April 28, 2010 // Local

Bishop Rhoades makes pastoral visit to Bishop Dwenger

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrates Mass at a pastoral visit to Bishop Dwenger High School on April 19.

By Mary Kinder

FORT WAYNE — It was Monday morning at Bishop Dwenger High School, but not a typical one. In the parking lot, a few students stood in a small huddle, anxiously waiting. Inside, a somewhat loud throng of students made their way through the hallways, happy to be relieved of the routine of classrooms. But, as they rounded the corner to the large gymnasium, the mood shifted. The students became silent and reverent. As they quietly filed into chairs arranged on the gym floor or took their seats on the bleachers, the students looked around, waiting for the guest who made this day special — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.

It was the bishop’s first official visit to the Fort Wayne Catholic high school since being installed as the bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese in January. The students and faculty worked hard to make sure they made a good first impression. Red and yellow tulips adorned the altar. The school’s orchestra and choir stood waiting for their cue. Parents and visitors joined the student body— all in anticipation of celebrating Mass with Bishop Rhoades.

As the music began and Bishop Rhoades entered the gym, everything seamlessly fell into place and Mass began.

In his homily, Bishop Rhoades took the opportunity to tell the students a bit about himself and his background. He then took note of the high school’s nickname — the Saints — and said he liked that the name serves as a constant reminder that we are all called to be saints. He said this call to holiness is one of the reasons Catholic schools exist.
While giving further explanation of the morning’s readings, which focused on St. Stephen, Bishop Rhoades reminded those in attendance that this particular day marked the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s election. He used the anniversary to briefly touch on the current challenges facing the pope.

He said the story of St. Stephen, who was falsely accused of blasphemy by enemies of the Church, reminded him of the recent criticisms of Pope Benedict. Bishop Rhoades attested that, “No one has fought harder against the terrible crime of child abuse than Pope Benedict.” He then questioned the motives of those attacking the pope, saying they may have another agenda against the Church.

Bishop Rhoades spoke of the power of Catholic education, saying the students have received the opportunity to live their faith while in high school. But, he acknowledged that it’s not always easy to be a true Catholic believer in today’s culture and warned students that they may face subtle forms of persecution as they move onto college. He reminded the students that all of us are called to bear witness to Christ and told them they shouldn’t be afraid to speak the truth. He said they shouldn’t worry about popularity but about their ultimate destiny. Bishop Rhoades challenged Dwenger students to “stand up for what is right and holy.” He finished his homily with a prayer for them, “to be good, faithful and holy witnesses of Jesus Christ in this community.”

Following Mass, Bishop Rhoades accepted gifts from the school, including a shirt from the Saints for Life, the school’s pro-life group. Saints for Life has been active in the pro-life movement, with several members recently joining Bishop Rhoades and Bishop-emeritus John M. D’Arcy for the national march in Washington, D.C., in January.
As the students returned to class, Bishop Rhoades was given a tour of the school by Principal Fred Tone. Bishop Rhoades visited several classrooms, including a fourth-year Spanish class taught by Maryellen Wright. The bishop addressed the students in Spanish, a language he learned while working with the Hispanic community in Harrisburg.
In each classroom he visited, the bishop took time to talk with individual students. He was very interested in what they had to say and their plans for the future. In more than one classroom, he asked each student where they were going to college. The students seemed equally at ease around Bishop Rhoades, easily asking questions and sharing plans.

Bishop Rhoades was impressed with the breadth of the syllabus in the honors-level theology class, “Great Catholic Thinkers” taught by Melissa Wheeler. In honor of his visit, the group was reading a speech given by Bishop Rhoades in 2007. He immediately recognized the work, but said he would put himself last of the list of Catholic thinkers the class studied. The students and Bishop Rhoades spent the next several minutes discussing who and what they were studying.

When St. Francis of Assisi was mentioned, Bishop Rhoades told the class about the group of Franciscan friars he brought with him to Indiana. Formed under Bishop Rhoades, the Franciscan Brothers Minor faithfully follow the Rule of 1223, living just as the saint did in the 13th century. The bishop suggested the Franciscans as possible future guest speakers for the class.

After visits to more classrooms, Bishop Rhoades joined a group of students for lunch. Seated at the table with the bishop were members of student government and campus ministers. Again, they all seemed excited to talk to the bishop and completely at ease with him.

When asked what he thought of their school, Bishop Rhoades was quick to answer, “very impressed!”

He smiled and added, “The students are great and seem excited about their Catholic faith. Our mission of Catholic education is being fulfilled.”

For more photos from Bishop Rhoades’ visit to BD visit the photo gallery.

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