By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — Scripture says, “Those who sowed in tears, reap rejoicing.” That is the joy that Father Daniel Scheidt, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish was feeling at the blessing and dedication Sunday, Dec. 1, of the new Msgr. John Kuzmich Life Center. Father Scheidt, who arrived at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Fort Wayne last summer, was most pleased to inherit the goodness that the new life center will bring.
Retired pastor Msgr. Kuzmich was on hand for the blessing and dedication of the building that will bear his name. Msgr. Kuzmich, the 18th pastor of St. Vincent de Paul, is now retired and in residence at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish near Lakeville and served as a priest at St. Vincent de Paul for 36 years. He was a parochial vicar for 7 years and pastor for 29 years.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated the Sunday evening “Life Teen” Mass with a standing-room-only congregation at St. Vincent de Paul Church. The bishop was joined by Msgr. Kuzmich, Father Daniel Scheidt, pastor, Fathers Andrew Budzinski and Polycarp Fernando, parochial vicars of St. Vincent de Paul, as well Father Christopher Lapp, a son of St. Vincent de Paul Parish and Father Pius Ilechukwu who served the parish. Deacon Jim Fitzpatrick as well as diocesan seminarians from the parish assisted bishop.
Bishop Rhoades’ Advent message was to “stay awake” and to remember in the busyness of the season to make time for Confession and prayer, such as the rosary, daily Mass or reflection on Scripture. “God always has time for us,” Bishop Rhoades said.
Mass concluded with a candlelight Eucharistic procession to the Msgr. John Kuzmich Life Center led by Bishop Rhoades. The first to enter the new building was the Eucharistic Lord and the first activity in the new building was a period of Eucharistic Adoration by hundreds of St. Vincent de Paul parishioners.
Following Adoration, Bishop Rhoades gave benediction and the Blessed Sacrament was reposed. Then Bishop Rhoades blessed the new facility and Msgr. Kuzmich unveiled the sign to the new facility bearing his name.
“The Msgr. John Kuzmich Life Center will be a magnet for the New Evangelization at St. Vincent de Paul Parish. In particular, it will be a center of catechesis and evangelization for the Life Teen High School and Edge Middle School youth programs at St. Vincent de Paul,” reported Father Budzinski.
Father Budzinski told Today’s Catholic that the building idea was conceived 14 months ago when Msgr. Kuzmich wanted suggestions for use of the overage from the Annual Bishop’s Appeal. A new life house was suggested, and it was decided that this building should be a centralized space for youth ministry and other ministries of evangelization in the parish.
The Msgr. Kuzmich Life Center was built with the needs of the youth in mind, Father Budzinski said, but it will serve the whole parish.
“One of the reasons this building was built was we desperately needed a place to meet,” Father Scheidt noted. “Even with the church there are very few rooms dedicated to meeting. This building replaces the dilapidated life house that was torn down, but it will also serve as a meeting place for groups in our whole parish.”
The high school youth group will meet in a “living room” environment on Wednesday nights for Ministry Hour. About 40 to 50 students attend those evenings that provide catechesis.
A larger room will house the Life Nights and Edge Nights, which draws 60 to 100 young people.
To the side there is a café/kitchen that Father Budzinski said will be named Frassati’s after Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, patron of young adult groups. He dedicated his life to service of the poor and the ill, and died as a young man. The center will contain photos and quotes of Blessed Frassati, Blessed John Paul II, in reference it World Youth Day events, and St. Mother Teresa. “It will be a building that teaches as you use it,” Father Budzinski said.
“I would like for there to be as many invitations in my parishioners’ hearts as there are bricks on this building,” Father Scheidt told Today’s Catholic, “because we’ve built it not primarily for ourselves, but for those people who we need to invite to our parish to make it their home.”
Father Scheidt hopes the life center will also be of use for the diocese — perhaps small parishes wishing to host daylong retreats.
St. Vincent de Paul Parish predates the Civil War and was once a small rural parish. It is now the second largest parish in the diocese.
“There is a palpable sense of an inheritance that needs to be preserved but also a legacy that needs to be grown,” Father Scheidt said.
During Msgr. Kuzmich’s tenure as pastor, the Life Teen and Edge youth programs were begun at St. Vincent de Paul. A number of young men who have participated in Life Teen at St. Vincent de Paul have been ordained to the Priesthood including Father Matthew Coonan, Father Terry Coonan, Father Benjamin Muhlenkamp and Father Christopher Lapp; and eight men are currently in seminary: Matt Soberalski, Dennis DiBenedetto, Patrick Hake, Spenser St. Louis, Justin Meenagh, Daniel Koehl and Cody Martin.
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