It was a balmy winter morning in Mishawaka on Wednesday, Feb. 8, when three members of the Marian High School Student Council, Tegan Montague, Addison Schade, and Zach Fewell, eagerly awaited their guest for the day. The hallways were buzzing, and a sense of excitement from both the faculty and students filled the air. Bishop Rhoades would soon be arriving for his yearly pastoral visit.
The day began with an opening word from Principal Mark Kirzeder, warmly welcoming Bishop Rhoades to the school before the celebration of Mass at 9:30 a.m, with the full student body filling the gymnasium. Mass was concelebrated by Father Daniel Niezer, Chaplain for Marian High School and Pastor of St. Dominic Catholic Church in Bremen, and Father Jason Freiburger, Pastor of St. Monica Catholic Church in Mishawaka. In his opening remarks, Bishop Rhoades said to the students, “Our focus for this Mass will be the great gift of the Most Holy Eucharist.” He continued, “I brought with me today two very special relics … a piece of bone from St. Manuel González García and a piece of the heart of Blessed Carlo Acutis. We will ask their intercession for all of you young people, especially the intercession of Blessed Carlo, a teenager who reached the heights of holiness.”
During his homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke on the lives of these holy men who are both renowned for their love of the Holy Eucharist. He shared the story of St. Manuel González García’s first priestly assignment, where he found the church and the tabernacle to be abandoned. “There in front of the tabernacle praying, he felt as if Jesus was gazing back at him and asking him to stay. In the gaze of Jesus, Father González García saw sadness and he heard Jesus say to him what He had said to the apostles after many people left Him … when He gave them the Bread of Life discourse in Capernaum. ‘Do you also want to leave me?’” Father González García knew he could not leave Jesus in this way and devoted his priesthood to the love of the Eucharist and to the most underprivileged of people.
When he became Bishop of Malaga in Spain, he held a banquet, and instead of inviting the dignitaries of the time, he invited the poor children of the city living on the streets. Bishop Rhoades said, “He invited them and he fed more than 3,000 of these children at a feast after his episcopal ordination. As a bishop, first in Malaga and later in Palencia, he served the Lord and His people with zeal and generosity, with special care for the Catholic education of children and youth and for the sick and the poor.” Bishop Rhoades went on to say that the core of St. Manuel González García’s life was always Jesus present in the Most Holy Eucharist. He would become known as “Bishop of the Abandoned Tabernacle,” harkening back to his first assignment.
Bishop Rhoades also spoke on the Life of Blessed Carlo Acutis, a 15-year-old young man whose love of the Eucharist was the driving force of his life. “In many ways, Carlo was an ordinary child and teenager. He hung out with his friends and he joked around with them. He enjoyed technology and became a computer whiz. His most remarkable talent was in computer programming, and he was even able to decipher advanced engineering codes. He was a very bright student and excellent in math. He was upbeat, humorous, and great to be around.” Bishop Rhoades continued, “In many ways, Carlo was an ordinary boy, but there was something different about him as well, something extraordinary. I would say that, besides Saint Therese of Lisieux, I don’t think I know of any other teenager with the level of virtue and holiness that Blessed Carlo Acutis attained. From a very young age, people noticed how kind and charitable he was to everyone and that he had a deep faith in God and love for Jesus.” Bishop Rhoades shared with the students Carlo’s use of his computer skills to create a Eucharistic Miracle database at age 11, which has been used in exhibitions in more than 10,000 churches around the world. He said Carlo also had a profound love of the poor. He said that after his death from an aggressive form of Leukemia, Carlo’s funeral was attended (to the surprise of his parents) by many of the homeless people Carlo had helped in his young life. Bishop shared, “I spoke at length about the life of Blessed Carlo Acutis in this homily because I believe he is a great example and witness for young people. He gives all of us a roadmap to holiness. We can learn from what he called his program of life … always to be united with Jesus.” After Mass, Valedictorian May Weston and Salutatorian Grant McCourt were presented and photographed with Bishop Rhoades and Mr. Kirzeder.
Classroom visits came after Mass, beginning with Mr. duToit’s Ancient Greek/Philosophy class where the students were studying Aristotle. Bishop Rhoades shared with the class that he always enjoyed studying the written works of Plato. Ancient Greek/Philosophy is an Elective offered at Marian, with a mix of students from all four grade levels. Mr. duToit also teaches Latin, leads Latin Club, and leads the fencing team.
The next classroom visit took Bishop Rhoades to Painting 1 through 4. Here the students were working on a variety of art mediums from watercolor to digital media. Part of the class taught by Fine Arts Teacher Mrs. Elaine Desmarais is learning to stretch and create your own canvas. The Fine Arts are especially valued at Marian, where this year alone, students took home more than 200 Scholastic Art Awards.
The final classroom visit for the day was Mrs. Suzanne Martinez’s Spanish 3, where Bishop Rhoades spoke to Mrs. Martinez almost entirely in Spanish, asking the seniors where they would be attending college in the next year.
During lunch, Bishop Rhoades met with members of student council and pastoral ministry. They discussed class retreats, the upcoming spring musical, and traveling. Bishop Rhoades shared stories of his time as a seminarian in Italy and spoke about his favorite countries to visit. The group finished with a lively discussion of Blessed Carlo Acutis and his wonderful life’s example for the young people of today.
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