By Vince LaBarbera
HUNTINGTON — “It is truly a joy to celebrate Mass this morning here in the beautiful chapel of Our Lady of Victory,” said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades July 5 on the grounds of Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters in Huntington.
“Ninety years ago today, on Sunday, July 5, 1925, Bishop Noll, a bishop for just five days, came here to dedicate and bless Victory Noll, including this chapel. This was his first big public event as a bishop. He had been ordained a bishop on June 30, 1925, in the cathedral in Fort Wayne, “Bishop Rhoades said.
“There were 7,000 people who came to Victory Noll … to attend the dedication. Six Masses were celebrated here in this chapel that morning, beginning at 5:30 a.m. Bishop Noll celebrated the last Mass, followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament,” Bishop Rhoades continued. “They then had a breakfast served to the sisters, at that time called the ‘catechists,’ together with so many of the visiting clergy and guests. In the afternoon, they celebrated the formal dedication of Victory Noll.”
Bishop Rhoades said there were speeches by Bishop Noll and several other dignitaries. After the ceremony, everyone enjoyed refreshments outside along with a special dinner at the end of the day and entertainment. “The sisters sang songs in English and Spanish,” he added.
“One of the catechists, Sister Madelon LoRang, gave the principal address. She spoke of the mission of the sisters, the Missionary Catechists. She said, ‘As Catechists, we instruct the poor and neglected in the truths and practices of our holy faith, bringing into their homes as visiting nurses the blessings of health; and as experienced social workers, training them for good citizenship through a realization of their opportunities and privileges.’ It’s amazing to think today of the many thousands of people who have (been) touched by God’s grace through the past century by the missionary service of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Victory. It is good that we are here in this chapel today to give thanks to God for this beautiful history,” Bishop Rhoades emphasized.
“Catechist Madelon LoRang mentioned in her speech 90 years ago the sisters’ instruction of the poor and neglected ‘in the truths and practices of our holy faith.’ I was thinking of these words in light of today’s Gospel,” said Bishop Rhoades.
He related Jesus’ mission was bearing much fruit until He arrived at His hometown of Nazareth with His disciples and taught in the synagogue there. “The few hundred people who lived in Nazareth knew Jesus and His family. He had lived there most of His life, 30 years. They knew Him as the carpenter and the son of Mary.”
The people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching, Bishop Rhoades explained. “This was the common reaction elsewhere too. But, unlike in other places, in Nazareth the people were skeptical. They asked all kinds of questions, like ‘where did this man get all this?’ … They had heard about the miracles He performed. But they were skeptical because they knew Him as an ordinary carpenter. The Gospel says that, ‘they took offense at Him.’ The original Greek says, ‘they were scandalized by Him.’ It was scandalous for them to think that Jesus could be inaugurating the kingdom of God, that God was acting through this ordinary fellow Nazarean. So they just wouldn’t believe. The Gospel tells us that Jesus was amazed at the people’s lack of faith. So He didn’t perform miracles there, except, as St. Mark says, curing a few sick people. St. Mark is highlighting the necessity of faith. One must have the proper disposition to receive the healing of Jesus, to experience His power,” said Bishop Rhoades.
He continued, “It is good to reflect on our lives today as well, emphasizing that faith is God’s door into our hearts, which only can be opened from within. Faith is a grace, a gift of God.”
“There is a crisis of faith in our country and in much of the world today,” Bishop Rhoades emphasized. “An increasing number of Americans, when asked what religion they belong to, are answering ‘none.’ Forces of secularism and relativism have led people away from Christ and His Church. This has all kinds of negative consequences. But I am not pessimistic. I believe in the power of God’s grace at work in the Church. And I believe in the exciting mission of the New Evangelization. I see so many young people and others, perhaps fewer in number than many years ago, who are committed to Christ and His Church. And I’m inspired. They give me much hope. It seems that it takes more courage today, more commitment, to be Catholic. It’s countercultural nowadays to be Catholic in the United States. It’s a real choice. And many are making that choice, even though it entails real sacrifice and even rejection and ridicule from others.”
“We can be tempted to skepticism, like the people of Nazareth. With skepticism, what happens? No miracles occur. With faith, miracles happen. We don’t know the future, but the Lord calls us to have faith, to trust in Him. May you and I continue to walk by faith,” he concluded, “like Bishop Noll and the Victory Noll Sisters who have gone before us!”
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