October 13, 2010 // Local

Out in the field

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Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades climbs aboard a John Deere combine as corn is harvested in a nearby field at St. Louis Besancon Parish, New Haven, on his Oct. 10 visit to the parish. Bishop Rhoades, with a John Deere cap and St. Louis Academy T-shirt, is shown with St. Louis Besancon Parish farmer Greg Lomont.

Bishop Rhoades visits to Monroeville, Besancon

By Michelle Castleman

MONROEVILLE, NEW HAVEN — With over half of his parish visits complete in his first nine months as bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades did double-duty traveling to the rural country parishes of both St. Rose of Lima in Monroeville and St. Louis Besancon in New Haven.

Arriving in downtown Monroeville early on the beautiful autumn morning of Sunday, Oct. 10, Bishop Rhoades celebrated the 7:45 a.m. Mass at St. Rose with Father Steve Colchin then traveled nearly 10 minutes through the countryside’s fall foliage back west to St. Louis for their 10:15 a.m. gathering, again with Father Colchin.

Both parishes spent weeks planning liturgies and special events to celebrate this long-anticipated visit.

“We have looked so forward to this day. There has been an aura of excitement in the air as we prepared to meet the new bishop,” said St. Louis Choir Director Rita Brueggeman.

The theme of the homily for both groups was a special message of thanksgiving. Bishop Rhoades reminded the faithful to always practice the virtue of gratitude referring to the preface of the Mass when the priest says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” and the people respond, “It is right to give Him thanks and praise.”

Bishop Rhoades challenged the people from these churches, founded in the mid-1800s, to make a list of the top 10 things they are thankful for and felt it was a good exercise to write them down. “For when we count our blessings, we are moved to thanksgiving,” he added. He also questioned all to ponder whether they were more like the one Samaritan, the foreigner, in the Gospel who received the gift of faith when he returned thanks to the Lord, or if we might be like the other nine lepers who were healed but did not return thanks, maybe because they were too excited they had been cured, maybe because they took their gift of healing for granted, or maybe because they simply forgot.

Bishop Rhoades stressed, “A grateful person is a generous person,” detailing the powerful ways we can give back to God through acts of stewardship, and concluding, “It is right to give Him thanks and praise.” Following the recessional hymns, long lines formed on the steps at both of these historic parishes to greet Bishop Rhoades one by one.

After the first Mass, the members of St. Rose treated Bishop Rhoades to fruit, homemade pastries and treats in their school basement. Bishop Rhoades mingled with the group making his way into the kitchen to thank each of the bakers and preparers.

Noting the last names of many family members being the same or related, Bishop Rhoades asked questions about the community, facts about the parish, ages of the children and even discussed the upcoming Battle of the Bishops football showdown with a Bishop Luers student, all the while keeping his predicted winner top secret.

The students of St. Joseph School, Monroeville, also sang a special blessing. Genuinely touched, Bishop Rhoades thanked them saying, “I am used to giving the blessings, not receiving them.”

A noon in Besancon, families from both parishes packed the St. Louis hall for a good old-fashioned potluck. A hog was donated by farmers from St. Rose and an overflowing amount of favorite family dishes filled the tables.

Bishop Rhoades agreed to sample as judge for the annual Pie Baking contest, but was sure to ask if the pies were “heart-healthy” per strict orders from his doctor.

A special selection of songs from the students at St. Louis Academy were performed and Bishop Rhoades was presented with a school spirit T-shirt which he promptly modeled. The Monroeville Fire Department was on standby with instructions to bring a truck to spray down the children in the open field behind the hall if the afternoon temperature reached 70 degrees. With the unseasonably warm sunshine, this was a big hit.

There were games for all ages on hand, pumpkin decorating and even a hayride. With his infectious smile becoming even bigger, Bishop Rhoades also made an exclusive memory when he was transported on a John Deere Gator directly behind the church to the very grounds of the Besancon French ancestors church where a strip of corn was left to harvest so he could take his first combine ride ever.

St. Rose parishioner Gerry Kline summarized, “It was a day to remember. The bishop was so personable with everyone and made each one of us feel so special. I’m sure all would agree it was a great joy to meet him,” while an eighth-grade student from St. Louis Academy, who had previously met Bishop Rhoades at the 2010 Confirmation rally, was overheard telling his mother as they left the festivities, “I told you he was cool.”

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