Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades made his annual visit to Saint Joseph High School on the feast day of the school’s patron saint.
His visit, which was kicked off with a celebration of Mass in the school’s main gymnasium, also featured classroom questions and answers, the honoring of several students and faculty members and presentations of gifts, including a live goat and a championship banner.
“It’s great to come every year to celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph,” said Bishop Rhoades at the beginning of Mass, “the feast day of the great husband of the blessed Virgin Mary, the earthly father of Jesus and the patron saint of not only Saint Joseph High School, but also of the Catholic Church.”
The feast of St. Joseph traditionally takes place on March 19. However, because that date fell on a Sunday in Lent this year, the feast day was transferred to Monday, March 20 — which pleased Bishop Rhoades because that allowed him to celebrate the day with the students.
“Almost every year I am able to come here on the feast of St. Joseph. I always look forward to this. It’s become a tradition and something that I really enjoy — to be here with you to honor this great saint.”
Given the limited amount of information about St. Joseph in the Gospels, Bishop Rhoades admitted that it can be a bit challenging to find something new to preach on each year during his visit. But the high school’s recent achievement of becoming a Catholic Relief Services global high school, coupled with his own recent CRS trip to Gaza, gave him plenty of new subjects to preach about.
“It was in Gaza, most probably, that the Holy Family escaped to and went through on their way to Egypt,” he said. He then continued to speak to the incredible faith and devotion Joseph must have possessed, to prompt him to follow God’s will by leading the Holy Family on such a treacherous a journey.
Bishop Rhoades then related the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt to the students.
“Another thing that struck me, which is more relevant to you, is that Joseph was probably your age. Especially you seniors. The average age of marriage for men would have been 18.”
At the end of the Mass Bishop Rhoades apologized for running long and keeping the students out of class, then jokingly offered to give another homily — to which they responded with laughter and cheers. His rapport with the students is one of the many reason why the bishop’s visits are regarded with much anticipation by the students.
Additionally, Allison Coyne, a junior at Saint Joseph High School, said; “He has done amazing things for our school community, such as supporting the creation of the new building. As he walks through the halls he will see his hard work has created an environment focused on faith, academics, and building a family — and for that, we are truly grateful.”
After the celebration of Mass several students were honored and gifts were presented to the bishop.
The students honored were seniors who had achieved recognition by the school for having maintained a 4.0 GPA after seven semesters of high school. Additionally, both the salutatorian and valedictorian of the class of 2017 were announced.
These were ways to recognize some of the brightest students at Saint Joseph, a school with 900 students that boasts an exceptional student-faculty ratio, something that has helped it to achieve a 100 percent graduation rate.
Next, a banner for Saint Joseph’s recent Class 3A girls basketball state championship was unveiled. All stood and applauded as a smiling Bishop Rhoades was shown the banner.
This was followed by a gift Bishop said he had never been given in person; a live goat. The goat represented a gift of $2,600 from the school to Bishop Rhoades for Catholic Relief Services, which is enough to provide 33 goats to impoverished people living in Third World countries.
Immediately after Mass, pictures were taken before Bishop Rhoades visited with seniors in a church history class. There, he spoke on St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis, two important figures the students were in the midst of learning about. Finally, Bishop met with several club and student council leaders and was impressed all the great work they had been doing.
“We are excited and honored to have Bishop Rhoades visit Saint Joseph for his annual pastoral visit today,” said Susan Richter, principal. “Celebrating Mass with Bishop is always special, and our students enjoy talking with him during his class visits. Our student leaders have the opportunity to eat lunch and share their Saint Joe experiences with our shepherd. I know Bishop Rhoades enjoys this time with our young people and always encourages them to continue to grow in their faith and serve others. Having Bishop Rhoades visit our school is always one of the best days of the year; he sees our mission in action.”
The day ended with the bishop leading a mid-afternoon prayer service and meeting with Saint Joseph faculty and staff members, who are there to guide the students to discipleship — a journey Bishop Rhoades feels is of the utmost importance.
“The students were being recognized for various athletic and academic achievements, which is great because they’re using the gifts God has given them,” he said at the end of Mass. “But what I am more proud of, and think is most important is their goodness and their love. That their formation here at Saint Joseph High School is a formation into discipleship, and in the end, that’s what’s most important.”
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