Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades made his annual pastoral visit to Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne, Friday, Jan. 10. With a handful of students serving at Mass, the bishop celebrated Mass with Father Jay Horning and Father David Huneck, chaplains at the high school, concelebrating.
During his homily, he told students about how the understanding of God’s eternal love is unique to Christianity.
“This is the greatest and most unique truth of our Christian faith: namely that there is one God in three persons, the Trinity. It’s the center of our Christian faith and our Christian life.” He continued, “So God isn’t some distant static being who manufactured the world unrelated to Him.”
Later in the Mass, the school choir led students in a sung “Salve Regina.” In his August visit to the high school, the bishop had challenged the student body to learn the ancient Catholic prayer in Latin. The students followed through on the challenge that morning.
“In my 36 years as a priest, I have never heard a high school community with the students singing the Salve Regina, so this is great,” he said in response.
As Mass ended, Bishop Dwenger principal Jason Schiffli announced the awardee of the school’s Light of Learning honor, given annually to an inspiring teacher.
“She is greatly respected; she is a motivational teacher and students describe her as ‘inspiring.’ This year’s awardee epitomizes what I said earlier about value-added education: being a value-added teacher,” Schiffli said of Lori Foltz, before bestowing the honor on her as several students stood in applause.
Foltz, the high school’s sole French instructor, accepted the honor.
“French is a part of me, and I work hard to make good lessons to teach my students French,” she said. “I hope that I’ve shown them that French is a fun and wonderful skill to use for life, and not just a class at Bishop Dwenger.”
When Schiffli returned to the ambo he revealed to Bishop Rhoades that over the course of the previous week the students had been raising money for Catholic Relief Services, an organization the bishop acclaims and supports.
Before the bishop imparted the final blessing, Father Horning enrolled each member of the congregation, as well as the bishop, in the Catholic tradition of selecting a saint to pray for them during the year. Father Horning told the students that rather than them choosing a saint from a basket, however, it is actually the saint who is choosing them. Student volunteers stood holding baskets with the names near the exits after Mass so the saints could choose students to pray for in 2020.
After Mass, Bishop visited business teacher David Moyer’s personal finance class. There, he explained to curious students about how he helps the diocese manage its finances.
“About half of our income comes from parishes through the (parish) tax,” he explained. “And the other half is made through the Bishop’s Appeal — plus the income we get from our investments.”
After he explained that the diocese is very careful in making sure the funds are spent as efficiently as possible, Moyer and his students escorted him to Kathy Klemme’s Spanish III class. Klemme’s students asked the bishop questions in Spanish, and he answered in Spanish. He carried on a lengthy conversation in Spanish with senior Ethan Kurtzweg, who traveled with him and other pilgrims to World Youth Day in Panama in January 2019.
Bishop Rhoades then visited a freshman Honors English class taught by Lindsay Besessen. Before class, Besessen asked if he would impart his blessing on her unborn child. The bishop obliged, blessing her awaited infant.
During class, Besessen simulated the economic conditions presented in the book “Great Expectations” by engaging students in the card game Beggar-My-Neighbor. The bishop joined the students in the learning activity.
Bishop Rhoades also ate lunch with the school’s student council members. After finishing, he visited Marcy Adams’ art class. There, students worked on still-life drawings of skulls.
Adams commented that she is confident that the new curriculum her department implemented is proving successful. She also commented that one goal of the new curriculum is to make art more accessible to students with disabilities.
During a discussion later in the day with Bishop Dwenger’s pastoral ministry office, Bishop Rhoades suggested that the textbook “Faith, Science and Reason: Theology on the Cutting Edge” be implemented into the school’s curriculum. A goal of his proposal, he said, is to engage scientifically inclined students in the reasoning and logic of the faith, explaining Catholic principles in a way they can understand.
Several other teachers shared ideas with the bishop during a later meeting. He also asked for insight on the topic of student mental health, which the teachers regarded as a crucial issue facing high schools in recent years. The topic coincided with discussion on the effect of social media on students’ mental health, as well as the repercussions that the current political climate can have on growing students.
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