June 30, 2010 // Local

Bishop visits Sisters of the Holy Cross

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades greets Sister Joan Marie Steadman after Mass during his visit to the Sisters of the Holy Cross in South Bend.

By Sister Margie Lavonis, CSC

NOTRE DAME — It was a joyful day for the Sisters of the Holy Cross and the worshipping community at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto June 27 at Saint Mary’s when Bishop Kevin Rhoades made his first official visit to their motherhouse.

In his opening remarks the bishop mentioned how happy he was to finally be able to accept the invitation extended by Sister Joan Marie Steadman, president of the congregation, in January, to come and celebrate Mass with the community. He expressed his thanks to all the sisters, especially those who were watching on close circuit television, for their prayers for him and the diocese.

Bishop Rhoades began his homily by saying again just how much he looked forward to celebrating Mass with the sisters. “One of the many blessings of my first several months as bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend has been getting to know the Holy Cross family of sisters, brothers and priests.”

He went on to say that he enjoyed reading the biography of Blessed Basil Moreau, the founder of Holy Cross, and studying the history of the diocese, in which the congregations of Holy Cross played a central role. In fact, he said, “Holy Cross priests, brothers and sisters were here even before the Diocese of Fort Wayne was established, when all of Indiana was part of the Diocese of Vincennes.” He called them pioneers of the Church’s presence and ministry in what is now the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

The bishop also spoke of the great contribution the sisters have made to education in the diocese, “not only at Saint Mary’s Academy, which moved here from Bertrand, Mich., in 1855, and growing to become Saint Mary’s College, but also in Catholic schools in Indiana and beyond.” He told of his appreciation for the sisters, and all those community members who went before them, as women of deep faith and generous service of Christ and the Church.

In anticipation of the celebration of the Fourth of July, Bishop Rhoades centered his homily on freedom and truth as proclaimed by St. Paul in the second reading. He stressed the great need to renew these virtues in our society and not deviate from moral law. The Church teaches that “the more one does that is good, the freer one becomes. There is no freedom except in the service of what is good and just.”

“As Catholics,” said Bishop Rhoades, “we need to witness in the United States to the truth, which is the condition of authentic freedom, the truth that allows freedom to be fulfilled in goodness. And we must be guided by truth in all our choices and decisions.”

After a lively liturgy, which reflected the internationality of the congregation, Bishop Rhoades spent time greeting the people, especially many of the retired sisters who were coming to church for the next Mass. He enjoyed a meal with the community and then went to each floor of Saint Mary’s healthcare section to greet the sisters who were physically unable to attend the liturgy.

Several sisters commented on the pastoral spirit of the bishop and his gift for connecting with others. Many expressed the hope that he would come back soon and pledged their continued support and prayer for the needs of the diocese.

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