February 8, 2012 // Local

Bishop Rhoades visits Bishop Dwenger High School

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Bishop Dwenger students and Campus Minister Barbara Ruden, right, give Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades a walking tour of the school, highlighted by visits to the band room, where diocesan Pueri Cantores singers were practicing; the new weight room, where the bishop tried the heavy ropes exercise; and the classroom of Spanish instructor Julio Garcia.

FORT WAYNE — “It’s great to be back at Bishop Dwenger High School … it’s perfect,” said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades as he began Holy Mass during his recent visit during Catholic Schools Week.

The school gymnasium was filled nearly to capacity by staff, guests and the student body of more than 1,000 as the bishop entered and processed to the altar accompanied by school chaplains Father Tony Steinacker and Father Jason Freiburger and deacons, Jim Tighe and Jim Fitzpatrick.

Dwenger Principal Jason Schiffli acknowledged that the students feel a great sense of pride in their school when the bishop visits.

“They just come alive,” he said, when they have his undivided attention.

Indeed, they listened intently to the bishop’s homily during Mass, which was both a discussion of the Gospel reading and a tutorial on prayer. Mark’s Gospel related the story of Jairus, a synagogue official whose daughter was dying, and the story of a woman afflicted with hemorrhages.

In both cases, Jesus performed miracles by restoring life to the child and good health to the woman. Those miracles were a foreshadowing of events to come and a symbol of Jesus’ death on the cross, which saved us from sin, he said.

The bishop explained to his listeners that he prepared his homily by slowly and prayerfully reading the Gospel, then thinking and meditating on its message. He learned to read Scripture deeply in college, he said, and often while reading would see a “message” from God.

He recommended that students do the same as a form of prayer and to develop a special relationship with Jesus.

He believes that God moves hearts when they are open to His Word.

The Catholic faith is not just rules and regulations, not a philosophy or a discipline. “Our faith is about a person, Jesus Christ. … Make your faith real in your life” by developing a friendship with Him, the bishop advised them.

Following Mass, Bishop Rhoades visited Kelly Fogarty’s junior morality class where students were studying natural law, and Joe Garcia’s Sacred Scripture class where seniors were surveying the Bible.

Students in both classes were eager to get the bishop’s perspective on a recent mandate by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requiring employers who offer health insurance to their employees to cover the cost of contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization. Regrettably, the legislation does not exempt Catholic schools, hospitals or social services.

The Catholic Church will fight the mandate, the bishop assured them, both through the legislature and through the courts.

“We’re really in a battle … but we can’t cooperate with evil,” Bishop Rhoades said.

Civil law must conform to natural law or it is unjust. And this is a direct violation of the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and reveals the pro-abortion, anti-Catholic sentiment of the U.S. government. “We have to fight this government intrusion,” he said.

It is no surprise that Bishop Dwenger students were keenly aware of the issue and wanted updated information on the subject, since the school has built its foundation on four strong pillars: an academic life, a spiritual life, an active life and a life of service. This issue touches closely on all those areas.

Spiritually, students are required to take theology classes each semester. Classes begin with daily prayer. Mass and Reconciliation are offered weekly. Eucharistic Adoration is offered monthly. Students assist with Mass as lectors, sacristans, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and servers, and also participate in other spiritual co-curricular activities.

Eighty percent of students are involved in extracurricular activities such as the 20 Indiana High School Athletic Association sanctioned sports and four club sports, as well as the Academic Super Bowl.

Community service hours are required for all students with a focus on the poor, the indigent and the needy, with 50 sites available for service opportunities. Weekly prayer in front of the local abortion clinic is encouraged. There is an active Social Justice Club, Key Club and Saints for Life Club, with many participating in the local and national March for Life. Saints for Life draws many more volunteers to help with community projects.

Academically, Dwenger students may take basic honors courses, advanced placement (AP) and college/dual credit courses at the University of Saint Francis and Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne.

Recent statistics reveal that 96 percent of graduates are attending college or technical school, with the remaining 4 percent in vocational training, the military or the workforce.

“In order for our students to be successful after high school, we must educate the whole person. …We must provide opportunity for growth in all aspects of life,” states a student pamphlet.

The school’s mission statement reveals it to be founded in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in order to provide a faith-filled community dedicated to academic excellence, growth in the spiritual life, a Christ-centered active life outside of class, and a Christian life of service to the community.

Bishop Rhoades no doubt felt that passion and dedication in the Dwenger student body and is surely pleased at the good work being done there and throughout the diocese. “I love all our high schools,” he declared.

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