By Karen Clifford
SOUTH BEND — In the midst of snow and cold temperatures, it was a bouquet that warmed the heart of a special shepherd.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was presented a spiritual bouquet of 1,294 rosaries prayed in his honor by students, families and the parish community at Christ the King School during the bishop’s first official visit on Dec. 15.
Middle school social studies teacher Matthew Kirsch described the outpouring of excitement in preparing this bouquet for the bishop: “The students felt as though this was their gift to give, not just an idea imposed on them. When we prayed these rosaries as a class or school, the spirit of their voices filled the church and really reflected their desire to give a fitting gift.”
Christ the King students Claire and Kathryn Kloska shared their enthusiasm of participating in the spiritual bouquet. “I think praying the rosary for the bishop is important because he is new and it’s a way to welcome him to our school,” said Claire.
Kathryn added, “Our class prayed the rosary at school in addition to my family praying the rosary at home.”
During Bishop Rhoades’ homily at the all-school Mass, he spoke of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, which looks for a King to come and save the Jewish people from captivity in Babylon. He also referred to the Gospel of Luke when John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus and asked “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
Prophets in the Old Testament pointed to six signs or miracles that the Savior would bring to the Jewish people. When Bishop Rhoades asked seventh graders what these signs were, they responded with sight to the blind, the mute speaking and the deaf hearing, the lame walking, the poor being taught about the kingdom of God, the lepers being cleansed and the dead being raised. Jesus told John’s disciples to go back to John and tell him what they had seen and heard to show he was the Messiah.
“The prophesy of Isaiah is fulfilled. The just one from the earth, a Savior, has been born,” Bishop Rhoades remarked joyously.
As Christians prepare for exchanging gifts at Christmas, Bishop Rhoades declared, “The greatest gift is the gift of the Savior!”
Following the Eucharist, a yearlong school tradition of classrooms exchanging an olive chalice continued. Holy Cross Father Neil Wack, pastor of Christ the King Parish, explained that the chalice travels from class to class at the end of every all-school Mass to encourage students to pray for vocations.
“It’s a great reminder for children to pray for their own vocations and it’s also a chance for parents and faculty to renew their own vocation,” he explained.
In addition to the presentation of the spiritual bouquet, an icon of Christ the King and a sculpture of the Blessed Mother were given to Bishop Rhoades by the school and parish at the conclusion of the Mass.
As Bishop Rhoades toured the school, he learned of their Advent project for Corpus Christi — Jalchatra, the school’s sister parish located in a remote village in Bangladesh. On Dec. 8, students from Christ the King School participated in a one-day change drive for Corpus Christi. Each class collected spare change to purchase items according to a cost-chart provided by their sister parish. The class then received ornaments to hang on a tree in the school lobby representing what was purchased.
The entire school raised $1,287 in change; enough to purchase one year’s worth of tuition, books and food for three students, one year’s worth of personal hygiene items for 17 boarding students and one year’s worth of uniforms for 10 students.
“The kids were willing to reach in their pockets and share,” said Father Wack. “There is a whole world out there that needs our help and God’s help. Even with small bits of change, we can make a big difference.”
In the bishop’s visit with third graders, the question was asked why Good Friday is called “Good” Friday. Bishop Rhoades acknowledged it was a excellent question and responded, “Even though such a terrible thing happened and Jesus was made to suffer, it was something that was very good for us. Because of His death on the cross, we are saved.”
Principal Stephen Hoffman described the enthusiasm of the students and staff during the bishop’s visit. “When it was announced that Bishop Rhoades was coming to Christ the King, it was huge for the students. During the bishop’s visit, you could just see and feel the energy and love that the bishop has for the students and that they feel for him.”
Father Wack noted the school places equal importance on faith and education for students. “We try to emulate (the Congregation of Holy Cross) founder Blessed Father Basil Moreau by educating the hearts and minds of our children and to never educate the mind at the expense of the heart.”
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