Bonnie Elberson
Freelance Writer
November 9, 2011 // Diocese

Bishop Rhoades visits with many saints at St. Vincent de Paul School

Bonnie Elberson
Freelance Writer

Visit the photo gallery for more photos from the visit.

FORT WAYNE — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades visited St. Vincent de Paul School recently on All Saints’ Day and, befitting the holy day, was greeted by fourth-grade students dressed as their favorite saints.

Bishop Rhoades appeared to be delighted at the variety of saints that were portrayed and especially at the large number of bishops represented. “That’s a surprise. … I thought I was going to be the only bishop here today,” he said to laughter from the audience during the all-school Mass that opened the day’s activities.

In recognition of the holy day, Bishop Rhoades spoke of his favorite saint, St. John the Apostle. John was Jesus’ best friend who sat beside him at the Last Supper, stayed at the foot of the cross and took care of Mary after Jesus’ death, he pointed out.

The bishop spoke reverently of his trip to Patmos, an island of southeast Greece, where he read the Book of Revelation in a cave on the exact spot where St. John originally wrote it.

Bishop Rhoades asked the children to love God and live the Beatitudes as the saints they honored did on earth so they, too, may be welcomed in heaven. The saints in heaven, the souls in purgatory and the pilgrim Church on earth are one body in Christ, he reminded them.

Following Mass, Principal Sandra Guffey, Superintendent Dr. Mark Myers, Msgr. John Kuzmich, pastor, and Father Andrew Budzinski, parochial vicar, accompanied the bishop on a tour of the school’s facilities and several classrooms where he met and spoke personally to staff members and students.

Bishop Rhoades visited with second graders who are studying to receive the sacraments of first Reconciliation and first Holy Communion.

“I hope you pray and prepare well,” he said.

Fifth graders were learning about the sacraments, so the bishop spoke to them about the matter and form of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

To sixth graders who were studying the Holy Bible, he talked about the Book of Exodus. “Study Exodus really well,” he told them. “That’s our life on earth … on our way to the promised land.”

When meeting with junior high students preparing for Confirmation, he led a question- and-answer session, then gave a short tutorial on his own duties and responsibilities. His job is to serve, teach, help and guide the 160,000 people of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, he said.

St. Vincent de Paul School is one of the largest schools in the diocese, with 756 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and 45 full-time faculty members. And it has grown proportionally, with two major building projects within the last 10 years. Though located in suburban north Fort Wayne, it draws students from well outside district boundaries.

Principal Guffey cites its Catholic identity as St. Vincent’s most important asset, noting the weekly all-school Mass where students, parents and staff gather to worship as a community and the school’s mission of enabling all students to live their Catholic faith and achieve academic success.

She said, “We focus on the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit through our character development program.” She spoke of “community in Christ responsibilities,” which address bullying, a prevalent problem in today’s schools.

Students practice the virtue of charity in other ways as well, she said. Each year student council members choose an organization to support and the school celebrates We Care Week in the fall with activities and service projects that raise funds, provide educational information and assist those whom the organization serves.

This year’s project supports the families of troops serving in the military. Past projects have included the Women’s Care Center, the Ave Maria House, Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis and local assistance to those with serious medical needs.

On the athletic front, Notre Dame’s Play Like a Champion program was introduced two years ago to coaches, parents and students. It promotes coaching as a ministry and stresses the importance of fair play and sportsmanship in keeping with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Msgr. Kuzmich had determined that the program fit closely with St. Vincent’s vision and mission in meeting students’ spiritual, physical, emotional and mental needs and was pleased to bring it to the school.

Educationally, Principal Guffey notes that St. Vincent’s strives to meet all students’ requirements at each student’s level. That includes a special needs department with two full-time special education teachers, two academic interventionists, a talent development teacher and two resource room para-professionals. It also includes interventions for all students in specific skills like reading and mathematics, and additional challenges for those who excel through enrichment programs and extra-curricular activities and clubs.

Development Director Linda McCarthy is busy scheduling an annual dinner event, which celebrates St. Vincent’s accomplishments. She also works with donors and business partners like Dupont Hospital to help preserve Catholic education for future generations. A major emphasis is on building endowments to provide student scholarships.

Guffey was effusive in her praise of the students’ parents, who are “the backbone for our school” through their extensive support in all areas. Recently a parent committee organized a Forty Days for Life campaign, and they plan and present student retreats, she noted.

It seems clear that St. Vincent de Paul School is truly a community in Christ, a place where students learn and live their Catholic faith on a daily basis. Bishop Rhoades may have said it best. “I always love coming to St. Vincent’s,” he declared.

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