Bishop Rhoades visits St. Charles Borromeo School
By Kay Cozad
FORT WAYNE — St. Charles Borromeo School is one of the largest schools in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and under the leadership of Principal Robert Sordelet, who has administered the school for the past decade, and Assistant Principal Franciscan Sister of the Sacred Heart Sister Genevieve Raupp, has been providing an exemplary Catholic education for Fort Wayne area school children for 50 years.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades made a pastoral visit, his first to this dynamic school, on Dec. 3. He began the day by concelebrating Mass with St. Charles pastor Msgr. John Suelzer, parochial vicar Father Tony Steinacker and Benedictine Father James Kumbakkeel. Members of the student body reverently participated in the choir and as lectors, altar servers and gift bearers.
During his homily, Bishop Rhoades addressed each of the grade levels, traversing energetically across the sanctuary with an exchange of ideas on faith, hope and love. Bishop Rhoades spoke of Francis Xavier, whose feast day they celebrated, and the saint’s missionary work in India and near China.
“He was the greatest missionary in the history of the Church next to St. Paul,” said Bishop Rhoades, adding that we are all called to carry the Gospel to others. Bishop Rhoades appeared encouraged by the knowledge of St. Francis the students relayed, especially one young student who informed the bishop that there were alligators in Japan where St. Francis preached. Bishop Rhoades offered his gratitude to the students, staff and priests for the invitation to visit and a special bishop’s blessing at the conclusion of the Mass.
Enthusiastic kindergarten students waved to Bishop Rhoades as he walked with Msgr. Suelzer across the playground on his way to the school. His first stop after a light breakfast was to a seventh-grade classroom, where he engaged the attentive students in a discussion about their upcoming Confirmation. After quizzing the students on their knowledge of their faith, he opened the floor for questions. The responsive students inquired about the bishop’s ring, hat and Catholic education.
Bishop Rhoades was afforded the opportunity to meet with several grades in the parish hall where he spoke with them about their religious training and answered questions from “Do you like being a bishop?” and “How did you know you wanted to be a priest?” to the more personal “Do you eat fast food?” and “Do you watch TV?” One bold student even asked,“Are you famous?”
Bishop Rhoades cheered one first-grade student who had recently been baptized and was delighted to sing and sign a Christmas song along with the kindergartners, conducted by their own music teacher, Kate Schipper.
A luncheon was served following the classroom visits where Bishop Rhoades dined with the devoted faculty and staff of St. Charles School.
St. Charles Borromeo School first opened its doors on Sept. 15, 1958, under the leadership of Msgr. Edward Hession. The Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart taught nearly 250 students in six grades that first year. The school, located at 4910 Trier Rd. in Fort Wayne, now offers half- and full-day kindergarten and before and after-school care for the almost 750 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The school building itself has undergone several additions and renovations over the years including the most recent newly constructed wing for the fast-growing kindergarten program. The wing was paid for in part by proceeds from the school’s SCRIP program, one of the largest in the area.
With the dedicated faculty and staff of over 75, and an average class size of 28 students, St. Charles offers a well-rounded curriculum following the requirements of the State of Indiana, the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and the National Catholic Education Association. In addition to the traditional subjects taught, an emphasis on math, computer training and science better prepares the students there for success in the ever changing technological world. And additional communication and language skills are developed in the seventh and eighth grades where students study French or Spanish.
The fine arts enrichment program, including choir, band and hand chimes, the outdoor environmental education, the Lego robotics teams and a variety of athletic programs offer extracurricular activities that enrich the students spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Living out the mission of the school, “To teach, live, love and learn as Jesus did,” St. Charles students participate in daily religion classes and attend Mass twice each week. Strong prayer practices are a way of life for these students who begin and end each school day with prayer. And, said Principal Sordelet, the students have several opportunities to pray throughout the day. All classes recite a decade of the rosary each day, so by Friday they have completed the solemn prayer. And there is a team of upper classmen who regularly pray outside the area abortion clinic. “God,” said Sordelet, “permeates everything we do.”
Another strength of this dynamic school, said Sordelet, is the steadfast nature of the people involved. “It’s stabilizing. We’ve only had two pastors in 52 years. And a very supportive parish, parents and kids. We have strong teachers and staff, too.”
Service is an important part of the rich Catholic education found at St. Charles School. Each grade partners with a community charity or organization where the students provide service throughout the year. And the in-house buddy program that pairs an upper-grade class with a lower-grade class offers all students the opportunity to foster working friendships of all kinds.
This Advent season the St. Charles student council has sponsored a Jesse tree, set in the entrance hall of the school where after each day’s Jesse tree reflection reading a symbolic ornament is hung. It is a visible reminder to the students of the spiritual preparation required during this Advent season.
Mary Ann Steinau has been the school secretary at St. Charles for 19 years and said she enjoys the atmosphere at the school as well as the people involved there. Linda Nicholas, administrative secretary, agreed, saying, “It’s a great place to work, great families and the kids are a riot!”
Eighth-grade religion and literature teacher Marcy Watts has been teaching at St. Charles for eight years and said, “I love teaching here. I can bring God into the classroom. The students are a blessing to me. It is like a family here. My students are my family away from home.”
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