Bonnie Elberson
Freelance Writer
September 28, 2011 // Local

Bishop Rhoades celebrates Mass, visits Queen of Angels School

Bonnie Elberson
Freelance Writer

For more photos visit the photo gallery.


For more photos by Joe Romie visit the photo gallery.

FORT WAYNE — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was celebrant for an all-school Mass, then visited classrooms at Queen of Angels School recently, much to the delight of students and staff.

“I’m so happy to be here today,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite things, to be here with my children.”

The bishop took the opportunity during his homily at Mass to enlighten students about the Korean martyrs being remembered that day and noted that his red vestments were a reminder of the blood they shed for their faith. He spoke of the courage it took for people to practice that faith in a country where Christians were persecuted centuries ago.

“Live your Catholic faith inspired by its many martyrs,” he told his listeners.

Courage is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, he reminded them.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for Jesus … we should never take our faith for granted … have the courage to follow God’s commandments, even if it’s not popular,” Bishop Rhoades said.

His teaching moments continued as he toured the school’s classrooms and quizzed the students. One pre-schooler in MaryAnn Waikel’s class was eager to answer the question, “What is a bishop?” The little fellow elicited a chuckle from Queen of Angels pastor Father Gary Sigler when he said, “He makes sure the priest is doing the right thing.”

Kindergarteners in Virginia Simpson’s class told the bishop about the Bible stories they’d been studying, like the tales of Noah’s ark and Jonah in the belly of the whale. When one little girl showed him the cross she was wearing, he compared it to the large cross he wears and said, “It reminds us to talk to Jesus.”

Bishop Rhoades asked each class about the prayers they say each day and all knew the Hail Mary, the “angel prayer” or the Our Father and prayed them with him, then received a blessing.

Students in Kathy Schnurr’s first grade got a lesson on the Holy Trinity and shared the petitions they had prepared for the day’s Mass.

Maryanne Alter’s class was especially excited when Bishop Rhoades said that second grade is one of the most important since they will be receiving two sacraments this year. Both the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist are received by second-graders.

More discussion followed as students showed they knew all the sacraments, much to the bishop’s delight.

Third-grader Aiden asked if Bishop Rhoades travels a lot, to which he replied that he had just returned from Washington, D.C., and sometimes has to travel to Rome to meet with Pope Benedict XVI, who students knew was his boss.

Mary Micolosi’s class was studying the Old Testament and especially liked Abraham, who was known to be strong in his faith.

Eighth-grade students in Mary Jo Parrish’s class were learning the basics of their religion. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit were illustrated by song, the Ten Commandments, by verse. Again, the bishop reminded them that it takes courage to live their faith, especially in today’s culture. He reiterated the message of his homily. It’s all about “bearing witness to our faith. That’s where we really find peace and joy.”

“Who was your favorite saint?” he was asked. “John the Apostle, the beloved disciple,” he said. The Apostle John was the only one who didn’t run from the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified, and he was the one who took care of Mary after Jesus’ death. He called John his “friend in heaven.”

Each classroom that Bishop Rhoades visited was especially decorated in celebration of the occasion. One boasted a “Welcome Bishop” banner and all rooms displayed his picture. One class gave him a card that all the students had signed. They were quite sure that would guarantee the bishop would remember all their names at his next visit, a comment that made him smile.

Queen of Angels Principal Anne Miller is proud of her small school, its staff and its student body. It boasts a very family-oriented environment, she said.

“Everyone knows one another and everyone cares for one another,” Miller added.

With a student population of 244 in pre-school through eighth grade, a buddy system is in place to insure that no one is overlooked and each child receives the attention he needs. Seventh graders help pre-schoolers in the lunchroom every day, eighth graders assist kindergarteners, fourth graders pair up with second-graders, sixth graders with first-graders and fifth graders with third graders.

Another advantage of a small student population, she said, is that everyone becomes “fully immersed” in all school activities, including planning and assisting at Mass. An all-school Mass is celebrated each Friday and all classes except kindergarten attend one other weekday Mass. “Students are so comfortable” with it, said Miller.

Queen of Angels offers several programs that the principal feels are unique. Project Reads is an after-school program in which teachers, students and parents help children hone their reading skills. A computer club is open to seventh and eighth graders and a Rube Goldberg Club draws sixth through eighth graders. Athletic skills are learned in the early grades and competitive sports begin in fifth grade. For some who don’t play sports, band is introduced in that grade as well, and the two upper grades put on an annual spring musical. There indeed seems to be something for everyone.

And more may be in the offing. “My goal is to increase what we’re providing, and not just athletics,” said Miller.

On Saturday, Oct. 1, the school and church will partner to host a hog roast for the parish and community. The event includes a memorial Mass for all deceased parishioners and draws a huge crowd annually. “It’s a wonderful community event,” remarked Miller.

Bishop Rhoades’ day at Queen of Angels culminated in a luncheon shared with the teaching and administrative staff. Upon reflection, Principal Miller felt that the bishop’s visit was a great success and that her small school has much to be proud of. “We’re glad he got to share that with us.”

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