By Karen Clifford
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SOUTH BEND — As Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades entered the eighth-grade classroom of St. Catherine of Sienna Parish at St. Jude School, he was greeted by students studying science. After a student named Justin showed Bishop Rhoades how to measure the density and mass of an object using a scale, the bishop asked him what his favorite subject was in school. “Science,” Justin replied and then with a pause said “no, religion!” which caused an outburst of laughter from classmates and the bishop. “You are going to be a good politician or a priest,” Bishop Rhoades chuckled.
Sept. 3 was Bishop Rhoades’ first official visit to the school that began with an all-school Mass and Adoration, followed by tours of the classrooms, playground, parish grotto, and computer lab, and finished with a Benediction in the church.
During his homily at Mass, Bishop Rhoades reflected on the theme of service. “‘I am among you as the one who serves.’ Those were important words of Jesus in the Gospel today. Jesus is teaching us about how to be great because the disciples, friends of Jesus, asked Him who will be the greatest in the kingdom of God. And they were thinking like we might think that being great might mean you have a lot of power, or a lot of money, or a lot of skills.”
He continued, “Jesus kind of turned those values upside down. The greatest in the kingdom of God is the one who serve others, the one who gives of himself or herself to help other people and to serve God.”
Bishop Rhoades gave examples of what it means to serve others. “To be a follower of Jesus we all want to be great and to be an imitator of Jesus. As soon as I arrived here at St. Jude’s School this morning, the wonderful altar servers were right there to help me. They said, ‘Bishop can we help you?’ And they carried all my vestments in. The students of St. Jude School have learned they have to serve one another.”
One of the greatest servants in the Church was St. Gregory the Great, whose feast day was Sept. 3, Bishop Rhoades noted. “So what made St. Gregory so great? He wanted to spend his whole life in prayer in a monastery. He had such a great love for the poor and the needy and would go out in the streets of Rome to give food to the hungry. He sent a missionary to England because it wasn’t Christian yet.”
Bishop Rhoades concluded his homily by asking students to incorporate service into their lives at school.
“At St. Jude School part of what you should be learning is to give of yourselves in service to others. Maybe you are a very good student in your class and someone is struggling. You can help them in preparing for a test or an exam.”
Steve Donndelinger, the principal of St. Jude School for the past five years, emphasized that “lifelong learning” is a key component of the school’s mission. “We have elective programs which give students exposure to band, choir, art studio, dance, drama and technology. Each quarter students may choose to participate in one or more of those opportunities.”
The school’s technology was on display in five classrooms through the use of SMART boards, which are interactive white boards that use the power of a computer to write in digital ink and can save the work as well. In the fourth-grade classroom, Bishop Rhoades used the SMART board to write, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” in Spanish for students.
Bishop Rhoades enjoyed the cool fall-like weather by interacting with students on the playground where children greeted him with hugs and questions, such as what his duties are as a bishop. “I teach the people all over the diocese, I celebrate all the sacraments, I ordain new priests, and I guide the Church, so the bishop is like a shepherd. So if I am the shepherd, who are the sheep?” he asked. “We are!” was the emphatic reply from the children.
Additionally, Bishop Rhoades was able to intermingle at recess by throwing a football to some of the students. The theme of football also came up during several of his visits in the classrooms with the impending Notre Dame vs. Purdue football game the next day, Sept. 4. In almost every classroom the vote for the winner of the game went to hometown favorite Notre Dame.
Sixth graders, who are studying the Old Testament in their religion class, asked Bishop Rhoades about the tall hat he wore during Mass. “It is called a miter and it represents ‘the tongues of fire’ at Pentecost. It is the symbol of the office of the bishop,” he explained.
Bishop Rhoades then asked the class if they noticed when he took the miter off during Mass. A student answered that he took it off during prayer. The bishop responded, “Yes, every time I am talking to God. When I address you I put it on. Out of respect for God it comes off.”
Seventh-grade students gathered with the bishop at the parish grotto where he was asked when he got the calling to become a priest. Bishop Rhoades told the students that when he started to think about it he was their age in seventh grade, but it was after his second year of college when he finally decided to attend seminary.
Dr. Mark Myers, the superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who accompanied Bishop Rhoades on his visit to St. Jude School, remarked that the devotion of students, parents and teachers contribute to the success of the Catholic school system. “We have highly dedicated people. Our people are called to do this work, and I’m inspired every day by our teachers and our principals.”
St. Catherine of Siena pastor Father John Delaney expressed his gratitude for the bishop’s visit. “We were very pleased to have Bishop Rhoades with us today. The children and the parish community were looking forward to it knowing that the bishop was in the school with their children. It is so neat for us to see how he relates so well to children.”
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