May 8, 2024 // Bishop

Bishop Tells USF Grads to Remain in the Love of Jesus

Jesus tells His disciples: ‘As the Father loves me, I also love you. Remain in my love.’ As you graduate from the University of Saint Francis, I invite you to hear Jesus saying these words to you: ‘Remain in my love.’” Bishop Rhoades offered these words during his homily at Mass on Saturday, May 4, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne for the graduates of the class of 2024.

The Mass provided the opportunity for graduates to reflect on and express gratitude for the blessings they have received throughout their collegiate journey. Bishop Rhoades emphasized the importance of offering thanks to God for His blessings, highlighting the holy Eucharist as a profound expression of gratitude. He reminded the graduates that there is no better way to honor God than through this act of praise. Bishop Rhoades said, “There is no better way to offer thanks to God than to offer this sacrifice of praise, the Holy Eucharist, ‘by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all His benefits’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1360).”

Central to the Mass was the theme of joy, intertwined with love and obedience to divine commandments. “God’s commandments may appear to some to be just a list of prohibitions and an obstacle to freedom, but the truth is exactly the opposite,” Bishop Rhoades said. “His commandments are directions for our life, essential and valuable rules for finding true joy and freedom.”

Photos by Katie Murray
Bishop Rhoades poses with graduates from the University of Saint Francis following the graduation Mass, which was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne on Saturday, May 4.

Despite life’s challenges, graduates were encouraged to seek inner joy rooted in their friendship with Christ, emphasizing that true joy comes from communion with God rather than external circumstances. “There are obstacles in our life to remaining in Christ’s love, temptations to sin that all of us encounter and we sometimes fall,” Bishop Rhoades said. “The good news is that the Lord in His mercy never abandons us. He always offers us the possibility of coming back to Him, of being reconciled with Him, and thereby experiencing anew the joy of His love. The Sacrament of Reconciliation can be called the sacrament of joy rediscovered!”

Among the graduates, Katie Victoria-Carr shared her journey from Montana to Fort Wayne to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance at the University of Saint Francis. She chose the university not only for its dance program but also for its faith-based environment, seeking to continue her education in a setting aligned with her Catholic values. Post-graduation, she plans to pursue a dance career with the Fort Wayne Ballet Professional Company as a trainee.

USF graduates process into Mass wearing their caps and gowns.

Another graduate, Olivia Godfroy of Huntington, received her Physical Therapist Assistant associate degree, and intends to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science at Saint Francis. For Godfroy, the unique aspect of attending Saint Francis was the friendships she formed. She advised incoming high school seniors to step outside of their comfort zones and build relationships with others.

In his homily, Bishop Rhoades emphasized this point of loving others. “Our Lord then continues His discourse saying, ‘This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.’ When we obey this great commandment, we find joy and freedom. Joy is intimately linked to love.” He went on to say: “Graduates, I encourage you to seek this authentic joy as you go forth from the University of Saint Francis. It is the joy that comes from our friendship with Christ, from remaining in His love and loving one another as He has loved us.”

Bishop Rhoades concluded with a call for graduates to embrace a life centered on love and service, transcending self-interest. He reminded the young men and women that their choices not only shape their own destinies but also contribute to the pursuit of goodness and holiness in the world. He told them that Jesus has chosen them and sends them out in the world to bear the fruits of love, joy, and peace, and that the most important fruit is love.

“Dear friends, especially you who are graduating, it’s only through the grace of God that we can possibly imitate Jesus’ radical ‘being-for-others.’ All we need to do is to remain in His love, to stay intimately and continuously connected to Jesus – through prayer, through meditating on God’s word, and through the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Rhoades said. “If we do, we will grow in our friendship with Jesus and our lives will bear good fruit – first and foremost, the fruit of love, from which flows authentic joy and real peace. And we will grow in holiness. And graduates, do you know what else will happen? Your life won’t be boring. It will be a joyful adventure.”

Nicole Hahn contributed to this article.

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