By Christopher Lushis
MISHAWAKA — “Put out into the deep! Do not be afraid to live your faith!” announced Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades to the Marian High School community during their golden anniversary Mass on Sept. 4. This joyous occasion commemorated the completion of the endeavor undertaken by former bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Bishop Leo A. Pursley to construct a second Catholic high school to serve the needs of the South Bend area in 1964.
Present for this special Mass were Benedictine Father Jonathan Fassero, a member of the first graduating class of 1968 from Marian, and Msgr. Michael Heintz, rector of St. Matthew Cathedral and a 1985 graduate. Also in attendance were priests from St. Jude, St. Anthony de Padua, St. Bavo, St. Matthew and St. Thomas Parishes, as well as priests and brothers of the Conventual Franciscans, based in Mishawaka.
“Living our faith is about trusting Jesus when He comes to us, asking us to lower our nets and to not be afraid,” Bishop Rhoades said in his homily. “He invites us to join that adventure of discipleship, filling our nets and satisfying every desire of our heart. We need to let him into our boats, into our lives, by going out of our own little world to experience friendship and solidarity with God and our brothers and sisters. In doing so, we become fishers of men, witnessing to Christ with joy and helping build a civilization of love.”
Witnessing to the truth of the Gospel can take many forms. Bishop Rhoades called to mind the example of those dying for their faith at the hands of Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East, “Those Christians put out into the deep to the point where they were ready to be martyred for Christ. They would not reject Jesus!”
And while not everyone may be called to physically give up their life for the faith, every person is commissioned to overcome the obstacles of the world and walk with Christ as intimately as possible to understand His will for their lives.
The founders of Marian High School shared this vision to lead students to Christ, even though initially they faced challenges and setbacks.
Bishop Rhoades explained, “Bishop Pursley sought to build new Catholic high schools on each end of the diocese. It wasn’t easy to start a new school, but they trusted in Jesus; they got into the boat. They initially raised a lot of money, but not quite enough. The benefactors who truly pushed the project over the top, by donating over 36 acres of land for the construction of the facility were the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration.”
Bishop Rhoades and all in attendance offered their support and gratitude for the heartfelt generosity of the sisters.
Bishop Rhoades continued, “Initially, bad weather delayed the opening until the fall of 1964. But once its construction was completed, Bishop Pursley came to bless the cornerstone of the school on Aug. 9, and then, on this day, Sept. 4, the school opened with its first class with 230 freshmen, some of whom are present with us today.”
“At its origins, Marian was almost completely staffed by Salvatorian priests and brothers, and religious sisters,” Bishop Rhoades noted.
Since then, the school has cast its net to help cultivate the minds and hearts of thousands of students.
“For 50 years, Marian has provided excellent Catholic education to students from throughout Mishawaka, South Bend, Elkhart and beyond,” Bishop Rhaodes said. “You have a proud half century of history here. But there is history yet to be made, and you are part of that! I pray that you also will be fishers of men like first disciples, and the pioneers of Marian, reaching out to others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ — teaching, living and witnessing to the truth, beauty and power of the Catholic faith.”
Bishop Rhoades also prayed for the school community to become further entrusted to Our Lady of Lourdes, the recently declared Marian patron of the school, “so that she who was never afraid to put out into the deep, as the most perfect disciple of her Son, may continue to intercede for you in your holy mission here at Marian High School,” the bishop said.
Before the conclusion of the Mass, school officials presented Bishop Rhoades with a unique painting of St. Mother Theodore Guérin, Indiana’s lone canonized saint, as a gift to the diocese. The portrait was a combined effort by Marian art teacher Kitty Gunty and former student Sara Holderbaum who have consistently strived to use their artistic talents to give back to both Marian High School and the diocesan community.
Those in attendance from the original class were offered a tour through the school to explore new additions, old favorite places, and to meet current faculty and students. The celebration was a warmly received tribute by all in attendance and it called to mind past memories of happiness and hospitality.
John Ferrettie, who graduated with the original class in 1968 and served as a teacher, coach and assistant principal during his tenure, shared the joy of his experiences and thankfulness to have been at Marian. “I have so many memories as a student and staff member here. This has been such a wonderful community,” he said. “I really look back to the people here and relationships I have had with them. Some of the best years of my adult life were spent at Marian.”
Upholding the focus on Christ is a vital aspect to maintaining and cultivating the faith in others, and Marian’s commitment to an authentic Christian environment is evident in the statements of both past and present leadership.
Cyril Devliegher, principal from 1972-82, remarked that he “took over during a period of uncertainty and transition, which was also the state of the Church as a whole after Vatican II. But by having as our primary goals to remain optimistic, to uphold fiscal responsibility and to promote orthodoxy theology, the school began to thrive and eventually grew into the flourishing community we have today.”
Current Principal Mark Kirzeder remarked, “It’s great to have the bishop’s support. It’s a confirmation that he understands and appreciates that Marian High School continues to contribute within diocese. This school is only successful if we remain true to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and I think that we really are trying to do that on a daily basis with our students. We are always trying to live by example, to refocus our energies and all of our programs to constantly reevaluate whether we really are fulfilling our proclaimed mission to spread the Gospel to make Christ known, loved and served. I feel as long as we are doing that, then the Lord will continue to bless us here for the next 50 years.”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.