the entire educational wing, with the bishop blessing with holy water all the classrooms, offices, media center, teacher workrooms, restrooms and youth group room. Bishop Rhoades ended the tour by stopping at the cross that stands in the entrance of the educational wing, and blessed and kissed the cross. During the tour, parishioners in the parish gym were able to follow the blessing with a live video feed as the group went through the building.
“A visit by our bishop is always a special moment for us, and for him, too,” said Father Shafer. “Bishop Rhoades has a special devotion and love for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. The highlight for me was seeing the joy on bishop’s face as he and 50-some children moved from room to room as he blessed our new educational wing.”
The bishop, priests, deacon and students returned to the parish gym, where Father Shafer and Bishop Rhoades gave their final remarks. Father Shafer thanked those who have been instrumental in the building of the new wing. Bishop Rhoades offered a final blessing on the parishioners gathered.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School’s first day was Aug. 13. The religious education program begins Sept. 7. “It has been an awesome first week of school,” said St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School Principal Lois Widner. “The students love their new classrooms, and the younger students are so excited to have the older students with them. The vision has become a reality, due to Bishop Rhoades, Father Jim Shafer and our dedicated staff, parents and students. We have started our new journey, just as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton did those many years ago. We are pioneers in education and building our children’s faith.”
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