January 20, 2016 // Local

Bishop Rhoades visits Huntington Catholic School

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Huntington for students and staff of Huntington Catholic School to begin his pastoral visit there on Jan. 13.

By Tim Johnson and Kay Cozad

Visit the photo gallery for more photos from the visit.

HUNTINGTON — Huntington Catholic School is a bustling academic community located in two buildings in the heart of Huntington. The primary building on Cherry St. houses grades pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, while students in grades 5-8 are educated in the middle school building on Warren St.

Principal Jason Woolard oversees a dedicated staff of 11 full-time teachers, three part-time teachers, 14 staff members that include secretaries, library and aides, all of whom collaborate to educate a student body of 136 students.

Principal Woolard, a 12-year administrative veteran at the school, believes his small school offers an exceptional environment both academically and religiously. He said, “We have a top-flight student council that plans many activities to improve the climate of the school for the students and provide service opportunities locally and abroad. … The students who have attended our school and graduated from here have been catechized thoroughly and are prepared for their high school religion courses.”

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was shown first-hand the strong catechesis offered at Huntington Catholic when he made a pastoral visit to the school on Wednesday, Jan. 13, his first visit to Huntington Catholic School.

The date is a very special date for Bishop Rhoades. On Jan. 13, 2010, he was installed Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

“I thought where would I like to celebrate my anniversary?” Bishop Rhoades noted in his opening remarks before the Mass at Ss. Peter and Paul Church. He thought, “Well, I’d like to go to Huntington Catholic.” Bishop Rhoades said he was happy to be there and asked for the prayers of all gathered.

Capuchin Franciscan Father Ron Rieder, pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, and the parochical vicar Father Sebastian Twinomugabi, as well as Father Stephen Colchin, pastor of St. Mary Parish concelebrated the Mass marking the feast of St. Hilary, a bishop and Doctor of the Church.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, center, poses with Father Sebastian Twinomugabi, parochial vicar at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, Father Stephen Colchin, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Father Ron Reider, pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul, and Huntington Catholic School’s principal Jason Woolard during his pastoral visit to Huntington Catholic on Jan. 13.

Bishop Rhoades concentrated his homily on the day’s first reading from 1 Samuel. Young Samuel was a minister to the Lord under Eli. Three times the Lord called Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.” After the third time, Eli instructed Samuel to answer, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

“That’s a great prayer,” Bishop Rhoades said. “When we pray, it is important that we listen,” rather than do all the talking.

The bishop said God calls us, like He called Samuel, and spoke of this calling as vocation. “He has a plan for every one of us,” the bishop said.

“When we are open to God’s call, then we find our happiness,” Bishop Rhoades noted.

After Mass, Principal Woolard escorted the bishop first to the primary building where he met with the first-grade students of Rachel Nelson’s classroom and prayed the Angel of God, which he recited again with kindergarten students of Julie Ramp’s class.

Meeting with Amber Nevius’ preschool class, the bishop learned the students were studying about Lazarus.

The fourth-grade students of Lea Howard were quizzed on the Ten Commandments. Tricia Dolby received kudos from the bishop for her topnotch catechetical instruction and he proceeded to discuss the forms of prayer — praise, petition and thanksgiving — with the third-grade students.

In Pam Rorick’s second-grade class, the bishop learned the students already made their first Reconciliation and were preparing for first Communion. After reciting the words of consecration a priest says at Mass, Isaac Scheiber was called to the front of the class as Bishop Rhoades placed the zucchetto on Isaac’s head and said, “Maybe you’ll be a priest — or a bishop?”

The entourage then traveled one block away to the middle school building at St. Mary’s. Bishop Rhoades met Martha Bickel, who has been the school secretary for 36 years.

At Scott Foster’s fifth-grade science class, the students told Bishop Rhoades they were studying the Paschal Mystery. At Michelle Kindle’s seventh-grade classroom the bishop discussed the Baptism of the Lord and how the Trinity is revealed.

Eighth graders in Ingrid Mattes’ class were beginning their Confirmation preparation. Bishop Rhoades offered the first lesson on “matter” — the chrism oil mixed with balm — and on “form” — the words “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Bishop’s last classroom visit, before having lunch with the staff, administrators and parish priests, was at Denise Zahm’s sixth-grade class. The sharp class answered many of the bishop’s questions about Samuel, from the day’s first reading.

Huntington Catholic is a all inclusive school that works with the local school system for direct and consultative services to address any special needs any student might have utilizing instructional aides to provide direct services to those students.

In addition to the exemplary education and faith formation offered, Woolard is clear that the school engages the whole student, along with his or her family. “Being a smaller school, we have made sure that our school has a feel of a family. We are constantly planning activities that include the entire family throughout the year,” he said, adding that strong parent support and volunteer service helps maintain the school’s mission.

Denise Zahm, sixth-grade teacher at the school agrees and said, “Our parents are first and foremost the greatest strength. They are our students’ first teachers and are very supportive of all of the faculty and staff. … We are truly a family; everyone gets involved in all school, church and community related activities.”

Principal Woolard believes his school is focused on the students’ welfare and ensures that he is present in both buildings each and every day. He said, “I really enjoy seeing the growth each student makes over the course of the year and how they have used the guidance that was given to them during our meetings.”

As for the school’s Catholic identity, Woolard oversees events that bring both buildings together for prayer, activities and service projects, especially, he said, in the liturgical seasons of Lent and Advent. Zahm added that Christ is the focal point of the school. “Christ makes it possible for us to all strive to do our best academically, physically, emotionally and spiritually every day.”

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