It was a joyful day at Bishop Luers High School on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Most Reverend Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades arrived for his annual pastoral visit and began his visit with an All-School Mass. Priests in attendance were Father Paolo Degasperi and Father Patrick Hake (Bishop Luers High School Chaplains), and Father Nathan Maskal. During Mass, five students received the Sacrament of Confirmation, including Julio Ortega, Saul Badillo, Lila Trout, Malinally Granados-Rios, and Infini Hill. Three of these students received their First Holy Communion (Trout, Granados-Rios, and Hill), and one student, (Hill), was received into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Bishop Rhoades spoke about S.t Anthony the Abbot (the saint of the day) during his homily, comparing him to the rich young man in the Gospel Reading. He explained that while the rich young man went away from Jesus sad because he did not want to give up his possessions, St. Anthony did not. He listened and followed Jesus, giving away his riches that he had inherited and living a life of prayer and work in the desert.
Bishop Rhoades then asked for St. Anthony’s intercession for the students to be confirmed, as well as the intercession of their chosen confirmation saints: the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Jude Thaddeus, St. Lawrence, and St. Joan of Arc.
Bishop Rhoades addressed the Confirmandi, saying, “Infini, Malinally, Lila, Saul, and Julio, the rich young man in the Gospel went away sad because he did not follow Jesus. You won’t leave Mass today sad because you have chosen to follow Jesus, to follow Him more closely in His Church. He loves you so much and wants you to find meaning, purpose, and joy in your life through Him.”
Afterward, Assistant Principal Scott Kreiger presented the annual Christ the Teacher award to English Teacher Mayson Whitman. This award goes to a teacher from each school in the diocese that especially models Jesus Christ in the classroom, interactions with others, and in extracurriculars. Nominations for this award are made by students and staff. The votes then go to a committee who presents the award to the person who most represents the values of Christ. Kreiger listed several of the comments about Whitman that students submitted with their nominations, including the following:
“She has given me awesome advice, and she is very understanding.”
“She helps her students in any way she can, and she keeps her cool. She cares about us.”
“She is an extremely Christ-like individual, who puts her faith before teaching in every way.”
Kreiger said, “Other words used to describe her are ‘kind, cool, caring, and loving.’” Whitman has assisted with Bishop Luers High School student retreats and is one of the coaches of the Girls Soccer team. Whitman came up to the front, where she was handed a bouquet of flowers and shook hands with Bishop Rhoades.
Kreiger said, “Every teacher who was eligible for the award received nominations. In my mind, that speaks volumes about the connections that are made every day between our students and teachers. Praise God for that!”
Bishop Rhoades had a question-and-answer session with the whole student body in the gym following Mass. He explained his discernment process before becoming a priest, then expanded on how he was appointed as a bishop, saying, “I was really surprised. I was only 46-years-old.” Bishop Rhoades said that he was “the youngest bishop in the United States” when he was ordained.
When asked about his vocation as a priest, Bishop Rhoades shared his personal testimony. He mentioned how he had studied political science in college and was thinking about going into law. He also mentioned that he had the desire to get married and have a family, so he had to discern. He said, “I was up in the mountains above the college, and I was praying.” He said that he “felt an amazing peace” about the priestly calling he had received.
Bishop Rhoades also discussed his past visit to Nigeria and his close encounter with a potential terrorist ambush, as well as other travels he has had during his life. “I’ve probably been to about 50 countries,” he said.
Other light-hearted questions from students included whether Bishop Rhoades was coming to the Battle of the Bishops basketball game on Friday night against Bishop Dwenger High School, and which school he was going to root for. Bishop Rhoades explained that he doesn’t take sides, and that he has a sweatshirt with a Knight on one side, and a Saint on the other that he can wear to games.
Bishop Rhoades then had lunch with the Student Council, made a promotional video with a film student, met with members of the Theology Department, and visited theology classrooms throughout the day. He gave the students additional opportunities to ask questions. Some questions included what his average day looked like, what his responsibilities are as a bishop, and why he has a “scarf belt”, referring to the sash around his waist. Bishop Rhoades explained his attire, including the Pectoral Cross that he wears, which he said was given to him by the late Pope Benedict XVI.
The last classroom Bishop Rhoades visited was a senior theology class, and he offered suggestions such as setting time aside to pray and read the scriptures.
Bishop Rhoades had good things to say about Bishop Luers High School. “You always make me feel very much at home. You’re a great community of faith. You have that Luers Spirit. I hope you’ll always have it.”
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