Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass with students at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne Wednesday, March 3 and Thursday, March 4, in a pastoral visit that spanned two days.
Due to social distancing and capacity restrictions in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, alternating halves of the student body attended each Mass. During his visit he commended the staff, faculty and students for their perseverance through the global pandemic.
The bishop shared an excerpt with the students of a homily given by Pope St. John Paul II about Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, which St. Luke recounted in Thursday’s Gospel reading.
“You may think to yourself: ‘Well, I am in high school – I really don’t have much money — later when I have a career, I’ll make money and then I’ll give money to charity.’ No, the Lord is calling you now to be generous, even if you don’t have much money to give.
“I am happy that here at Bishop Dwenger High School, you are seeking to live the message of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus through your service of the poor, your support of Catholic Relief Services and all you do to actively help the needy,” he told them. “This is an essential part of the Gospel of Jesus and the life of His Church. And, at the end of our life, we will be judged accordingly.”
During both visits, in his homily the bishop highlighted the example of St. Katharine Drexel. Her feast day is March 3.
“Today is the feast of St. Katharine Drexel,” he said Wednesday. “She’s one of the richest people to ever be canonized a saint. She is the second American-born saint, canonized in the year 2000.
“Katharine was deeply touched by the poverty she saw, especially in the southern and western U.S. and in cities – the poverty of Native Americans and African Americans. So, when she got her inheritance, she financially supported missions that were serving Native and African Americans. She was concerned for their material and their spiritual well-being.”
Bishop Rhoades told the students that St. Katharine Drexel met with Pope Leo XIII in 1887. She told him about the money she was sending to support the Indian missions, and that that Native American populations needed missionaries to bring Christ to them.
“Pope Leo was quite moved by this request, but then he said something to her that changed her life. He said, ‘Why not, my child, yourself become a missionary?’
“Katharine had thought about entering religious life, perhaps as a contemplative nun, but she never thought about being a missionary,” the bishop said. “To make a long story short, Katharine not only became a religious sister, she founded a new religious congregation, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. She became “Mother” Katharine Drexel.” He noted that she founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament “to share the Gospel and the life of the Eucharist among Native and African Americans.”
“She fought all forms of racism and bigotry through education and social services. Mother Katharine felt a compassionate urgency to help change racial attitudes in the United States. Since she recognized the inequality of education for Native Americans and African Americans at that time, she founded and staffed schools for both throughout the United States.”
Before concluding, the bishop pointed out that St. Katharine Drexel could have lived a very comfortable life of luxury and wealth, but instead chose to take the vow of poverty.
“She chose the oppressed over the ‘well-to-do’ in society. She chose Jesus Christ over comfort. Whatever our personal circumstances, that’s what we’re called to do as disciples of Jesus — to choose Christ over comfort, to be detached from money and riches, to avoid greed in all its forms and to notice and assist the Lazaruses at our door.”
After Mass Bishop Rhoades told the students he would send them an image of St. Katharine Drexel for the school to display, noting that in a high school where the student body’s nickname is “the Saints,” displaying images canonized saints everywhere — including in the hallways — would be fitting.
The school’s Queen of All Saints Chapel has eight stained-glass windows of saints, the mural over the altar features the patron saints of feeder school and the back of the chapel has the patron saint for each grade level at the high school.
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