William Schmitt
Freelance Writer
November 14, 2018 // Bishop

High school students prepare for Church leadership roles

William Schmitt
Freelance Writer

On a feast day recalling Rome’s first generation of Catholic churches, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades spoke with students from all four diocesan high schools about an initiative for building the Church’s next generation of leaders.

Holy Cross College inaugurated the expanded initiative, called the Emerging Leaders Symposium, on Nov. 9. The college’s campus ministry office and selected student mentors welcomed about 30 high school representatives for a day of discussions and teamwork, plus a meal with the campus community and Mass celebrated by the bishop.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass at St. Joseph Chapel Friday, Nov. 9, for the Holy Cross College Leadership Symposium for high school students. — Photos provided by Holy Cross College

The feast of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which honors the oldest and highest-ranking church in the world, helps to highlight the four “marks of the Church,” Bishop Rhoades said, citing the attributes of “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic.” Those qualities, found in the Nicene Creed, were the themes of the symposium and of presentations the students made to the bishop.

The Church’s worldwide tribute to a church built in the fourth century — named for St. John the Apostle and St. John the Baptist, and still the official cathedral of the pope as bishop of Rome — reminds Catholics that “we are the temple of God built of living stones, with Jesus as the cornerstone,” Bishop Rhoades said in his homily.

Strengthened inside a church with word and sacraments, we’re called to go forth “to evangelize and to communicate the life and love of God to others in the world through our words and actions,” the bishop told the emerging leaders, gathered with college students and faculty in the Holy Cross chapel.

Bishop Rhoades speaks to a high school student after Mass in St. Joseph Chapel.

After the team presentations, which visualized the four “marks” as attributes of Church leadership, Bishop Rhoades said the pope and bishops act as shepherds but that laypeople must also be active as “servant-leaders” bringing Christ to others.

“Leadership of the Church is always directed to service, not to power,” he reminded the symposium participants, who included other schools as well as the diocesan high schools, both Catholic and public.

“Some of the greatest leaders in the history of the Church were women,” he added, mentioning St. Teresa of Kolkata and the recently canonized St. Katharina Kasper, foundress of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, who sponsor Ancilla College.

Holy Cross College campus ministry Director Andrew Polaniecki, who had worked with Senior Vice President Michael Griffin to plan the symposium, said the goal — in keeping with the college’s mission — was to get young people excited about their roles in the Church.

“We wanted to expand the scope of leadership, to highlight who can be leaders, formally and informally,” Polaniecki said.

Jennifer Litchfield, a Bishop Dwenger High School student and participant in the symposium, explains symbols developed by her discussion group to Bishop Rhoades after Mass.

One participant, Jennifer Litchfield, who had come in a contingent from Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne, said the leadership call, “go and make of all disciples,” resonated with her.

It’s helpful to see theology in the context of other subjects, “such as science or business or humanities,” she said. “Then you can use your theology to connect with people and strengthen the oneness of the world and the Church.”

Mentor Teresa Breckler, a sophomore studying theology and graphic design at Holy Cross, said the symposium’s focus on the four attributes of the Church was helpful. “To be a leader, you really need to know what you’re leading.”

Catherine Oliva, another Holy Cross student assisting with the symposium, said college life fosters Catholic leadership on the campus and in the community. Because of the college’s smaller size, “we get to create traditions” alongside practicing the inherited ones, “and pass them on to the next generation.”

The symposium is anticipated to be an annual event.

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