March 28, 2023 // Bishop

Bishop Encourages St. Therese Students to ‘Go to Joseph’ on His Feast Day

On a day honoring the patron saint of the Catholic Church, Bishop Rhoades spent his morning showing Catholic youth “the love of God the Father” that was so beautifully modeled by St. Joseph himself.

Photos by Eric Peat
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades speaks to the students at St. Therese School during his pastoral visit.

St. Therese Church and School in Fort Wayne welcomed His Excellency for a pastoral visit on Monday, March 20, as he celebrated the Feast of St. Joseph with a Mass and tour of the school. Traditionally observed on March 19, the solemnity was transferred to the following day this year since it fell on a Lenten Sunday. As he greeted the students, teachers, and parishioners in attendance to begin Mass, Bishop Rhoades expressed his excitement in both his presence at the parish and the feast day marking his visit.

“I am so happy to be here this morning, here at St. Therese parish and school, to celebrate Holy Mass on a great feast day of the Church — the feast of St. Joseph,” said Bishop Rhoades. “And I thought, ‘Where should I go to celebrate Mass on St. Joseph’s Day?’ And I asked Father Matthew [Coonan] if it would be okay for me to come here, and not only to celebrate Mass, but to visit the classrooms after Mass. I’m really looking forward to that; it’s a special day for me as well.”

In his homily, Bishop highlighted the special nature of the day by relaying the four dreams of St. Joseph that are detailed in the Gospels. The first dream, in which St. Joseph is informed by an angel that Mary’s child was conceived through the Holy Spirit, was featured in the Gospel reading that day. God continued revealing Himself to St. Joseph through three later dreams, in which St. Joseph is instructed to take his family and flee from King Herod to Egypt, then to return with Mary and Jesus to his homeland, and finally to avoid Herod’s son in Bethlehem and settle instead in Nazareth. Joseph’s submissive response to these dreams, Bishop said, illustrates his faith and obedience to God’s will.

“Now, how do we learn God’s will?” Bishop asked the students. “Not usually through dreams, but through prayer. God speaks to us, to our hearts, when we pray and say, ‘Lord, help me to know what your will is. Help me to make good decisions. Help me to be a good disciple of Jesus, your son.’”

Bishop then expanded on the role of St. Joseph, not only in the Church but in the lives of its faithful, including his own as Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

“That’s why the Catholic Church honors St. Joseph so much — because he is a great example to us of what a father is to be, what a husband is to be,” said Bishop Rhoades. “We consider Joseph to be the protector, the guardian, of not only the Holy Family, but of the family of the Church. I often pray to St. Joseph to protect me and to guard me and our diocese and our Church, to watch over us and pray for us. If you’re ever having a hard time, we can go to Joseph and say, ‘St. Joseph, pray for me, protect me.’ And he does.”

Bishop Rhoades visits with parishioners at St. Therese following Mass on Monday, March 20.

Following Mass, Bishop spent time conversing with parishioners before walking over to the school gymnasium, where the entire student body was assembled to commemorate the feast day with donuts and a St. Joseph-themed craft project. Bishop sat at a table of junior high students and visited with them until Father Coonan led him into the school building. While Principal Rick Ruhl called the school Mass “beautiful” and referred to Bishop’s homily as “engaging and very relatable” for the students, he admitted that his favorite part of the visit was Bishop’s tour of the school, in which he spent time in each of the classrooms.

“It was amazing. He affirmed each of my teachers and thanked them for teaching at St. Therese School,” said Ruhl. “And he was so very comfortable with all our students and encouraged them to ask him questions as well. Our students were impressed with how approachable Bishop Rhoades was and with his humanity, even though he holds a very important position in our Church.”

Bishop Rhoades visits with students from Mrs. Kathy Ehinger’s 2nd and 3rd Grade class during his visit to St. Therese School.

Bishop’s first stop was Mrs. Kathy Ehinger’s 2nd and 3rd Grade class. He shared stories with the students and asked what they were learning about Jesus. The students took turns naming different miracles that Jesus performed, while Bishop added his comments about each of them. He then prayed a Hail Mary with the class and gave his blessing before heading to the next classroom, Mrs. Tracy Miller’s Kindergarten and 1st Grade class. Bishop helped the children name the Holy Family and identify St. Joseph as Jesus’ earthly father. He also quizzed them on what happened on Easter, to which the students excitedly shouted the answer.

“Did you know that Jesus rose from the dead?” Bishop echoed to their response. “And Jesus never dies again; He always lives. And that’s what he promised us — that after He died, if we believe in Him and love Him, He will bring us back to life to live with Him forever.”

A student gets to wear bishop’s zucchetto, the small silk skullcap, in Mrs. Tracy Miller’s Kindergarten and 1st Grade class.

Before leaving the classroom, Bishop gave one of the students his zucchetto, or Bishop’s cap, to try on. The class thanked Bishop for his visit by singing the “Holy, Holy, Holy” prayer from Mass in unison, and a very impressed Bishop gave them a round of applause.

“It was a fantastic day,” remarked Ruhl later that week. “It meant so much to our students and staff for Bishop Rhoades to celebrate Mass with us and then spend his entire morning in our school building. It made quite a lasting impression on the students, and many of them could be overheard still talking about it several days later.”

And, if the words of Bishop Rhoades continue to resonate in the hearts and minds of the students of St. Therese, they will never hesitate to ask for St. Joseph’s intercession. St. Joseph, pray for us!

‘Forming Christian Disciples Every Day’ is Focus of
St. Therese School

While a bishop’s appearance in a Catholic school can make quite an impression on its students, the reverse can also be true: the students, teachers, and culture of a Catholic school can leave a mark on a visiting Bishop.

Such a reciprocal effect was on display during the pastoral visit of Bishop Rhoades to St. Therese School on March 20 in celebration of the Solemnity of St. Joseph. When asked what he hopes Bishop Rhoades learned about his school during the visit, principal Rick Ruhl summated that “we are forming Christian disciples every day.”

This Christ-centered focus — which is captured in the school mission “To love, To learn, To serve” — is indeed at the nucleus of the campus on Lower Huntington Road in Fort Wayne. Students and teachers alike have been able to live out the school’s distinctly Catholic identify this year by honing in on the Corporal Works of Mercy. Ruhl said the faculty identifies one project per month for students and teachers to participate in, such as a canned food drive for the church’s St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry or a day of service to assist with the spring cleaning of the parish grounds.

Furthermore, faith is at the forefront of the school in the form of a daily Rosary in each class. Students and teachers have the opportunity to offer special prayer intentions, which are then transformed into spiritual bouquets and displayed in the hallways. Father Matthew Coonan, Pastor of St. Therese, also lends his time to teach the junior high students religion once a week, which Ruhl called “a huge commitment on his part and a tremendous blessing.”

For Father Coonan, the blessing is mutual, as he witnesses the fruits of these labors on a regular basis.

“I really enjoy just simply having Mass with our students,” Father Coonan said of the all-school Masses, which are routinely celebrated on Wednesday and Friday mornings. “They are reverent at Mass, very prayerful, and I just think it’s beautiful how the teachers have helped to form them in that area. I have enjoyed also teaching the junior high theology and responding to their questions, and I learn from them as well as we have our discussions back and forth.”

In addition to its Catholic identity, St. Therese also provides advantageous offerings in the areas of technology and personalized attention, Ruhl said.

“The integration of laptop computers has been a big plus,” said Ruhl. “In essence, we are totally a 1:1 school — every student has a school-issued laptop that they use throughout the day. It gives them greater access to technology, to support, and to what they are doing in the classroom.”

St. Therese School currently has 104 students and a total of 13 teachers, including nine homeroom teachers, three special teachers, and one resource teacher. According to Ruhl, this breakdown helps foster an individualized approach to education. “Our small class size is another benefit,” explained Ruhl. “Our student-to-teacher ratio is 12:1, which allows for more personal attention from the teachers.”

At the end of the day, Ruhl’s favorite part of St. Therese School is simple: the children. “They fill me with so much joy each and every day,” said Ruhl. “I love going to work every day, and it’s because of them.”

“I just enjoy the relationships that these students share amongst themselves,” Father Coonan added concerning what makes St. Therese School a special place. “I’ve heard them say things like this is a second family to them, and that always really touches my heart to know that many of our students feel like this is a second home, which is really beautiful in a school where you’re able to connect amongst the different grade levels.”

Address: 2222 Lower Huntington Rd
Fort Wayne, IN 46819
Students: 104
Teachers: 13 (9 homeroom)
How to enroll: Visit
or contact the office at 260-747-2343.

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