By Lisa Kochanowski
SOUTH BEND — “Every year I look forward to coming here to Saint Joseph High School to celebrate the feast of St. Joseph,” said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades during his recent celebration at the new high school.
The visit began with Mass in the new gymnasium with over 1,000 students, visitors, faculty, staff and parents. Bishop Rhoades started his homily talking about the new chapel and inviting the students to visit the new worship space.
“Joseph is such a great example of faith and faith in God’s word,” said Bishop Rhoades to the crowd. At the end of the Gospel it says that Joseph woke up and did what the angel told him to do and he believed even though he did not understand.
Before heading to the high school, Bishop Rhoades had the chance to watch a portion of the first Mass of Pope Francis.
“What a great day for the pope to begin his ministry on the feast of St. Joseph,” said Bishop Rhoades. He was impressed with the homily and the pope’s love for the people.
“The pope talked about Joseph’s great faith and of his vocation to be the protector and guardian of Mary and Jesus,” said Bishop Rhoades. It is this role that makes him the perfect patron saint of the universal Church and someone to look up to and pray to for protection.
Bishop Rhoades noted the pope’s homily focused on the importance of our vocation as Christians to protect others and the world around us. He cited examples of how the Church has a duty to protect people, parents have the duty to protect their children and when parents get older the children become the protectors.
“We also have to protect ourselves from hatred, envy and pride. Evil intentions come from the heart and we have to protect ourselves from this evil,” said Bishop Rhoades.
At the end of his homily, Bishop Rhoades told the crowd, “My prayer is that this community reigns Christ’s love in the wider community of South Bend.”
“Listening to bishop’s homily was inspiring and connected our school community to the homily given by Pope Francis at his installation earlier in the day in Rome,” said Principal Susan Richter. “Bishop’s homily told the story of St. Joseph, the patron saint of the universal Church and our patron saint. I will always remember the message Bishop Rhoades shared with our school — illustrating how we are one Church, bound together in prayer and worship. Bishop is always masterful at teaching the faith to his flock.”
After Mass the students were invited to participate in a question-and-answer session. Many questions started with a hug, ended with a hug and covered a variety of different topics.
“Who do you think will win in basketball?” asked Tim McNamara. Bishop Rhoades responded Gonzaga and a wager was made between the two men with an agreement that if Bishop Rhoades won McNamara would wash his car, and if McNamara won, Bishop Rhoades would pay for a meal at a good restaurant of choice.
“What is your favorite Bible passage,” inquired Dominic Kucela.
“My favorite Bible passage is the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, Chapter 8. I especially like the end of the passage that says ‘Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,’” said Bishop Rhoades.
The bishop had the chance to spend the afternoon with students talking about their studies, watch them enjoy the new building and get the chance to know the community.
“A memorable moment was later in the day when bishop spoke with seven of our students who had recently lost a parent. Bishop consoled these young people and prayed with them. His prayer was powerful. He promised to continue prayer for the deceased parents and families. He explained that he has a chapel in his home, and that he would take the list given to him by the students and remember them and their families in his intentions and prayers. This simple pastoral act speaks volumes of bishop’s love for the young people in his diocese,” said Richter.
Bishop Rhoades was presented with gifts during his visit, including a book at St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a painting of St. Kateri and a piece of Saint Joseph High School spirit wear with the new school logo.
“My hope is that Bishop Rhoades believes that Saint Joe students are faith-filled young people committed to serving others in need, as well as being academically excellent. I hope bishop enjoyed his day at Saint Joseph High School. He seemed to appreciate and delight in his conversations during his visit to a theology class, with our student leaders during lunch, and later when the students took bishop on a short tour of the new school. Bishop Rhoades was able to witness our mission being fulfilled; our students being educated in heart and mind,” said Richter.
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