By Michelle Castleman
FORT WAYNE — The Bishop Luers High School community had much to rejoice about on Jan. 28, as Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades made his annual pastoral visit to the Fort Wayne high school. Not only was it National Catholic Schools Week, but it was also the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron saint of Catholic Schools. Most importantly, the Knights witnessed the beauty of sacraments as 10 students were confirmed, four celebrated their first Communions and a new member was welcomed into the Catholic faith.
Along with concelebrants Father William Sullivan, pastor of St. John the Baptist, New Haven, Father Daniel Durkin, pastor of St. Henry, Fort Wayne, and Father Ben Muhlenkamp, chaplain and parochial vicar of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Fort Wayne, a full gym at the all-school Mass displayed not only their school spirit, but as Bishop Rhoades explained, “the deepest meaning of Luers Spirit” — bringing students closer to their faith.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades focused on the life of the Church’s great “Angelic Doctor,” St. Thomas Aquinas.
The bishop detailed that St. Thomas was a quiet, humble student nicknamed, “the dumb ox” (also because he was rather stout). However, his teacher in Paris and later, Cologne, St. Albert the Great, prophetically exclaimed, “You call Thomas the dumb ox, but in his teaching this ox will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world.”
Bishop Rhoades continued, “And so it happened, the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, considered by many as one of the greatest theologians and philosophers in the history of the Church, have been studied and taught through the centuries.”
The bishop explained his personal connection and appreciation for the works of the man who became a saint — not for his extraordinary intelligence, but because of his holiness and virtue, for they answered many questions of the faith for him during his discerning process early on in his college years.
Bishop Rhoades also referred to the day’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus’ parable of the sower and challenged students to ask themselves: “What kind of ground am I? Am I hearing God’s word and acting on what I hear? Is my life bearing good fruit? Or is my life hard and thorny ground where God’s word is not taking root and bearing good fruit?” the bishop asked.
He continued, “Today we celebrate that the seed of God’s word has fallen on rich soil here at Bishop Luers High School.”
Before the Nicene Creed, Landan Yount came forward, along with his sponsor and was brought into the Catholic Church. The Confirmations followed and then the first Communions.
Those receiving the sacraments were a diverse group of all grades and from different parishes, including Most Precious Blood, St. Paul of the Cross, several from St. Patrick and two from St. Therese.
Along with their normal religion classes, the students met before and after school to prepare.
Yount, a junior, who transferred from Columbia City to Bishop Luers his sophomore year, summarized his decision to become Catholic, “I wanted to grow in knowing God and become a better person.”
Colleen Huberty, her husband and two sons, from southeast Wisconsin were in attendance. Her oldest son, Sam, is a junior on scholarship at the Fort Wayne Ballet and now attending Bishop Luers. With a grateful heart, she explained, “It is such a blessing for our family that Sam could be confirmed at this high school. In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, young people are confirmed when they are juniors and we didn’t want him to miss this important year. It was a big part of our decision to move him here.”
Marsha Jordan, superintendent of Catholic Schools, and Carl Loesch, Secretary for Catholic Education, were also present at the Mass.
At the end of Mass, the Bishop added his thanks in Spanish and continued his tradition of opening the floor to question and answers. Although he preferred answering questions about the faith, the bishop was open to personal questions, which the student body took full advantage of, quizzing their shepherd on everything from his Super Bowl pick and high school sweethearts to what kind of tennis racket he uses and whether or not he buys his own groceries.
They also asked the bishop about more profound matters such as his most memorable Mass, a time when he had to stand up for his faith, when he first heard the call to the Priesthood and his favorite way to pray.
School chaplain, Father Ben Muhlenkamp took a turn and asked the bishop what he most wants to be remembered for, to which Bishop Rhoades responded, “That I was a man faithful to Christ.”
After Mass, more discussion followed as the bishop ate lunch with student council members, then made his annual classroom visits.
Stops included Debra Baum’s Catholic social teaching group and Tyler McAtee’s morality class as students continued to delve into questions about the Catholic faith and current events. Concerns about the dangers that have come from the loss of “objective moral norms” and frustration about the bias in media when the coverage of the March for Life was given little attention were hot topics.
Bishop Rhoades discussed the diocesan lawsuit against the HHS Mandate, which intrudes on religious beliefs and violates religious liberties. The compatibility of faith and reason in the New Evangelization was also on the table. Repeatedly, the bishop urged students, “Never be afraid of any question. Always pursue the truth.”
The visit concluded following a meeting with the theology staff, campus ministry group and Tiffany Albertson, the new principal of Bishop Luers High School.
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