Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades fielded a number of questions from students and taught a few Spanish lessons to young students when he made his first pastoral visit of the 2022-23 school year to St. Charles Borromeo School in Fort Wayne on Friday, Aug. 26.
In the morning, Bishop Rhoades celebrated Mass for the entire student body, which ranged from preschool to eighth grade. During the homily, he spoke about the cross, asking students for examples of where they make the sign of the cross in their lives.
The Power of the Cross
“I’d like to talk about the cross because, in our first reading today from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he wrote about the cross of Jesus. And he said, ‘We proclaim Christ crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. But the cross is the power and wisdom of God.’”
“Think about how many times during the day you make the sign of the cross. I was trying to count it up – I make the sign of the cross quite often – maybe you can give me some examples of when you make the sign of the cross.”
Various students responded to his question and told of how they make the sign of the cross several times throughout Mass, as well as before meals and when they receive the sacrament of Reconciliation.
“We use the sign of the cross when we pray,” the bishop continued, “at the beginning and the end of our prayers. That’s very important. We also make the sign of the cross not only when we pray, but also before we engage in an important activity.”
Visiting the Classrooms
After Mass, Bishop Rhoades visited the students in their classrooms. Administrators at the school, as well as Fathers Tom Shoemaker and Daniel Koehl, Pastor and Parochial Vicar, respectively, escorted Bishop Rhoades around the building, pointing out the original church structure and several additions made to the school through the years.
Rob Sordelet, Principal at St. Charles Borromeo School, said that the students were especially excited to welcome Bishop Rhoades to their school. “I saw a lot of them trying to turn around to get a glimpse of him coming in,” Sordelet said, “and they’re ready. They want him to come into the class.”
Assistant Principal Sister Genevieve Raupp, OSF, noted that this is the first time that many of the students had ever seen a bishop and that, outside of the sacrament of Confirmation and occasional Masses at the cathedral, the pastoral visit may be the only experience that students of their age have to interact with and see a bishop.
As they toured the old church building, Sordelet pointed out several newer classrooms that have been built to educate students with special needs, part of the growing special education program at St. Charles Borromeo.
In some classrooms, Bishop Rhoades opened the floor to questions from the students. Many asked him about the clothing that bishops wear, including the round cap, which Bishop Rhoades explained is called a zucchetto. He also explained that his clothing has 33 buttons: one for each year that Jesus lived, and that bishops will always wear a pectoral cross around their necks. He visited a few Spanish classes and taught the students some Catholic terminology in that language, practicing simple conversations with them. After the bishop watched the fourth- grade students complete a relay race in gym class, many of them rushed to him to give him a high-five.
Discussions about the Catholic faith, however, took greater precedence than talk of sports or languages. In an eighth-grade classroom, Bishop Rhoades asked students who were preparing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation which saints they had chosen for their Confirmation names. Bishop Rhoades then related stories about several of the saints that the students had chosen, and mentioned that he was at the canonization of St. Maximillian Kolbe in St. Peter’s Square in Rome in 1982.
He asked a sixth-grade classroom about the annunciation, and what Mary responded when the angel told her that she would bear the Son of God. “You know what we call that? We call that Mary’s ‘fiat.’”
Bishop Rhoades explained that the term “fiat” comes from Latin and means, “Let it be done,” noting that while the phrase in English takes four words to convey, it can be summarized by just a single word in Latin.
In every classroom, the students stood to greet Bishop Rhoades as he entered. He asked the second-grade students about the two sacraments that they would receive during the school year. Some of the students explained to the bishop that the sacrament of Reconciliation will clean their souls, and that later in the year they would receive their first Holy Communion.
The school itself has been educating children in the Catholic faith for more than 60 years. In addition to faith-building activities, St. Charles Borromeo School offers sports and fine arts programs for continued development in all areas of a child’s life. For much of its history, the school was staffed by Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, of which Sister Genevieve is the last of her order remaining at the school.
At a population of roughly 750 students in preschool to eighth grade, St. Charles is one of the larger schools in the diocese, with multiple classrooms for nearly every grade level. The preschool program is a recent addition to the school, having been established within the past few years. On that exciting day, even the youngest students attended Mass in the newly renovated, full church to welcome Bishop Rhoades with their enthusiasm and joy.
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