November 2, 2011 // Uncategorized

‘Go and make disciples of all nations’

Bishop Rhoades celebrates Mass with Fort Wayne area Catholic schools

More photos from this event can be found in the photo gallery.

FORT WAYNE — “Go and make disciples of all nations,” were the words that intrigued 6,000 Catholic school students, teachers, principals and parents at the Oct. 26 annual All-Schools Mass at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades asked the students to make those words the sentence they would remember for the next year.

The bishop told the students at the opening of the Mass that the word “evangelization” comes from the Greek word meaning “good news,” and all are called to be missionaries, to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

The theme of the Mass took on the role of missionaries.

“Jesus sent the Apostles to spread the Good News — to baptize and to teach,” Bishop Rhoades said in his homily, “to make disciples of all nations.”

He spoke of how the Apostles went far beyond Jerusalem to preach the Gospel. From the day’s first reading from Acts 11:19-26, the bishop told how the Apostles went to Phoenicia, Cypress and Antioch to teach and baptize. He spoke of St. Barnabas, who went to Antioch and converted large numbers of people. Barnabas was joined in Antioch by the great evangelizer St. Paul. And it was in Antioch that believers were first named “Christians.”

“This work of evangelization has gone over for 2,000 years,” Bishop Rhoades said, “and now there are over 1 billion Catholics in the world.”

Fourth-grade students from the Catholic schools came to the coliseum Mass dressed as their favorite saint. Charlie McBride, a fourth-grade St. Vincent de Paul student from Fort Wayne, was invited to the altar platform. He was dressed as a Jesuit priest, St. Francis Xavier, one of the missionaries Bishop Rhoades referred to in his homily.

St. Francis Xavier was a missionary Jesuit  in the 1600s and evangelized the people of India, Japan and the islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans.

As a seminarian, Bishop Rhoades said he prayed in a church in Rome that contained a relic of St. Francis Xavier. The relic was the arm of the saint.

When asked for volunteers of the next missionary, the stage and altar area filled with several young admirers of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

Although she was a cloistered Carmelite nun, St. Thérèse prayed for the missionary activity that was carried throughout the world — in Africa, South America, China and Oceania — in the late 1800s.

“Thérèse was fascinated by the missions and wanted to be a missionary by her prayers and sacrifices for missionaries,” Bishop Rhoades told the students.

“I say all this to you today because you are also called to be missionaries by your prayers and sacrifices,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Me too. Your teachers too.”

There are thousands of Catholic missionaries around the world — in Africa and Asia and remote areas of South America and in the Pacific islands — “who need our help, our prayers and sacrifices,” Bishop Rhoades said.

“We all have a responsibility to make Jesus Christ known to others,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Children and young people, all of you, have this responsibility. But how can you be missionaries right now in whatever grade you are in?”

He commissioned the schools and students to become active participants in the Holy Childhood Association, a 150-year-old organization that falls under the pope and the Vatican, and helps mission work throughout the world.

“The Holy Childhood Association is a way for you to help share the Gospel with children, mostly poor children, all over the world in missionary countries.”

The Holy Childhood Association encourages children to pray for and offer their own personal sacrifices for children around the world who are in desperate need of basic resources like clean water, food, education and medical care.

“And above all, they need the knowledge of the love of God,” Bishop Rhoades said.

Being a member of the Holy Childhood Association, “is a way to share the faith and to help millions of children around the world,” Bishop Rhoades remarked.

After Mass, St. Aloysius, Yoder, teacher Nikki Thompson told Today’s Catholic she was excited to learn about the Holy Childhood Association and getting it organized at the school.

St. Aloysius fourth-grade student Gavin Ealey, dressed as St. George, was eager to take the role of missionary. “I think when I get older, I want to travel different places and spread the word,” said the parish altar server.

Because he hopes to be a soldier one day, St. Louis Academy fourth-grader Clayton Fielden dressed as St. George, patron saint of soldiers.

When asked what he enjoyed most about the All-Schools Mass, Fielden explained, “I love to go to Mass with the bishop.” Fielden said, “This will be my 10th time!”

For Lia King of Huntington Catholic School, she noted, “It’s the first Mass with Bishop Rhoades that I have been to, so I am excited to hear his homily.”

Another Huntington Catholic student, Alli Snyder, said, “It brings all the schools closer and I like being with all the other kids.”

“I’ve never seen this many people together for a Mass,” added Alex Bickel of Huntington Catholic. “It’s pretty exciting to be here.”

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