November 3, 2015 // Local

Catholic students attending Bethel College encouraged to show solidarity, mutual respect during visit from Bishop Rhoades

Kevin Haggenjos
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades met with Catholic students and staff from Bethel College on Oct. 30. The bishop offered encouraging words on the challenge of living the faith in a non-Catholic environment.

By Irene Copenhaver

SOUTH BEND — On his first visit to Bethel College, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades met with a group of Catholic students on Oct. 30. He offered them advice and encouraging words on the challenge of living their faith in a non-Catholic environment.

“We want to make sure that we at least had a Catholic presence and ministry to our Catholic students,” said the bishop. He recently appointed Ashley Scarbrough to coordinate activities for the students in the South Bend area. The campus group meets twice a week for prayer and social time.

“There are negative stereotypes and prejudices within other denominations (on campus) that don’t understand Catholicism,” said Rachel Kidman, junior from Dowogiac, Michigan. She said in a student body of almost 2,000, only about 90 identify themselves as Catholic. Of those only a few are active on campus.

“Christians have to be in solidarity,” Bishop Rhoades said. “We work in a spirit of mutual respect. There will be theological disagreements but we are brothers and sisters in baptism … even though we are of different traditions.”

The bishop said that the Catholic Church is in dialogue with many varying denominations. The goal is not to win the other side over but to be in positive ecumenical dialogue. “Building relationship is the key in ecumenism,” he said. “Prayer and working together is ecumenism on the ground. It is the theological (differences) that are more challenging. It’s not easy but it is worth the effort.”

To develop a deeper relationship in Christ, the bishop advised prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament. “A personal encounter (with Jesus) is everything,” he said. Bishop Rhoades added that praying the 20 mysteries of the rosary alone or with a group should be a priority for the students.

“Being Catholic can be counter-cultural. We are living in a world of ‘isms’: relativism, secularism, individualism,” said the bishop. “The pope tells us to go out to live the Gospel to the poor … and those who are suffering. That is really the life of Jesus.”

Rick Becker, a professor of nursing and a Catholic, said that Bethel College is one of only a few members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCL) that will hire Catholic faculty. He added, “By doing this, Bethel is trying to live out this ecumenism.” The CCCL is an international higher education association of evangelical institutions.

The bishop encouraged the students: “Keep the faith. Build unity. Stay closer to Christ.”

A.J. Reynolds, Bethel student body president and a Catholic, said of the bishop’s visit, “One of my great challenges … was to try and engage these conversations so it’s a big victory to have him here. I hope this leads to future dialogue.”

“I’m encouraged to be a young person of the faith,” said Reynolds.

Kidman echoed his sentiments, “I found it encouraging that he wanted us to work toward unity and that he is working on that with our area colleges.”

Zack Spaulding and Teresa Berger, both seniors at Indiana University South Bend, were in attendance and extended an invitation to the bishop to celebrate a Mass on their campus.

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