Bishop speaks to the challenges of young adulthood
“Be open to God’s call in your life.” The crux of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades’ message to Marian High School students framed the entire day of his annual visit to the Mishawaka school, which took place Feb. 9, as he discussed with fervor and candor the importance of discovery and discernment in young people’s lives. Among his favorite aspects of serving as bishop of the diocese, he told the students during Mass, is mingling with adolescents and young adults. In this way he unravels what is important to them, as well as what they are dealing with in the outside world.
“I see three particular challenges in our culture, which I call the ‘dark side’ of young adulthood: consumerism, intoxication and sex before marriage,” he said. These specific social pressures often sway young people away from the beauty of Jesus’ mandate that we work for food that satisfies eternally, which was a reference to the Eucharistic discourse in St. John’s Gospel for the Mass. “Embrace the countercultural values you learn here,” he added. “People are hungry for truth, freedom, justice, peace, meaning and purpose. The bread of God satisfies all the hungers of the heart. None of the pressures from the world will grant you the happiness you seek.”
The date of Bishop’s pastoral visit to the school fell on the feast day of Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel, foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. The close connection between the sisters and Marian High School led Bishop Rhoades to invite the Franciscan friars and sisters to join in celebrating Mass together with the students and staff. The faithful who were present heard about the mission and ministry of Blessed Maria Theresia, which tied in with Bishop’s message of discovery and discernment.
“Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel is a perfect example of faith,” he said. Even though she was a woman who grew up in a wealthy family, with countless opportunities for what she could do with her life, she discerned as a child that she wished live like St. Francis of Assisi, later founding a religious community of sisters who served the poor, sick and orphans in Germany. In the 1870s, six of the sisters traveled to the U.S and started a hospital in Lafayette. Eventually the sisters were transferred to Mishawaka, where they reside today.
“If it weren’t for the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, there would be no Marian High School,” Bishop expounded. “They donated the land for this school to be built. Just as Mother Maria’s motto was, ‘He leads, I follow,’ so I encourage you to use your time of discovery and discernment to work for the food that endures for eternal life.”
For everyone, discovery includes self-knowledge: understanding one’s natural gifts and talents, as well as supernatural gifts, which are most important of all. Discernment begins with praying about and being open to one’s vocation to the priesthood, religious or consecrated life, or marriage. For many people, both self-knowledge and discernment unfurl slowly beginning in the teen years but continuing throughout adult life. Bishop Rhoades encouraged the students to “pray, ask and be open” to God’s will for their lives every day.
A major part of being open includes education about the plight of those who are suffering throughout the world. Bishop Rhoades recalled and shared about his time spent in the Holy Land in January as part of the Catholic Relief Services board of directors, specifically in the war-torn areas of Palestine and Gaza. After meeting with leaders of the Palestinian government to understand more about the current political, economic and religious climate, he realized how incredibly divided, tense and oppressed the people of the Middle East truly are. One of the highlights of the trip, however, was helping the Missionaries of Charity take care of the disabled children and elderly in the homes they established near the one Catholic church in Gaza. “Learn about the church’s work in these areas of the world. There are so many people hurting and suffering who need our help,” he concluded.
These closing remarks of the Mass segued into Bishop Rhoades’ classroom visits, mainly to theology classes: Apologetics, for seniors; Christ’s Mission Continues in the Church, for sophomores; and Christology: Who is Jesus Christ? for freshmen. The conversations each began as true encounters between the bishop and the students, who seemed to feel comfortable opening up and laughing about their everyday lives. The youth were vibrant in the presence of the bishop and unpacked conversations about original sin, what the faculties of the bishop include, and even how St. Thomas Aquinas’ theology is relevant today.
Midday, Bishop Rhoades mingled with student members of Campus Ministry and the Student Council over lunch as they shared both a prayer and the meal. Many of the students discussed issues that concerned them and ways they wanted to make a difference in the world, to which the bishop responded, “Speak with respect for the other, and be honest. Be evangelizers, not proselytizers.”
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