By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — The fourth-grade “saints” from the eastern side of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend joined their Catholic grade-school peers for the annual All-Schools Mass. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated the Mass at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum on Oct. 28, the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude.
At the opening of Mass, Bishop Rhoades said, “We gather with your teachers, with your priests and deacons and religious. We gather here to praise and give thanks to God during this Year of Faith.”
Fourth-grade students traditionally attend the Mass dressed in costumes that depict their favorite saints. Bishop Rhoades said in his opening comments that it was wonderful to see the fourth graders dressed as the different saints.
“They remind all of us,” Bishop Rhoades said, “that we are called to be saints. We are called to be holy.”
“We think about all those holy men and women, children, who are in heaven — the saints that are with God in perfect joy and peace,” the bishop emphasized.
He spoke of the solemnity of All Saints Day, Nov. 1. The saints in heaven are the Church triumphant.
The Oct. 28 feast of Sts. Simon and Jude is a celebration of two of the first Apostles of Jesus. “We ask for their intercession,” Bishop Rhoades said. The bishop invited everyone to wish a happy feast day to the students, teachers, and pastor of Saint Jude Parish and School, Fort Wayne and all responded with applause for the Saint Jude School community.
Bishop Rhoades’ homily focused on the vocation of the apostles and on what it means to be an “apostolic Church.”
The bishop reflected on his own vocation as a successor of the apostles and on the vocation of priests as his co-workers in the apostolic mission. Bishop Rhoades also spoke about the whole Church being apostolic, handing on the teaching of the apostles. He explained how young people share, by their Baptism and Confirmation, in the apostolic mission by their living the faith and sharing the faith with their friends and other young people.
He called them to be “young apostles” in the world today. What is most important, the bishop said, is that we all strive to be holy, like the first apostles, who brought the Gospel to the world.
The Apostles’ Creed has been a prayer used throughout the Year of Faith and the prayer was recited by the young faithful gathered for the Mass.
At the end of Mass, Bishop Rhoades thanked the Bishop Luers High School Liturgical Choir and cantors for their outstanding musical participation.
Students traveled from all across the diocese to attend the special Mass, including St. Charles fourth-grade students from Cassi Wagley’s class, who were poised and ready for the liturgy. Lynsey Straessle dressed as St. Therese, Little Flower, because, she said, her mother had prayed to the 18th-century French Carmelite nun “to have her.”
Corissa Koontz, fourth grader in Rose Smith’s class at Sacred Heart School in Warsaw arrived dressed as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Of the Mass she said, “This is kind of cool. In Warsaw there’s only one Catholic school, so it’s cool to see all these Catholic kids.”
Third-grader Isaac Christman from Queen of Angels in Fort Wayne said that he was “excited to see the fourth graders in their saint costumes,” and that next year when he could dress like a saint he would “probably choose a saint that is a knight.”
Jacob Getts, a seventh-grader at St. Mary, Avilla, said the experience was “very great! I like the atmosphere and the fact that so many schools care about their faith and that they are able to take class time to celebrate Mass with the bishop.”
St. Mary second-grader Chrisstopher Willavize said it was “awesome being there” and that he had “been looking forward to it and seeing all the other kids.”
Ava Smith, who was dressed as St. Lucy explained, “This is my first year at St. Louis Academy. I am excited to finally be a fourth grader and get to dress up at the Mass. It is fun to see my friends from my old school.” While holding a bowl containing eyes, she went on to explain that there are two versions of how St. Lucy lost her eyes.
Jane Sandor has been attending the All Saints’ Mass since its beginning. She has witnessed the Mass from many capacities, first as a teacher at St. Vincent, then for many years as principal at St. Aloysius, Yoder, and St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne, and now as the diocesan catechetical associate for Special Ministries. She loves the annual tradition, “It gives me a glimpse of the universal Church. It is always humbling to see 3,800 students making the sign of the cross together, a sign of our belief.”
Janice Camito, principal of St. John the Baptist, New Haven, echoed her comments, “It is always great when everybody is together for Mass. It takes the students out of their own little bubble and allows them to see the big picture.”
Tess Steffen and Michelle Castleman contributed to this story.
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