I am writing this column on Super Bowl Sunday, having returned from celebrating a Confirmation Mass at St. Therese Church in Fort Wayne. This was my second Confirmation in the diocese. Celebrating this sacrament is one of my most enjoyable ministries as bishop. It was a joy today to bestow the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon the young people of St. Therese’s and to meet them and their families and sponsors. I thank Father David Ruppert, the pastor, for his warm welcome as well as all the teachers and catechists at St. Therese and throughout the diocese who prepare our young people for Confirmation. This is an important step in the faith life of our young people and a wonderful opportunity to share with them the teachings of our faith, especially the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church and in our individual lives.
Speaking of the Holy Spirit, we know Him in the Church and in the Scriptures and tradition He inspired. We know Him in prayer and in the liturgy which puts us into communion with Christ. And we know the Holy Spirit in the fruits borne in the lives of those who live and walk by the Spirit. As I continue to travel around our diocese, I see these fruits. I see the Holy Spirit at work building, animating and sanctifying the Church.
This past week, I celebrated two dormitory Masses at the University of Notre Dame. I was invited to Siegfried Hall to offer Mass by three young men from the Diocese of Harrisburg. I was happy after Mass to greet them along with two young men from our diocese, as well as dozens of other students. They made me an honorary “Rambler,” the nickname of their residents and intramural teams. The next evening I celebrated Mass at Morrissey Manor, a dormitory renowned for the number of priestly vocations that come from there. Both Masses were packed with students who participated wholeheartedly in the Masses. It is so edifying to see and experience the vibrant faith of the students at Notre Dame.
While in the South Bend area, I was able for the first time to visit our Chancery Office there. I am still getting used to the idea of having two see cities, two cathedrals and two chancery offices. The diocesan employees at both Fort Wayne and South Bend are deeply committed to the mission of the Church and I am grateful for their hard work and their assistance as I still become acclimated to my new surroundings and my ministry here.
Last week was Catholic Schools Week, a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Catholic education. We did so both in South Bend and Fort Wayne at two large benefit luncheons. Quality Dining Inc., generously provided these luncheons at which several of our Catholic school teachers received the Light of Learning Award. I expressed gratitude in my remarks to all our Catholic school teachers who are true partners in the Church’s mission of educating the whole person and of transmitting the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to our children and young people. It is their generosity, intelligent creativity, and pursuit of excellence that make our schools so successful.
The highlight of Catholic Schools Week for me was visiting Marian High School in Mishawaka and Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, my first visits to Catholic schools in our diocese. What great spirit I saw in both these schools whose student bodies welcomed me with such warmth and enthusiasm! I wish to thank the two fine principals of these high schools, Mr. Carl Loesch at Marian and Mrs. Mary Keefer at Luers. The liturgies at both schools were beautiful. At the end of both Masses, I engaged the students in some enjoyable conversation, though I think part of that time was a tactic to delay their return to classes. I visited some classes in both high schools where I witnessed not only the high caliber of their intellectual formation, but also their positive engagement with me in discussing our Catholic faith. I also enjoyed lunches at both schools with student leaders, student council members. They were excellent, engaging, friendly and joyful young people. I saw first-hand how the noble mission of Catholic education is being fulfilled so beautifully at Marian and Bishop Luers high schools. I encourage all in our diocese to support our Catholic schools spiritually and financially. They are very important for our future since they equip our young people with a sound education, rooted in the Person of Jesus Christ. In our Catholic schools, our young people receive the foundation to live morally and uprightly in our complex modern world.
While in the South Bend area, I stayed as a guest at the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka. Now I know why Bishop D’Arcy enjoyed staying there when he was in that area. Their hospitality is incredible! I thank Sister Angela, the provincial superior, and all the sisters for their kindness. I was happy to celebrate their community Mass on the morning of the feast of St. Blase, during which we had the traditional blessing of throats. We remembered in our prayers all the sick of our diocese. How blessed our diocese is to have this community of sisters who are so devoted not only to their many wonderful ministries, but most importantly, devoted to the Lord Jesus whom they adore night and day in the Blessed Sacrament! I encourage any young women in our diocese discerning a religious vocation to check out the Sisters of St. Francis in Mishawaka.
Early Saturday morning, I joined several hundred faithful at the beginning of a Men’s Day of Prayer at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne. It was great to see so many men, young and old, who gathered to spend a day in prayer and in deepening their lives of faith. I thank Msgr. John Kuzmich, the pastor, for his support of this spiritual initiative. I hope to see this important ministry grow in our diocese.
As you can see, this past week has been quite busy for me. It has been a bit challenging to keep up with all the homilies and speeches I need to prepare, but I have to admit that I am enjoying the challenge. I already feel very much at home here in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, thanks to the warm welcome I receive everywhere I go.
Finally, as I look back on this past week, I wish to note that on several days we celebrated martyrs of the Church, Sts. Blase, Agatha and Paul Miki and Companions. At the various liturgies, I spoke about these martyrs. It is good that we remember those who gave the supreme witness to the truth of the faith, bearing witness unto death. They are an inspiration for us today as we seek to persevere in faith on our earthly pilgrimage, even when at times we encounter difficulties, challenges, or even persecution and hostility. We are all called to be witnesses of the Gospel by the example of our lives. As St. Paul said, we should never be ashamed of testifying to our Lord! May the holy martyrs intercede for us in our daily efforts to live in the truth and charity of Christ.
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