December 9, 2009 // Local

Marian devotion is meaningful to Bishop Rhoades

By Tim Johnson

The following is the first in a series of fetaure articles in Today’s Catholic to acquaint the people of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, shown at his ordination to the priesthood in July of 1983, gives communion to his mother, Mary.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, shown at his ordination to the priesthood in July of 1983, gives communion to his mother, Mary.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — From the rosary being Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades’ favorite prayer to celebrating Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Mexico, Marian devotion is central to the faith-life of the new bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Bishop Rhoades, meeting with Today’s Catholic at his offices in Harrisburg, Pa., said he was pleased to learn that the Blessed Mother is the patroness of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Just weeks before he learned that he would be the new bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Bishop Rhoades had launched a Marian year in which over 4,000 people from the Diocese of Harrisburg gathered at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on which Bishop Rhoades serves on the board.

Bishop Rhoades, who will be installed the ninth bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend on Jan. 13 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, explained that Mary “has been part of my life since childhood.”

His own mother’s name was Mary and she was very dedicated to the rosary. “Some of my earliest memories of prayer would be the holy rosary,” Bishop Rhoades said. “She is the patroness of my own parish, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (in Lebanon, Pa., where he was also ordained to the priesthood), patroness of my high school, and then I went to college to Mount Saint Mary’s, which had the beautiful grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. On the Mount is where I really heard the call to the priesthood — praying there at that mount at the grotto” which is the oldest Lourdes grotto in the United States.

“Then I went to the North American College in Rome — the patroness was Our Blessed Mother,” he added.

“I would say that all through my life, I have felt her motherly love and maternal love,” Bishop Rhoades noted. “I feel like I can turn to her always in times of sorrow as well as joy and feel her consolation.”

He said, “On the pilgrimage of life, on the pilgrimage as a priest and as a bishop, I feel that she is at my side accompanying me with her love.”
Bishop Rhoades’ mother died fairly young in 1994. “She was 66 years old,” he said, “and that was very hard for me because she was a beautiful woman of faith. My mother went to daily Mass and she is the one who taught me so much of the Catholic faith by her example, by her love. And in many ways, the complimentarity between love and care of my earthly mother and our heavenly mother Mary … are connected.”
“My favorite prayer is the rosary,” Bishop Rhoades said. “I love praying in front of the Blessed Sacracrament, I love praying the Scripture, I love praying the rosary. But the rosary for me is just a beautiful prayer.

“I am so grateful to Pope John Paul II with the new luminous mysteries because they brought out even more the Christological nature of the rosary and kind of filled in some other mysteries for us to contemplate,” he added. “To contemplate the mystery of Christ at the school of Mary is a beautiful thing for us to do.”

Bishop Rhoades served as rector of Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, “the school of Mary,” in Emmittsburg, Md., and Marian devotions are strong at the seminary.

“I felt that the priests who were ordained from Mount Saint Mary’s were kind of immersed in that beautiful Marian devotion and had developed, if they didn’t have it beforehand, a real filial relationship with Mary.”

Bishop Rhoades wrote a pastoral for the Marian year and shared some personal thoughts about the Blessed Mother “as an example of faith, hope and charity for us on our pilgrimage to heaven,” he said.

In his pastoral, Bishop Rhoades focuses that because Mary is in heaven, “she teaches us the way to heaven, she is the gate of heaven.”

He has also encouraged Catholic of the Harrisburg Diocese to “storm heaven” with five intentions during their diocesan Marian year. The five items include the following: the protection of human life from the moment of conception to natural death; the strengthening of marriage and family life; for peace and justice and an end to all violence and terrorism; an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life; and the return of non-practicing Catholics to the church and practice of the faith.

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