Nicole Hahn
Director of Secretariat for Communications
March 5, 2024 // Bishop

Bishop Rhoades Visits Huntington Catholic School

Nicole Hahn
Director of Secretariat for Communications

On Thursday, February 22, Bishop Rhoades made a pastoral visit to Huntington Catholic School, where he engaged with students and teachers in their classrooms and celebrated Mass for the children, staff, and community.

More photos from the visit.

It was fitting that the homily during Mass focused on St. Peter, as his visit came on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, and Mass was held in the church of SS. Peter and Paul, one of the two churches in Huntington that support Huntington Catholic. “So, today, we ask St. Peter to pray for us, especially for us at Huntington Catholic, because we worship here in the house of SS. Peter and Paul, and the house of St. Mary just a street away.”

Photos by Nicole Hahn
Bishop Rhoades speaks about St. Peter to Huntington Catholic students during his homily at Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Huntington on Thursday, February 22.

Bishop Rhoades explained that Peter’s original name was Simon, but Jesus changed it. The bishop then asked the students if they knew why Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter and what the name Peter means. One student proudly answered, “rock.” Bishop Rhoades said: “Yes, rock. That’s what Peter means. Jesus made him the rock of the Church.” He went on to explain to the students that, though Jesus is the original rock of the Church, He was going to be crucified, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven, but He still needed someone on earth to continue His mission, and that was the job He gave to Simon Peter. The job was to be the rock of the Church, the leader of the Church, to continue Jesus’ mission of teaching, and to be the Shepherd. “Jesus gave him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. In other words, He gave him the authority to teach and lead the Church.” Bishop Rhoades explained that February 22 is the day to celebrate the Chair, which he said was “a symbol, because someone who sat in the chair to teach had the authority to teach.”

Bishop Rhoades receives an artwork rendering of the Last Supper from everyone at Huntington Catholic School following Mass on Thursday, February 22. The piece was created by Denise Zahm, a teacher at the school.

At the end of Mass, Huntington Catholic Principal Derek Boone thanked Bishop Rhoades for visiting the school and having Mass with the students. The bishop was then presented with a gift of a rendering of the Last Supper that was created by Denise Zahm, a teacher at the school.

After Mass, Bishop Rhoades was on a mission, as he made it a point to go to every classroom from preschool through fifth grade at Huntington Catholic, which is supported by the churches of SS. Peter and Paul and St. Mary. His first stop was the kindergarten class, and the children were more than delighted to see him. They could not wait to answer his questions. Julie Ramp has been the teacher of the kindergarten class for more than 15 years. As she’s building these children to be future saints, she is guiding them in the Bible every step of the way. One young man had questions and answers that forced Bishop Rhoades to ask if he should be a future priest. He told the bishop that he would either be a priest or an astronaut. Bishop Rhoades told him that he should lean toward the priesthood and come talk to him later. That brought smiles to the faces of everyone in the room. Along with Bishop Rhoades, the group that went to each class included David Maugel, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Principal Derek Boone, Assistant Principal Brandy Aschliman, Father Tony Steinacker, Pastor at SS. Peter and Paul Church, and Father Thomas Zehr, Pastor at St. Mary Church.

Bishop Rhoades talks to preschoolers about their fun pajama day during his pastoral visit to Huntington Catholic School on Thursday, February 22.

Bishop Rhoades then went to the preschool class. They happened to be in their pajamas that day. When the bishop asked why they were in their pajamas, they all clamored that it was pajama day, and they asked him why he wasn’t in his pajamas. He said that if he would have known that it was pajama day, he might have changed his clothes. He asked them what they were learning in religion class, and they told him that they were learning prayers and knew how to pray. They then prayed the Glory Be with Bishop Rhoades to end their time with him.

First grade was a lively session with Bishop Rhoades, as the children were full of energy and thrilled to be with him. The kids were surrounding him and talking over one another, and they couldn’t get close enough to him. It was so exciting that Bishop Rhoades told everyone that this was why he could never be a schoolteacher, because these children were wonderful but a little hard to calm down. They were squirming and clapping and could barely be contained to listen to the lesson that Bishop gave to them. They did eventually calm down enough to listen to him, and he held their attention. When he left, Bishop Rhoades said he was probably more impacted by them than any other class.

“It is always a joy to see Bishop Rhoades have facetime with our students,” Father Zehr said. “We could clearly see the excitement and joy on both of their faces as they interact. We had a hard time getting the bishop to leave whichever classroom he was visiting because he was enjoying himself so much with each group!”

The visit to second grade was much quieter. The children were so attentive to Bishop Rhoades and answered every single question. He asked why it was a completely different atmosphere than the lower grades. They explained to him that the big thing for them is that this was a time to focus on learning. The students were excited to share that they had already done their first reconciliation in preparation for their first Communion. Bishop Rhoades told them how excited he was for them to be doing their first Communion during this year of focus on the Eucharist with the National Eucharistic Revival.

Bishop Rhoades speaks to third graders at Huntington Catholic School about what they are learning in religion during his pastoral visit.

Bishop Rhoades went on to visit the third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade classrooms, where he asked the students what they were learning in their religion studies. The students in each classroom were thrilled to share what they knew and what they were learning. Bishop Rhoades was able to add to what they were learning by giving a small lesson of his own based on the particular subject. It was in the fifth grade classroom where the bishop was able to use the aid of a computer and screen to show pictures of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Chair to which he had referred earlier in his homily at Mass. The students loved getting to see firsthand what the bishop had been speaking about.

Bishop Rhoades speaks to a fifth grade student at Huntington Catholic School during his pastoral visit.

“Bishop Rhoades’ visit was an opportunity for him to see all of those he has impacted through the generosity showed to Huntington Catholic with new textbooks and funding through OSV for important IT upgrades,” Boone said. “His joy was present in our beautiful church during the morning and continued to shine while visiting with our students and staff members. Today was a truly special day that will be a long-time cherished memory!”

Following his classroom visits, Bishop Rhoades went to the cafeteria to enjoy lunch and time with the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. The students all gathered around and listened intently to what the bishop shared.

Bishop Rhoades enjoys lunch with the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders during his pastoral visit to Huntington Catholic School.

During his visit, Bishop Rhoades not only made time to speak with the students but also the teachers to thank them for what they do, and then to take photos with each class.

“We are blessed to have a bishop who is so engaging with our young people who are ever so inquisitive,” Father Steinacker said. “Bishop Rhoades is a true teacher at heart. It was inspiring to watch him interact with the students in each of the classrooms he visited and then visit with our eighth graders whom he will confirm in just two months here at SS. Peter and Paul. It is always a joy to be in the bishop’s presence. With so many responsibilities in the diocese, it is extra generous of him to make the time to visit each school in the diocese every so many years.”

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