Denise Fedorow
Freelance Writer
March 23, 2016 // Local

Pastoral visit to Saint Joseph High School

Denise Fedorow
Freelance Writer

By Denise Fedorow

For more photos visit the photo gallery

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades poses for a “fun” photo with the St. Joe Scholars and Community Service Award Winners on March 18, and at Bishop’s request, they showed off the pocket Gospels he gave to each of them individually.

On Friday, March 18, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades paid a visit to Saint Joseph High School in South Bend to celebrate Mass and visit students and faculty in their classrooms.

The Mass was concelebrated with Father Terry Coonan, chaplain of Saint Joseph High School and pastor at St. John the Baptist, Father Tom Shoemaker, pastor at St. Thérese, Little Flower and Father David Ruppert, pastor at St. Anthony de Padua in South Bend.

Bishop Rhoades greeted the students by saying, “It’s great to be back here at St. Joe — I try to plan my annual visit on the Feast of Saint Joseph, but since that’s tomorrow, it didn’t seem right to make you come to school on Saturday.”

During the homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke to the students about the prevalent theme of the day’s readings — distress — which he also said is prevalent during Holy Week.

“There may be times in our lives when we experience distress — a dimension of fear — but God is our champion in the midst of distress, especially when you’re doing good,” he said.

He spoke of feeling the distress of the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading when he cries out ‘Lord, why did you call me to do this? People hate me, my friends have left me.’ He spoke of the deep distress of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and again on the cross.

“But Jesus never succumbed to the temptation to be disobedient to the Father’s will — because of His love for the Father and because of His love for us,” Bishop Rhoades said.

He asked the students to consider the distress their patron, St. Joseph, must have been under when Herod ordered all the baby boys under two to be killed and when they fled to Egypt.

Bishop Rhoades shared a story that he said “affected me very deeply,” when he read of the recent executions of Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity by members of ISIS. Bishop said he’d met Mother Theresa several times and he felt close ties to the order she founded.

The sisters were operating two homes for the elderly poor in Yemen — one for men and one for women. Their priest reminded them daily of the possibility of martyrdom. Two weeks ago as the five sisters left to work in the homes, they heard yelling behind them — women who worked with the religious were screaming, “Don’t kill the sisters!” The sisters split up, two running towards the men’s home, two towards the woman’s home and the Mother Superior ran back to the chapel to warn the priest. The sisters were concerned for their charges and the priest was concerned for the Blessed Sacrament because he knew that ISIS would likely desecrate the chapel. He consumed all the hosts before they could get there. The four sisters were brutally killed, the Mother Superior hid and was not found and the priest was captured and it’s unknown if he’s still alive.

“Martyrdom is happening now. The passion of Jesus continues in the Church. It’s good for us to think about our faith and are we willing to give of ourselves to love? Jesus is an extreme example — He never deviated,” said Bishop Rhoades. “It’s so important that you’re learning the doctrines of our faith, but the very heart of our faith — more important than anything else — is that God is love. Love is victorious and Mercy prevails. The end of the story is not Good Friday, it’s Easter Sunday.”

He told the students that one good way to remember that is to carry the Gospels with you and he brought pocket Gospels for all of the students and faculty.

“I want to give one to each of you individually; it’s important to me as your shepherd to take the time,” he said, telling them he’d do so at the end of Mass.


Saint Joseph High School Principal Susan Richter told the Bishop that one of their students, John Griffith, composed the prelude and the Responsorial Psalm used at Mass. Students Jeannie and Rosie Freeby presented the Bishop with a spiritual bouquet on behalf of the high school and also a donation of $250 in Bishop Rhoades’ name to Catholic Relief Services in Haiti.

Bishop Rhoades thanked the students, telling them, “Your prayers mean a lot, I need your prayers. And this donation touches my heart, thank you so much.”

Principal Richter announced the month’s community service award winners — Brianna Hart and Maxwell Otiato. Both students were honored for their service work and leadership skills. A member of the faculty is also given a monthly award, nominated by his or her peers. Laurel O’ Shaughnessy was given the award for going above and beyond, for her genuine caring for each student to reach his or her full potential.

“When God calls, she indeed answers,” said Richter.

They also recognized the class of 2016 students who have 4.0 or higher grade point average all four years as St. Joe Scholars. Forty-two students were recognized for this achievement. The salutatorian for the class of 2016 is Clare Firth and the valedictorian is Meg O’Brien.

Class Visits

After passing out the pocket Gospels to the students, the Bishop began visiting classrooms and the first was Kathy Kershner’s Catholic Social Teaching class.

Bishop Rhoades talked to the students about politics, especially since many of them will be able to vote for the first time in this upcoming presidential election. He said Catholics have a rich tradition and body of teaching about issues such as the dignity of all human life, common distribution of goods, care of the earth and the environment, that wealth is meant to be shared, care of the poor and immigrants and war and peace.

“We are not for unbridled
Socialism or unbridled Capitalism,” Bishop Rhoades said.

He told the students it’s not the role of the Church or of the Bishop to endorse one political party over another or one candidate over another, but they can and do speak on the issues.

“It’s important to examine the candidates and their positions on the issues through the lens of Catholic teaching and read how they voted on the issues,” he advised.

He said the Church considers some things intrinsic evil — always wrong, everywhere — and among them is abortion, euthanasia and racism.

“For example, it’s forbidden for Catholics to vote for a pro-choice candidate if the reason they’re voting for them is because they are pro-choice. If you’re going to vote for them for other reasons they should be grave issues because human life is of such importance,” he explained.

Bishop Rhoades told the students generally speaking, the Democratic Party supports preferential treatment for the poor, fair wages and access to health care, which supports the Catholic principle of Solidarity, while the Republican Party, generally speaking supports the idea that states shouldn’t stifle freedoms and is against government intrusion in business, which supports the Catholic principle of Subsidiarity. He said the Church doesn’t believe in trickle-down economics.

“As Catholics we uphold both principles. The Church tries to take a balanced approach. I’d love to see someone in the middle, where the Church is,” he said.

Bishop Rhoades answered some of the student’s questions before moving on to lunch and visiting other classes.

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