YODER — On Oct. 9, 1876, Father Ferdinand Koerdt opened St. Aloysius School in what was then Sheldon, Indiana. Today, 138 years later, St. Aloysius in Yoder takes pride in continuous operation since its humble beginnings.
In 1876, the pastor himself taught at the school. Today, a staff of 12 serves the 101 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 8.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass and visited classrooms during a pastoral visit there on Monday, Oct. 20.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke about the day’s Gospel from Luke — the parable of the rich man with a bountiful harvest.
He told the students the message was of generosity. “Everything we have is gifts from the Lord to be shared,” he said.
The bishop was encouraged by how the students of the school learn to be generous — collecting cans for food banks, St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen and by providing toys for hospitalized children.
After Mass, Bishop Rhoades and St. Aloysius Principal Tina Voors and pastor Msgr. Bernard Galic met briefly before visiting classrooms.
Bishop Rhoades began with a classroom visit with the pre-kindergarten youngsters in Tracy Miller’s class.
He ventured next to the kindergarten classroom of Theresa Kiracofe where Bishop Rhoades learned the students were studying creation and could recite the Angel of God prayer.
In first-and-second grade teacher Nikki Thompson’s classroom, Bishop Rhoades learned that the students knew the Ten Commandments and was offered a lesson on seahorses.
In Priscilla Harless’s fifth-and-sixth grade classroom, Bishop Rhoades quizzed the students about the symbols of the Office of Bishop. They discussed the papacy and Bishop Rhoades noted he will meet Pope Francis for the first time on Nov. 26, the bishop’s birthday.
In Starr Martin’s third-and-fourth grade room, Bishop Rhoades was greeted “good morning” in sign language. The bishop asked the fourth graders about the saints they chose for the upcoming All Schools Mass at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum on Oct. 29. He had quizzed Bryce Frauenfelder during Mass about the meaning of the parable of the rich man and offered him a “chance” to go to seminary next year. In the classroom visit, Bishop Rhoades let Bryce try on the zucchetto cap worn by a bishop.
The seventh- and eighth-grade students of Dawn Wyss were meeting in Sean Black’s music class. The students sang a song for the bishop in Swahili. The students just began their Confirmation preparation and the bishop spoke in depth about the sacrament in which the students will be fully initiated in the Church.
A special homemade lunch was served that day. Bishop Rhoades had lunch with students and was presented two framed spiritual bouquets that were made into artwork. Eighth-grade students Savanna White and Madison Frauenfelder presented a report on St. Aloysius, one of the saints that Bishop Rhoades has a special devotion.
Rural school, strong sense of family
Principal Voors told Today’s Catholic that the St. Aloysius School community “is a place where students have freedom to learn to do what they ought according to the life to which God calls them.”
“It is a safe place to grow and discern God’s gifts, talents and purpose for their lives,” Voors said.
The school has a strong sense of family and oftentimes several generations of family members have attended the school. But the school’s welcome is always extended to new families and students as well.
“Our school is our family,” said Nikki Thompson, herself a fourth-generation graduate of St. Aloysius School. The school’s seventh-and-eight grade teacher, Dawn Wyss, is also a fourth generation graduate of St. Aloysius.
“It’s a place where the needs of every child are met,” Thompson noted. “The small class sizes and dedicated teachers allow students to develop their talents and live the Gospel values.”
Students at St. Aloysius attend Mass twice a week, celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation once per quarter, pray the rosary at school once per week, have an outreach service each month and pray every day. Religion is taught every day.
“What is most significant in my eyes,” Voors said, “is the ability to redirect student behavior within what Jesus teaches. This forms the whole person.”
Voors spoke of three strengths of the school: The ability of each faculty and staff member to give completely of themselves for the sake of the students and the school; the support of the parish as its mission to maintain and grow a school that forms each individual student spiritually and academically; and the belief that this develops the Body of Christ — that each person is valued and loved as His creation.
“Forming saints and scholars in Christ takes time, commitment, the right tools, a healthy environment and a focus on Our Lord at all times,” noted St. Aloysius pastor, Msgr. Bernard Galic. “This is what we do with the help of the Holy Spirit.”
The school has a full-time dedicated resource teacher who supports the classroom teachers in helping students of various abilities to grow, reported Voors. “But underneath all that work are the conversations that the faculty have about students every week — observations, successes, concerns, celebrations. It’s amazing to see a student’s education develop because our teachers clear the way and challenge them at the same time.”
Teacher Priscilla Harless, who teaches grades 5-6 and math to grades 3-8, spoke of the new departmentalization at St. Aloysius that “capitalizes on each teacher’s specialized talents, which provide more in-depth learning opportunities for the students in grades 3-8. The continuity of teaching the children for six years is a blessing,” she said.
Michael and Rebecca Anderson drive from Bluffton for their two sons to attend St. Aloysius — a 15-mile trip one way. They are parishioners of St. Joseph, Bluffton, which does not have a parish school.
“St. Aloysius has been a great environment for our boys,” reported Rebecca Anderson. “The teaching staff has all gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure the children are getting the most out of their education.”
“This has been the best experience for this family when it comes to our boys’ education,” Michael Anderson noted. “One of the biggest plusses to the boys going to St. Aloysius is they get to have a faith-based education. I want my boys to grow up to be the best person they can be and knowing they are going to a school where their faith is a priority.”
Teacher Nikki Thompson, whose children also attend St. Aloysius, spoke of how school environment helps protect the children. “If we can continue to filter out much of that which is transient,” Thompson said, “we can better equip our students to handle living ‘in’ the world than being consumed ‘by’ it.”
St. Aloysius School
14607 Bluffton Rd., Yoder, IN 46789
Established: Oct. 9, 1876
Students: 101 in pre-kindergarten-grade 8
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