By Karen Clifford
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GRANGER — During Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades first visit to St. Pius X School on Aug. 27, five new parish statues were blessed following an all-school Mass attended by students, parents and other parishioners. After Mass and the blessing of the statues, Bishop Rhoades visited the school’s classrooms. There the questions ranged from serious subjects such as first Confession and the meaning of the stigmata, to the innocent inquiry from a third grader who asked if the bishop’s pectoral cross came with his outfit.
As he began his homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke to one of the fourth-grade classes about St. Monica, who is their class’ patron saint. “Happy feast day,” exclaimed Bishop Rhoades. “St. Monica spent years praying for her son who did not believe in God. And she loved her son so much and cried because he didn’t believe in God. So she kept praying and never gave up and eventually he got baptized.”
Bishop Rhoades then explained that her son Augustine, who later became a saint and whose feast day follows St. Monica’s, eventually became a priest and one of the greatest bishops in the history of the Church. Bishop Rhoades emphasized that Augustine’s greatness came from his mother’s faithful prayers.
It is from the spiritual union of all members of the Church, living and dead, that we are united, Bishop Rhoades stressed. “When we speak about the Catholic Church, we usually think about all of us here on earth. We are the Church, but we are not the only part of the Church. The Church is bigger than us. There is the Church in heaven with all of the saints — our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
He continued, “And the Church also includes all the people who have died that are waiting to go into heaven. They are being purified in purgatory. So we all are a part of the Church; the souls in purgatory, the saints in heaven and we who are still here on earth. We are pilgrims, which means we are on the way somewhere. Because our true hope isn’t on earth, our fervent hope is in heaven in the presence of God and all the saints.”
Bishop Rhoades also included the significance of the statues to be blessed during his homily. Three of the five statues make up the Holy Family and include the Good Shepherd, the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph.
“Every morning when you come to school you will see the statue of Jesus the Good Shepherd and it will be a reminder that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep and we are His sheep. Mary is our Blessed Mother so when you pass that statue maybe you will want to say a Hail Mary or ask Mary to help you to follow her son Jesus.”
He added, “St. Joseph is the patron saint of the whole Catholic Church. He is the carpenter and Jesus’ foster father. And Joseph prays for us also.”
Jesus’ extended family is represented in the statue of St. Anne, Jesus’ grandmother. “St. Anne and her husband Joachim are the patron saints of grandparents. I probably would never have become a priest if it wasn’t for my grandmother who had such a deep Catholic faith. Often our faith comes to us from our grandparents to our parents and then to us,” said Bishop Rhoades.
The fifth statue is of a young Giuseppe Sarto, who would later become Pope Pius X, the patron saint of the parish and school. The statue shows Sarto carrying his shoes over his shoulder. Because he came from a poor family, Sarto decided to go barefoot when walking to school so that he wouldn’t wear out his shoes, Bishop Rhoades explained to the congregation.
While visiting the kindergarten class, Bishop Rhoades was asked several questions about his appearance. Kindergartner Matthew Helms asked Bishop Rhoades why he was not wearing glasses in the picture in his classroom. Bishop Rhoades responded by saying he used to wear contact lenses, but not currently.
Sixth graders greeted Bishop Rhoades with “Buenos Dias” as he entered their classroom. Two of the students in the class were from Colombia, South America, and were able to converse with Bishop Rhoades in their native language.
Eighth-grade students were intrigued by the significance of the cross the bishop wears around his neck.
“In 2005 I went to Rome as part of the new bishops and Pope Benedict XVI met with us and gave each of us a cross. It is called a pectoral cross. ‘Pectoral’ is Latin for over the ‘breast.’ If I have a suit on I wear it in my pocket over my heart,” Bishop Rhoades said.
Principal Elaine Holmes noted the impact of Bishop Rhoades’ interaction with the students and parents. “We felt extremely blessed to have Bishop Rhoades visit St. Pius during our opening week. He celebrated our opening all-school Mass on Friday morning, blessed all of our new statues, and visited with every one of our grade levels. He has a great sense of humor and put our children totally at ease. Many of our parents were in attendance at the Mass and the liturgy was beautiful with all of our children’s music liturgy groups participating. ‘To Recognize Christ at the Core’ is in our mission statement and Friday was a full day of living our mission statement. It was a wonderful way to start the school year.”
St. Pius X pastor Msgr. Bill Schooler summed up Bishop Rhoades’ visit as a delightful experience for all involved. “Our students loved the bishop’s visit to our school today. For many of them, it was the first time they have had a close encounter with a bishop, and they were intrigued by him, by his office, and by what he wore. They were not afraid to ask him questions, and he answered them very well. By blessing the new statues, Bishop Rhoades also paid tribute to those generous parishioners who made the project a reality.”
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