FORT WAYNE — St. Joseph School formally opened its 2014-2015 school year as a stand-alone central city Catholic elementary school with a special all-school Mass and blessing by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Sept 2. Father Tim Wrozek, pastor of St. Joseph Church, concelebrated the Mass.
In its 90-year history, including the past 16 years as a joint school with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, during which it educated grades 5-8, St. Joseph School has been an academic beacon for the surrounding community. Now 90-plus preschool through fifth-grade multi-ethnic students call the halls of the newly renovated building at 2211 Brooklyn Ave., their educational home.
Opening the bilingual Mass, Bishop Rhoades told the attentive congregation made up of St. Joseph students, their teachers and staff, and visitors, some of whom served at St. Joseph School in years past, of his gratitude for the “teachers and staff who work so hard to make this school a success.”
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades began by praising the students for their enthusiastic responses during Mass. “I could feel your happiness and joy while you were singing the ‘Alleluia.’ That’s why we’re here today — to sing alleluia and praise God,” he said.
The bishop appeared amazed at the number of hands that went up when he asked how many were new to St. Joseph School. Principal Cristy Jordan reports that two thirds of the students are new this academic year.
Bishop Rhoades reminded the students that they are celebrating the opening of St. Joseph as its own school where not only academic subjects are taught, but the Catholic faith as well. “You get to learn from Jesus, the Great Teacher. You get to study your faith,” he said.
Encouraging the students to pray to Jesus individually and together, the bishop taught them a prayer method that he himself learned from Pope Francis’ teachings. Using the hand as a teaching tool, Bishop Rhoades instructed the students to look at their thumbs, the closest digit to the body, and pray for those closest to the heart. The index finger, the pointer, reminds the faithful to pray for teachers and those who educate, he said. The tallest middle finger represents leaders for whom to pray, while the ring finger, considered the weakest digit, brings the weak and suffering to mind. The little finger is the furthest from the body and represents one’s self. “It’s okay to pray for ourselves,” said the bishop. “Say, Lord, help me to be good. Lord, show me Your love.”
To conclude his homily, Bishop Rhoades assured the students and staff that he would continue to pray “that God will bless you and your school.”
At the close of Mass, Father Wrozek thanked the bishop for his visit, after which Principal Jordan, along with staff members, were on hand to present Bishop Rhoades with a St. Joseph School sweater.
Jordan said of this special day, “It’s a day of carpentry where we’re all building this new opportunity. We consider the bishop a carpenter just like the rest of us.”
Following the Mass, Secretariat for Catholic Education Carl Loesch joined Bishop Rhoades and Father Wrozek who led the congregation into the courtyard adjacent to the newly renovated building space where the new main office is located. There the bishop blessed the building and its occupants with prayer and holy water. During the course of the blessing, Bishop Rhoades also blessed special St. Joseph prayer cards to be distributed to the dedicated teachers and staff of the new school and received a donation box decorated by the Diaz family that read: “To give a little happiness to those who need it more than us.”
Before the students returned to their classrooms, Father Wrozek led them in three cheers for their bishop, who then met with each student, answering questions, shaking hands and receiving heartfelt hugs.
St. Joseph School offers an exemplary academic curriculum that includes religion studies to its rich ethnic student body, the majority of whom are of Hispanic descent. The currently enrolled fifth-grade students will become the first graduating class of St. Joseph School in 2018. The dedicated staff of 11 teachers includes a substantially staffed resource room for those students who require additional assistance. Interestingly, the plaid for the fresh new school uniforms remains unique to St. Joseph as no other school in the United States uses it.
Father Wrozek, noting the street construction that currently surrounds the school as well as the renovation construction within its walls, said, “As we are closer to the end of construction, we continue the construction of Catholic students to be good Catholic people. Our goal is to help the children love the liturgy and love the Catholic Church.”
Loesch concluded, “It’s a joy to see some (of the former St. Joseph staff) at Mass. We’re grateful to stand on their shoulders — honoring the veterans and welcoming the new. We’re thrilled to start making new traditions here.”
For more information on St. Joseph School call 260-432-4000 or visit www.saintjosephfw.com.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.