February 23, 2011 // Local

Bishop encourages students to spread the Good News

For more photos from the All School Mass click here.
Bishop Rhoades celebrates
all-schools Mass at Notre Dame

NOTRE DAME — In an arena better known for thrilling basketball finishes, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades made a slam-dunk with the thousands of South Bend area Catholic school children and teachers gathered for Mass Feb. 17 at the University of Notre Dame Joyce Center.

Representing schools from northern Indiana and southern Michigan, 23 priests joyfully processed toward the altar. Students carried banners and gifts as the children’s choir led the singing of “All Creatures of Our God and King.”

As he began his homily, Bishop Rhoades said how proud he was of all the area Catholic schools and expressed his hope to personally visit each one over the next few years. He gave special thanks to the students, teachers, principals and staff members of Mishawaka St. Bavo, St. Joseph and St. Monica.

“These three great schools that have been in existence for many decades are going to come together next year as one new Catholic school,” said Bishop Rhoades, referring to the new Mishawaka Catholic School. “It’s not easy to move from being your own parish school to coming together as one new Catholic school in Mishawaka. But I want all of you to know that you have our support and our prayers and we know, and we believe, that Mishawaka Catholic is going to be a shining example and a great new school.”

Light of Learning Award winner Marti Merrick, who has taught at St. Bavo for 15 years, was happy to hear from Bishop Rhoades.

“We’re so proud of St. Bavo’s,” she beamed, “and it was so nice of the bishop to recognize that we were three schools. But we’re so excited about being one consolidated school.”

Bishop Rhoades drew on personal experience as he delved into the first reading and what happened after the great flood. As a 14-year-old boy, Bishop Rhoades said he witnessed firsthand the devastation of a flood when Hurricane Agnes brought storms to his Pennsylvania town of Lebanon.

“We had a big river in Harrisburg, where I used to be bishop, called the Susquehanna River … bigger than the St. Joseph River,” Bishop Rhoades said. “With all this rain, the river flooded and where I was living we had creeks. The creeks also flooded. The water was terrible … destroyed thousands of people’s homes.”

He shared images of his school gym being destroyed, people evacuating their homes and boats sailing down the city streets to rescue people. Others drowned in the raging waters.
“Now, when I read about Noah and the flood, I always think back about the flood of 1972, back home in Pennsylvania,” explained Bishop Rhoades. “When we read in the book of Genesis about the great flood, which was actually much worse than the flood I experienced during Hurricane Agnes, this flood covered the earth.”

Bishop talked about the covenant God made with Noah after the flood, and the covenants He made with others throughout history. While God always held up his end of the bargain, Bishop explained how the people continued to sin.

“So God made a new covenant,” continued Bishop Rhoades, “and it would be the most perfect covenant, the definitive covenant, and the eternal covenant. There wouldn’t need to be any more covenants. There would be a perfect ‘c’ covenant. Can anyone tell me about that new covenant … the perfect covenant that God established?”

A student near the front row correctly answered, “Jesus Christ!”

Bishop smiled and nodded, then explained how the Catholic Church was created, making us the people of the new covenant. Bishop Rhoades went on to connect the story of Noah and the flood with the sacrament of Baptism. He pointed out that the same waters that can cause such destruction can also be a sign of new life.

“That’s why it’s so important to stay in the boat,” explained Bishop Rhoades. “You jump out of the boat, you’re in danger. It’s the same with the Church. We need to stay within the Church where we receive so many blessings that God gives us. We receive the seven sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. We receive the Word of God in its fullness … all the truth Jesus wanted to communicate to humanity he does through the Church. The Bible, the Scripture, the Tradition … it’s such a great gift to belong to the Catholic Church, to belong to the people of the new covenant.”

Bishop Rhoades encouraged the young people to spread that good news, and to invite other people to come into the boat.

“It’s my job as bishop to spread the faith. It’s the job of our priests. It’s the job of all of you, including all of you who are children and young people, to live your faith and to spread the faith by being a good example to others and inviting people to believe in Jesus and to become His followers like you are.”

Calling the Holy Eucharist “the greatest sacrament,” Bishop Rhoades reminded everyone exactly why it’s so important to go to Mass every Sunday.

“We receive the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, the Bread of Life, so we are strengthened to live our faith so we can be faithful to our part of the covenant of God. The Eucharist strengthens us to love one another as Christ has loved us.”

Jacob Bishop, a fourth grader at St. Matthew, said he loved how Bishop Rhoades personalized the story of the great flood by sharing his own experiences. He also supported the bishop’s request after Mass that everyone prays to know their vocation.

“Everybody should listen to him!” exclaimed Jacob. “Everybody has a certain vocation, and they’ll find it out when they’re old enough if they just keep on praying.”

Father Bill Sullivan, who is pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle in Elkhart, said he loved the way the students participated in Mass.

“It was absolutely beautiful!” he smiled. “I love it when the children raise their voices to praise God! I enjoy seeing the reality of all the parents who made the sacrifices to send their kids here. It shows a great love for their children!”

Our Lady of Hungary fourth grader Gabriel Byrd was impressed by the sheer numbers. “We get to see a lot of schools, and we get to see a lot of priests from different schools and it was really exciting!”
“It was cool!” reiterated Nolan Szymanski, a third grader from St. Joseph in South Bend. “But it was a little more quiet than when I was here for a basketball game!”

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