Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated a Mass on the feast day of the great Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at Queen of Angels School, Fort Wayne. This was the bishop’s first pastoral school visit of the academic year, and he stated he couldn’t think of a better place to be on their feast day, with the school and parish being under “the patroness of Mary, Queen of the Angels.”
The homily started a little differently than that of past pastoral visits. “When I celebrate school Masses, I usually come down and ask questions, but I won’t do that because we have to stay physically distanced,” bishop said as he joked with the students that they could relax. But surely they would have answered all the questions correctly had they been given the chance, he said.
In the first reading from the prophet Daniel, Daniel had a vision of heaven in which he saw thousands upon thousands ministering to God, praising Him. Those ministers praising God, the bishop said, were the angels. Then in the Gospel, Jesus told Nathaniel that he would see heaven and the angels of God ascending and descending on the son of man.
“There are many other passages in the Bible where we hear about the Angels of God,” he continued, “and we know the names of three of the archangels from Scripture: Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Every one of the archangels had a mission from God. They were sent by God down here to earth with a mission.” Raphael’s mission was to guide Tobias and to bring healing to Tobit, his father.
The bishop then spoke of the mission of St. Gabriel, sent by God to be His messenger. Gabriel announced various messages, including the “greatest news ever broadcast in the history of the world, when he appeared to Mary and announced to her that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Son of God, in her womb Jesus.”
The third archangel, St. Michael, had a mission to defeat Satan and overcome evil. “He still has that mission today. We pray to St. Michael, to defend us from the power of the evil one. We call him the prince of the heavenly hosts,” said the bishop.
Bishop Rhoades concluded his homily by encouraging the school community to consider that, just as each archangel was given a mission by God, so too each one of us has the same missions: to accompany and guide others like St. Raphael, to bring God’s good news to the world like Gabriel and to battle and overcome evil and temptation like St. Michael.
“The three archangels help us to fulfill our mission as disciples of Jesus. So, as we celebrate today’s feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, we ask them to help us in our Christian lives. And now as we celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist, it’s good to remember the angels of God see us and they’re praising God in heaven, and when we offer Mass, we are praising God, together with all the saints and angels.”
Queen of Angels community
Queen of Angels Parish was established in 1951 at the direction of Bishop John F. Noll to serve the overflow crowd at Most Precious Blood. Today, people “come from far and wide in the city because they have roots here. Even though the parish is only 70-some years old, there’s a lot of identity here,” said pastor Father Zachary Barry. “There’s great love for the parish and they’re eager to grow and to learn about the faith. There’s a dedication and a hunger here.”
As the shepherd of this parish, Father Barry works to lead, teach and feed that hunger. The parish community has started the Family of Faith formation program, from the Sophia Institute, which aims to have the family studying together. This year, the school community has also started praying the Angelus at noon every day. Students and teachers are learning the prayer and the tradition behind it, bringing the school community together and helping to build them up, Father Barry continued.
Guiding students as children of Mary and disciples of Christ
Queen of Angels School serves 166 children in grades pre-K through eight. With a new pastor and principal in the past two years, the primary focus for the school has been to build Catholic identity.
The school’s mission is “Guiding students, as children of Mary, to be Disciples of Christ through Faith, Knowledge, and Service.”
“Our No. 1 goal is to build saints,” said principal Dennis Wiegmann, “to help them be better disciples as they move along in the Catholic school experience. Our education is important but bringing students to the faith is just as important if not greater.”
One way the school is doing this is through the Virtue = Strength program, from a company called Sports Leader. Queen of Angels is one of 13 schools using the program that provides a weekly curriculum about the virtues and includes prayers, videos and activities. The school uses the program to provide a weekly special in Catholic Identity. Father Barry also hopes to supplement the program with praise and worship, adoration, confessions and more.
Additionally, principal Wiegmann ends his daily school announcements with the words, “Let us remember what Pope Benedict the XVI tells us: ‘The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.’ Take today and every day to strive for greatness. Have a blessed day.”
Students learn what it is to strive for greatness, every day, through the example of their teachers. “I think every teacher in the diocese works extremely hard,” Weigmann said. “Teaching is not the same as it has been, the vocation has changed due to the pandemic. It makes you have to ask the Lord for more guidance and help.” He expressed that the hard work of the teachers, support from the Catholic Schools Office and the support of diocesan principals for one another help guide the students on that journey for greatness.
As Bishop Rhoades joined principal Wiegmann and Father Barry for a tour and classroom visits, he took a moment to bless the crucifix at the school entrance. “May all who gaze upon this crucifix be moved by the Love of Christ,” he prayed.
The tour highlighted several upgrades and renovations including new wall paint, adding to the stair railing and tearing out an old stage for safety, and building new columns, to name a few. “The worst part about the pandemic was, we had to shut down school,” said Wiegmann. Thanks to parent and church volunteers, however, shutting down “allowed us to get a lot of projects done that we normally wouldn’t have. Ultimately, we all need to be together as one, celebrating the Lord, witnessing and experiencing Him, and one way is through service.”
Bishop Rhoades’ classroom visits included much talk of the feast of the Archangels. They also discussed Bishop’s job in shepherding the diocese and the people who help him as shepherds of the individual parishes, like Father Barry. Likewise, first grade students listened and asked questions about his job as a bishop. They joined him in praying the Angel of God prayer, and like the other classes, they received a blessing.
The second graders greeted Bishop Rhoades with cards and drawings. Second grade student Andy asked about the bishop’s “hat.” Minutes later, Andy was wearing the zucchetto and, while giggling, the class concurred that Andy would indeed make a good priest someday.
The third grade students, having just received the sacraments of reconciliation and first holy Communion last year, came to the bishop with many questions about angels and the souls in heaven. “A very inquisitive class,” Bishop Rhoades admired.
He spoke to an eighth grade student, who said that she had chosen St. Gregory the Great as her confirmation name in anticipation for the upcoming sacrament. Bishop Rhoades shared with the class the story of his time in Rome when he would often visit the San Gregorio al Celio Church. This church, which once used to belong to the family of St. Gregory the Great, is home to the Missionaries of Charity, the religious sisters of St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata. In his visits he would sometimes get to see St. Mother Teresa, he said.
When asked how he knew that he wanted to be a bishop, Bishop Rhoades answered, “I never really thought about becoming a bishop. You discern becoming a priest, so I discerned that God was calling me to be a priest.
“It’s something that the pope decides. So, the only decision on my part was to say yes or no; Now, you really don’t say no to the pope. I got a phone call from the pope’s ambassador to the United States saying that he had appointed me. That was St. John Paul II. I was one of the last bishops he appointed before he died. I had great love and admiration for Pope John Paul II, so that was special.”
Principal Wiegmann concluded the day by saying, “Today was not only about the feast of the archangels, but it was an opportunity for Bishop to see the students and the teachers. I can tell them every day how much the work they are doing is appreciated, but to have the shepherd of our diocese come and tell that to them, it just reaffirms the work that they are doing.”
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