It was a rainy start to the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on Friday, Feb. 11, but Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades received a warm welcome from the staff and students at Marian High School in Mishawaka. “It’s wonderful to be with you on your feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes,” the bishop told them at morning Mass, and stated how he always looked forward to coming to the school. He recalled being there in the fall to dedicate the newly built grotto and said that it’s a good place to go and pray and to “celebrate her love for the Son and her love for us.”
The bishop’s homily focused on the Magnificat proclaimed in Luke’s Gospel. He asked the students, “Did you ever hear your favorite song on the radio and say, ‘that’s my song?’ We just heard in the Gospel Mary’s song, the song she proclaimed at the Visitation. Mary’s song is called the Magnificat because in the first words of her song she says, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord.’”
He told the students that Mary’s song has become the song of the Church and that it’s prayed every evening in Vespers, the evening prayer of the Church. He then encouraged the students to see the Magnificat as their own song, as their school is named after Mary, and she serves as its patroness.
“This song that came from Mary’s lips also came from her heart. It reveals her soul. It is woven from the threads of scripture, the Word of God that she reflected on and pondered in her heart,” he said.
He continued, “Mary’s greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself. She was totally humble.
“We see Mary’s great humility at the Annunciation; she called herself ‘the handmaid of the Lord.’ She placed herself completely at God’s disposal and with great faith said, ‘Let it be done to me according to your word.’ And so God chose her to be His dwelling place in the world. He became flesh in her womb.”
The bishop said that God chose Mary of Nazareth from among all the women in the world because he was attracted by her humility. “Mary recognized this and said in the Magnificat, ‘for He has looked with favor upon His lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed.’ What Mary has prophesied has come true. Two thousand years later we call her the Blessed Virgin Mary and our Blessed Mother.”
“Mary makes Satan so angry because she is the humblest of all creatures and he is the proudest. She’s also the most obedient to God and he’s the disobedient rebel. In our fight against the work of sin and evil in our lives and in the world, one of our strongest weapons is to pray to Mary, the lowly young virgin of Nazareth. The devil runs away from those who are close to her.”
Returning to the Magnificat, Bishop Rhoades explained that Mary shows how when God breaks into history, He turns it upside down, particularly in reversing the fortunes of the poor and the mighty in the next life.
He also referenced the first reading from Isaiah 53:1-5 about the Suffering Servant “who was spurned and condemned, stricken and pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. Of course, this is prophecy about Jesus. Jesus is the Suffering Servant of God who was crushed for our offenses. He was humiliated in His passion and crucifixion. This sounds like a terrible defeat, and it was, but not for God, but for Satan. Because Jesus defeated him with love. He defeated sin by loving us to the end and being obedient to His Father.”
He spoke of how Mary shared in Jesus’ pain and suffering and her heart was pierced, but her Immaculate Heart triumphed, and she was assumed body and soul into heaven. As the Magnificat can teach Catholics much about holy living, Bishop Rhoades invited the students to pray it daily and even gave each of them a gift — a holy card of the Magnificat.
After Mass, Bishop Rhoades visited several theology classes. In Ryan Dainty’s senior class, the boys were reading The Confessions by St. Augustine. Bishop Rhoades told them that St. Augustine was searching for truth and the meaning of life and kept coming up empty.
He advised the young men: “Think of your own journey – we all go through conversions — they may not be as dramatic as Augustine’s. As young men, how are you going to live your manhood? Where are you going to find real happiness and joy and peace? Augustine shows the way.”
“Take that with you as you leave here — keep Augustine in mind — go forth with that counter-cultural perspective.”
In Mary Ann Hinora’s freshman class, the students were learning more about Jesus in the four Gospels. One student asked the bishop what the best and worst parts of his job were. He replied that teaching and celebrating the sacraments — especially the Eucharist — was the best; the challenges are governing the diocese and all the important decisions he has to make. He was also asked his confirmation name and he shared that it was John the Apostle and Evangelist. He pointed out that some stories are only found in John’s Gospel — like the Bread of Life discourse and the wedding feast at Cana.
In Thomas Dlugosz and Joel Beck’s sophomore classes, the students were studying ecclesiology, including the four marks of the Church and the Acts of the Apostles, which he said some call the Gospels of the Apostles.
Bishop Rhoades told students, “The mission that began then continues today with us to spread the gospel by words and deeds. (Through the sacraments) You receive the same gifts as the Apostles did on Pentecost and the same grace to live and defend the faith.”
The bishop shared lunch with student leaders and in the afternoon met with faculty members.
Marian High School has 685 students enrolled and its motto is “Learn, Serve, Lead.” The school offers 35 dual credit classes, and 89% of last year’s graduating class received some college credit. Principal Mark Kirzeder explained that Marian has partnered with several local colleges including Holy Cross, Indiana University South Bend and Ivy Tech Community College to certify teachers and curriculum so they are at the “same standard as those college professors” to enable students to get college credits.
Marian High School also has a program for students with special educational needs, known as the Bernadette Scholars, now in its third year with seven students enrolled.
The program is led by a team headed by Annie Ganser and is an extension of the learning strategies center that creates individualized educational plans for each student. The Bernadette Scholars are mainstreamed for at least one class a day. They also participate in school events and activities, liturgical services, sports and clubs to gain the social and emotional benefits of being an active part of the Marian family. After four years in the program, they will receive a certificate of completion and be included in commencement.
During the bishop’s visit, Kirzeder announced this year’s top students. There were co-salutatorians and co-valedictorians, as the four students had identical grade point averages. The co-salutatorians are Victoria Tellez, daughter of Victor and Carolyn Tellez of St. Jude Parish, and Elizabeth Rhee, daughter of Dr. Thomas Rhee and Jennifer Tam. The co-valedictorians are Rose Kavanaugh, daughter of Dr. Sandra Cho Kavanaugh and Phil Kavanaugh and Grace Weaver, daughter of Dr. Leroy Weaver and Lorrie Weaver, all members of St. Pius X.
“We’re always looking at all areas of our curriculum to ensure we’re offering the best opportunities to prepare students for college and career,” Kirzeder said.
He recently received the results from the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards and Marian students received 239 awards, up from 114 last year. He commented, “To reach 100 awards was amazing. To get over 200 is astounding.”
Marian also has a strong athletic department with several sectional and regional wins in different sports this year. The girls soccer team was state runner up, football was regional champs and one female golfer and one cross country athlete went to state. “Those are pretty impressive accomplishments across a range of sports,” Kirzeder said.
Marian continues to encourage community service with its Knight Service Day in October. The Knight Service Day began in 2014 as part of Marian’s 50th anniversary. Students are asked to reflect on their service and integrate it into lessons. Kirzeder explained that they’ve had to be flexible with the service aspect, allowing students to perform service within their families.
He pointed out that the goal is to push students “outside their family, school and church community into the larger community so they can find an area of interest, develop a larger project and make connections. Our goal is we will meet the requirements without sacrificing our Catholic identity and high academic rigor. That’s what differentiates us from public schools.”
Living the mission
“Marian has been able to hire staff whose Catholic identity is the witness they convey to students,” Kirzeder remarked. “The number one way we evangelize to our students is the way we interact with them, through the examples we show in the classroom, the athletic fields or courts or the lunchroom. We show the love of Christ through our interactions.”
Students pray together three times a day: a reading in the morning, the Angelus and meal blessing at lunchtime and at the end of the day, they say a prayer tied to the theme of the month.
The new grotto was dedicated this fall and a few events have been hosted there, including a football Mass one Friday. “I’m looking forward to spring and better weather where the kids can be outside and really use the space. I’m excited to see how the space will evolve and become part of our culture,” Kirzeder said.
Another example of living the mission for Marian is that five graduates are in formation to become either a priest or religious and there is a special wall for students to pray for them.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.