Students at Bishop Luers High School, Fort Wayne, were challenged to seek truth and a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ during a pastoral visit by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Jan. 15. The seeds of that challenge were sown throughout classroom visits and rooted in the celebration of the Mass, at which the bishop noted, “We need to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, to the graces of our Baptism and Confirmation, so that we have the courage and strength to live our faith.”
During his visit, the bishop was able to interact with all grade levels. He also recorded an interview in the school’s new video productions class for a half-hour documentary about teenage depression and stress. The documentary will air on PBS this spring.
Deb Baum’s morality class had a surprise for Bishop Rhoades: a card in honor of his 10th anniversary as bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. The card had been signed by the entire junior class and featured a student’s drawing of the bishop wearing a Bishop Luers school T-shirt. In addition to the card, the students committed themselves to praying a novena for him beginning on the day of his visit.
Chad Smith brought up another issue of truth in a senior religious dialogue class that was focusing on the challenges students face in living out their faith “when society tells them one thing and the Church tells them another.” Bishop Rhoades responded by telling the students to form their consciences in the truth of Scripture, the teachings of the Church and through prayer.
“Don’t let the culture form your conscience. Seek the truth,” he said. When a student asked how he keeps his faith strong in today’s society, Bishop Rhoades answered, “My relationship with God. I know that I am God’s beloved son, and that gives me peace.”
The concept of truth came to the forefront again in Heather Briggs’ AP biology class, where senior Alex Workman presented his findings from an enrichment project for a unit on genetics. Workman has a genetic condition called celiac disease, which prevents the body from processing wheat products. He became interested in new genetic editing technology known as CRISPR. Research indicates that such science could provide a defense against diseases like celiac, cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Workman spoke about not only the potential benefits, but also the ethical problems with such technology. Bishop Rhoades informed the class about Catholic scientific organizations that discuss ethics in various areas of science, including the Society of Catholic Scientists. He pointed out that the Catholic Church has long been a supporter of science and that faith and science are compatible, though science is not always good if not tempered by the proper application of ethics.
Mass was celebrated toward the end of the school day. During the Mass, Bishop Rhoades conferred the sacrament of confirmation on four people: three students and one teacher. The students who were confirmed were Juan Ramirez, Helen Ramsey and Juan Rodriguez, who also made his first Communion that day.
Emily Didrick, who has been teaching English at Luers since 2017 said, “I wanted to be a witness to those students that have not yet made their confirmation. I wanted our students to see that no matter their age or place in life, the Church is welcoming to all.”
In his homily, the bishop spoke of the courage given to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to go forth and speak the truth of Christ. He said that same spirit is with Christians today.
“Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach us everything. He is the Spirit of Truth. The world needs this truth, needs Christ, who is the Truth. Only Christ can humanize humanity.”
He assured the students and staff that although it can be difficult to live the Catholic faith today, at times, God will remain with them.
“Christ still needs to be made known and loved. That will only happen if believers like you and me are willing to serve the Gospel and to bear that Gospel to our contemporaries. Not just bishops, priests, and sisters, have this mission. You have this mission as baptized and confirmed Catholics and Christians.
“Don’t be afraid to be faithful to the truth of Christ, to respond to hatred with love, and to proclaim the hope of the risen Christ to others,” he encouraged. “The Holy Spirit will help you.”
At the end of Mass, Bishop Rhoades announced that he had a surprise for the students. Until recently, he said, he had not been able to find any artifacts having belonged to Bishop John Henry Luers. But on this visit he brought the slippers, or buskins, used by the first bishop of the diocese. Of even greater interest was the second item Bishop Rhoades brought from a collection on loan from the Congregation of Holy Cross to Diocesan Museum: a decorated mitre. Originally thought to have been used by Bishop Joseph Dwenger, Bishop Rhoades related that when he opened it, he found instead the signature of Bishop Luers inside.
The student body enthusiastically greeted the news that they would be allowed to temporarily display the only known artifacts of their namesake.
“I think that the gifts the bishop brought were outstanding and what a special surprise,” said principal James Huth. “The mitre is absolutely beautiful, and it’s amazing for as old as it is. It’s in great shape. The slippers were … it’s crazy. They fit Bishop Luers (school), because of the comforting place that this is.”
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