June 9, 2010 // Local

Bishop Rhoades visits Center for the Homeless

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades chats with residents Danny Forrest and John Peepers before a Memorial Day gathering at South Bend’s Center for the Homeless.

By Diane Freeby

SOUTH BEND — Service to God and country was celebrated this past Memorial Day, as the feast of the Visitation also fell on May 31.
In South Bend, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades spent part of his day with some of the area’s neediest people, and those who serve them, at South Bend’s Center for the Homeless. Arriving in time for the center’s Monday evening meeting, he met with folks from a variety of backgrounds. Some shared their stories and everyone listened as Bishop Rhoades talked about some of his experiences as a priest and bishop.

“I wanted to be here tonight because I think this is an extremely important mission of the Church,” said Bishop Rhoades. “Not only financially, which we do support, but also spiritually, through our prayers and our outreach. I’m just so proud of people who are here to provide service, to help people who, for whatever reason, might be down and out. We’ve all had times like that in our lives, where we experience some troubles and challenges. Sometimes we need someone who’s going to be there for us … providing us a place or whatever kind of support we need.”

Joslyn Lewis and her baby daughter, residents of Center for the Homeless, enjoyed meeting Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades last month. “It was inspiring,” she said of bishop’s talk on faith, hope and love. “I felt like he was speaking from his heart.”

Bishop Rhoades had the attention of everyone in the room, which included people from many different religious backgrounds, or no religious background at all. He talked about the three greatest virtues, beginning with faith.

“Number two is hope,” continued Bishop Rhoades. “Even if things are really tough, there can always be a brighter day because the Lord is on our side. He’s always there to pick us up. … I’ve experienced that in my own life.

“And of course the greatest of the virtues, the third one, is love. God created us in His image, and if we’re ever going to be fulfilled in our lives it’s through love that we’re fulfilled,” he added. “That’s our vocation. I’m a bishop, and that’s my vocation. But whatever we’re called to do, we’re called to be self-giving. … I think everyone knows it’s through love that we find meaning in our lives. It’s the way God made us.”

The group, which included several veterans, responded with a lengthy applause. Sapphire Marks, who hopes to return to her military career in the National Guard, called the bishop’s talk “inspiring.” Bishop Rhoades said he would keep everyone there in his prayers.

“Will you pray for me?” piped up a woman in the front row, who said her name was Leslie.

“I have a prayer book, Leslie,” Bishop Rhoades assured her, “and I write the names of people I say I’m going to pray for so I don’t forget!” 
“My last name’s Brown. Leslie Brown. Put my name in there!”

“Leslie Brown. I will remember!” replied the bishop. “My first name’s Kevin, by the way, Bishop Kevin Rhoades.”

Joslyn Lewis, a resident at the center for three months, held her nine-month-old baby on her lap and asked Bishop Rhoades about the large cross worn around his neck. He explained that he wears a pectoral cross and a ring to help identify him as a bishop. 

Steve Camilleri  is the director at Center for the Homeless. A parishioner at St. Joseph Parish in South Bend, Camilleri said he was thrilled when Bishop Rhoades responded just a few days after he sent a letter inviting him to visit.

“What we’re doing here takes a whole community,” said Camilleri, who also has experience with the Alliance for Catholic Education and Notre Dame Vocation Initiative. “I know how involved the community churches are in our mission. As the shepherd of our Catholic community, it’s so important that he met the folks who live here.”
Camilleri said he appreciated how well Bishop Rhoades interacted with the residents, making everyone feel welcome as he also took advantage of several “teachable moments.”

“We, as an organization, are not religiously affiliated,” explained Camilleri, referring to Center for the Homeless and its mission, “but there’s a real sense of spirituality and he tapped into that 100 percent. When he talked about faith, hope and love and that sense of continue to be encouraged because there is great hope for you, and to tell us that he’s going to pray for us … by name! That was sincere and it really came from the heart and it was easy to see.”

One woman recalled her experience as a cab driver, giving then-Bishop John M. D’Arcy a ride from the airport, and the peace she felt just talking with a Catholic priest. She thanked Bishop Rhoades for taking time on a holiday to come visit the people at the center.

“It was a real blessing!” exclaimed Tina-Louise Fennessee, who has been a resident since March. “People think just because we’re homeless, we’re no one. You can be homeless and still be spiritual. You can be homeless and believe in God.”

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