“This high school is blessed to have as its patron saint the patron saint of the Catholic Church, the man to whom God the Father entrusted His only begotten Son as His earthly father, St. Joseph,” said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades to the students, faculty, staff and visitors at Mass in Alumni Gymnasium during his annual pastoral visit to Saint Joseph High School. “With the exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph stands above all the saints.”
Bishop continued: “Today, March 19, the Church throughout the world honors St. Joseph. We honor the chaste spouse of Mary. Sometimes, in religious art, Joseph is depicted as an old man. They did so out of a desire to emphasize the perpetual virginity of Mary, depicting her husband as an elderly man with little vital energy. I see him as a strong young man, perhaps a few years older than Our Lady, but in the prime of his life and work. He wasn’t pure and chaste because of his age, but because of his virtue, because of his faith in God, and his love for Mary and Jesus,” he said.
“St. Joseph was Mary’s faithful, chaste and virtuous husband. He protected her virginity and holiness. With her, he cooperated in the Incarnation. Joseph listened to the angel of the Lord and responded to God’s call to care for Jesus and Mary. What an amazing vocation! He played his part in God’s plan for the salvation of humanity. He was a great father. He protected Jesus. He saved Jesus by taking Him to Egypt when Herod wanted to murder the newborn King. That’s why St. Joseph is the only human person who has been given the title of ‘savior of the Savior.’”
Bishop Rhoades explained to the community of students and staff how St. Joseph is described in Scripture as a “just” man. In Hebrew, a “just” man means a good and faithful servant of God, someone who fulfills the divine will or who is honorable and charitable toward his neighbor. He noted St. Joseph is a model of justice for everyone who wants to be a good and faithful servant of God and do God’s will. St. Joseph demonstrates the path of virtue, of love and humility. He was a man of silence and strength, the bishop said. With Mary, he raised Jesus. He fed Him; clothed Him; educated Him in the faith of Israel, in the law; and educated Jesus in the trade of carpentry.
“These were the duties of a father, and St. Joseph fulfilled these duties faithfully. Jesus loved him and admired him. And even now, in heaven, Jesus loves him. St. Joseph truly is the man closest to Christ. Even in eternity, Our Lord shines on St. Joseph and responds to his every request and desire. So St. Joseph is a most powerful intercession for us. We can and should ask St. Joseph to intercede for us. St. André Bessette had a great devotion to St. Joseph, and there were many miracles that took place through Brother André asking for St. Joseph’s help and intercession,” said Bishop.
He told everyone how Pope Francis keeps an image on his table of St. Joseph sleeping. The pope says that even when St. Joseph is sleeping, he is taking care of the Church. When faced with a difficult dilemma, the pope is known to write his distress on a piece of paper and place that paper under the image of St. Joseph sleeping, asking for his powerful intercession.
“I pray that St. Joseph will guard and protect this high school, and every one of you. May he intercede for you, especially for any of you who are dealing with difficult problems, maybe in your families or in other relationships, maybe health problems, or academic challenges, whatever difficulties and challenges you may be facing or will face in the future. I encourage you to go to Joseph, like so many of the saints did,” he said. “May he guard all of us, protect us from evil, and keep us close to Jesus and Mary. May St. Joseph obtain for the Church and for all the world, for this high school and for all of us, the blessing of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
During Mass, students Skylar Burdue, Hannah Horvath and Sophia Matzinger were presented to Bishop Rhoades. All three were confirmed, and two received their first Eucharist from Bishop during the Mass. Burdue was received into full communion with the Church.
Principal Susan Richter also took a moment during Mass to recognize longtime volunteer and Saint Joseph High School alumna Sister Carmel Marie Sallows, CSC. Sister Carmel is the recipient of the Helping Hands Award from the Center for Hospice Care. To honor the life and work of Sister Carmel, a special fund called the Sister Carmel Helping Hands Fund collects donations to directly support charity care for those in need. The SJHS family held a dress-down day to honor her as well, raising $3,000 for the special outreach fund.
Each year during Bishop’s visit, the school announces the names of the Saint Joe Scholars — those students who maintained a GPA of 4.0 or higher during their high school career.
This year 44 students were recognized. Congratulations were extended to Brendan Anderson, Michael Anthony, Dominic Appleton, Sean Casey, Caitlin Casey, Kathleen Conway, Madeline Credi, Madeleine Eckrich, Mile Eckrich, Margaret Garnett, Michael Godfrey, Hannah Goerke, Mary Magdeline Griffin, Rose Kelly, Marty Kennedy, Louis Labuzienski, Eric Liu, Brett Loitz, Meagan Luck, Cole Matthews, Cara McCormick, Charles McFadden, Margaret McGreevy, Trey Miller, Amani Morrell, Megan Mrozinski and Abigail Niezgodski; also to Alma Nunez, Lucrezia Phifer, Kira Pratico, Cooper Putz, Grace Quinn, Addison Quinn, Grace Rosswurm, Lauren Rymsza, Joshua Scott, Rebecca Shelley, Anna Sierra, Katelyn Smith, Madelyn Sonego, Anna Staud, Mary Rose Weber, Megan Welsh and Hunter West.
The school also announced the names of this year’s valedictorian and salutatorians during the Mass. Martin Kennedy and Meagan Luck will be co-salutatorians, and Anna Staud will be the valedictorian.
Before and after the Mass, Bishop Rhoades sat in on several classes and spoke with groups of students and staff. The day was filled with conversations about his recent trip to Ethiopia, and after Mass students had the chance to hear more details about the Catholic Relief Services programs he visited there. The SJHS family also presented him with the gift of two community watering stations for Catholic Relief Services, purchased in his honor.
“Our students and staff are always excited to have Bishop Rhoades visit and celebrate Mass with the Saint Joe family,” said Principal Susan Richter. “He is truly our shepherd and supports Catholic education with such passion. Our students enjoy listening to the incredible experiences Bishop shares after his trips abroad. Bishop’s pastoral visit is always one of the best days of the academic year.”
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