Bishop declares Our Lady of Lourdes as Marian patron
MISHAWAKA —Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades made his first pastoral visit of the new year to Marian High School on Thursday, Jan. 9, to celebrate Mass, visit with students and faculty and announce the new patron saint — Our Lady of Lourdes — for the Mishawaka school.
Bishop Rhoades will be visiting all four diocesan Catholic high schools to announce the patron saint at each school. “This is something I have thought about for a long time. I am excited about what this will mean for the students,” Bishop Rhoades said.
Our Lady of Lourdes is a title of the Blessed Mother in honor of the apparitions witnessed by Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant girl from the nearby village of Lourdes. The first apparition appeared to her in the cave of Massabielle while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a family friend on Feb. 11, 1858. Our Lady appeared to Bernadette 18 times during that year. Numerous healings also were credited to the spring water that Bernadette found after Our Lady instructed her to dig in the ground. Bernadette was later canonized as a saint. In 1862, Pope Pius IX authorized Bishop Bertrand-Sévère Laurence to permit the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes.
Before the big announcement, Bishop Rhoades celebrated Mass. His homily focused on St. John and his writings. Bishop Rhoades noted, “A major theme (of St. John) was love, God’s love and our vocation to love. St. John wrote that, ‘God is love.’ This is a profound truth of Christianity. With love, He sent us His Son. This was entirely gratuitous. In today’s reading, he reminds us that, ‘we love God because He first loved us.’ But there is a requirement attached to God’s gift of love, that of sharing it with others.”
Bishop Rhoades also reflected on Catholic schools.
“Catholic schools are meant to be institutions of learning, schools of knowledge,” he said. “But they are also meant to be schools of virtue. And the greatest virtue is charity. Here at Marian, you learn about God’s love for you and also about your vocation to love God and neighbor. And you have many opportunities to live that vocation. Here at Mass, for example, we are showing our love for God through prayer.”
“In your service activities, you show your love for neighbor, especially the poor and suffering,” Bishop Rhoades added. “But there are opportunities every day to live this vocation to love through the way you speak and act with your fellow students, your teachers, your coaches and the school staff. And also living this vocation at home, loving and respecting your parents and brothers and sisters.”
After Mass the bishop joked with the students about their delayed return from the Christmas vacation due to the bad weather. He also expressed his gratitude to Principal Carl Loesch and the entire staff for their “holy mission of Catholic education. May God bless you for your service to our youth.”
Finally Bishop Rhoades made his announcement. “Marian has a patron saint — Our Lady. But you don’t have a title of Our Lady or a feast day devotion to Our Lady,” said Bishop Rhoades. “Our Lady of Lourdes revealed herself to a young woman, Bernadette, who would later become St. Bernadette. The feast day for Our Lady of Lourdes falls on Feb. 11. Every year we will celebrate her feast day and I hope to build a grotto on school grounds,” the bishop told the students and staff.
While Principal Loesch knew the patron Bishop Rhoades had chosen, the rest of the school had no idea the announcement was coming. The students and faculty were very excited about their new patron.
Religious education teacher Erin Pierce commented, “I am thrilled about Our Lady of Lourdes. I am a graduate of Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Florida. I think the students will really embrace this.”
The school will be working on a plan to celebrate the annual event.
“We are excited about this announcement,” said Principal Loesch.
When asked by the bishop if the school could build a grotto, Principal Loesch smiled and said, “We will find a way.”
After Mass, Bishop Rhoades sat in on a freshmen religion class and talked to the students about studying religion in high school versus middle school.
“It’s so great in high school because you can delve into the theology of our religion,” he said. “You have the chance to study the faith and reason of what we believe.”
Bishop Rhoades enjoyed a special lunch with members of the student council, Right to Life and the Young Vincentians.
The students commented on the bishop’s homily and announcement of their new patron, Our Lady of Lourdes.
“I was excited to meet the bishop for the first time,” said freshmen Josh Weist. “I really liked the homily.”
Matthew DiTommaso, freshmen student council president, agreed saying, “I enjoyed the bishop coming to our school. I have heard of the name, Our Lady of Lourdes, before the bishop mentioned her, but I am not familiar with her background information. I think it is great to have a feast day to celebrate as a school. I do think the student council will plan activities for this wonderful feast day.”
Senior Matthew Garatoni was also impressed with Bishop Rhoades’ visit. “He is very insightful and broke up his homily into three parts that made it so easy to understand his message,” Garatoni said. “While I am leaving the school, I am excited about the new grotto and patron saint for Marian. I have younger siblings that will be here soon and will really be able to enjoy it.”
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