On the memorial of St. Pope John XXIII, Oct. 11, Catholic schools on the South Bend side of the diocese gathered at the Edmund P. Joyce Center at the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the annual All Schools Mass. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated the special Mass, along with numerous pastors of the parish schools who were in attendance.
Even from behind face masks, there was an obvious joy of being able to gather in person for the All-Schools Mass this year, after having to forego the Mass in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Traditionally, the fourth-grade students from each school have a feature role in the All-Schools Mass: They dress in costume, depicting a saint they have chosen to research. Rows of St. Mother Theresas, St. Maxmilian Kolbes, Padre Pios and St. Kateri Tekawithas — and a wide variety of other holy men and women — worshipped God together and listened attentively as Bishop Rhoades preached on the day’s Gospel from John 21. Their faith was palpable during the reverent and prayerful liturgy in the converted sports arena.
“That question that He (Jesus) asked St. Peter, he asks us,” the bishop said. “’Do you love me’? Such an important question! We are to love God above everything.”
“How can you show God your love for Him?” he asked the students.
Suggesting three main ways — through prayer, praising God and adoration — Bishop Rhoades offered the young faithful spiritual advice. He explained how loving God and one’s neighbor go together.
“God’s love is greater than we can ever imagine. Our love is a response to God’s love for us. It is important than we return God’s love.”
He quoted sacred Scripture: “You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” — the same words many of the saints read and lived.
The saints, he taught, were friends of Jesus, disciples following in His footsteps. All people are called to become saints, a universal call to holiness. He encouraged the students to live like the saints, not just look like the saints.
Bishop Rhoades also spoke about St. Pope John XXIII. He was just a year old when the pope was elected, he said. A few of the other priests present also remember and were alive during his pontificate, the bishop noted.
Christa Krakowski, who attended the Mass with her son, Anthony, and his class, said they felt it was “such a blessing to see so many youths from our diocese come together to celebrate the Eucharist and remember the communion of saints, who they can look up to as beautiful witnesses of heroic virtue as they grow.”
“As a parent of young children, I’m grateful my kids have the opportunity to be a part of special events like this with their school.”
After the Mass, Catholic schools superintendent Dr. Joseph Brettnacher shared: “The All-Schools Mass on the South Bend and Fort Wayne sides of the diocese are two of my favorite events. It is beautiful and pleasing to God when we come together as a community to celebrate the holy sacrifice of Mass.
“All the reverent students actively participated in the Mass, and the children’s choir was exceptional. In addition, Bishop Rhoades did an excellent job of speaking to the children through his homily and directly to them. The Catholic Schools Office is grateful to all who make this yearly celebration possible.”
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