Parishioners of St. Louis, Besancon, New Haven, packed their church for a Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades Sunday, Oct. 14, on the occasion of the completion of a large parish construction project. Following the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Rhoades blessed the new addition to the parish school, St. Louis Academy.
The St. Louis Academy community has grown to over 150 students in recent years. An expansion of the building was deemed necessary, so designs were crafted with input from St. Louis Academy teachers and principal Vanessa Diller. The plans allowed each grade to have its own classroom: It added five classrooms, six bathrooms, a cafeteria and three meeting rooms. The construction of a new gymnasium also includes a teacher’s room that will double as a workroom, not to mention a music and band room — both of which are a first for the school — and a 1,000-square-foot room to store tables and chairs.
Father Benjamin Muhlenkamp described the 10,000-square-foot addition as a “great accomplishment for our small community.”
Children of the parish and school proclaimed the Word clearly and reverently during Mass, prompting an appreciative remark from Bishop Rhoades, who then preached about the Gospel reading from Mark. In the reading, a young rich man approaches Jesus and asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds that in addition to keeping the Ten Commandments, the young man must “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The man went away sad, because he did not want to give up his many possessions.
Bishop Rhoades commented that the young man´s response in the reading is “ironic,” because “He would have found real happiness” had he heeded Jesus’s command. Rhetorically, Bishop Rhoades asked the congregation to ask themselves the question, “What’s preventing me from following Jesus as much as I should?”
Applying the Gospel’s mission to the mission of St. Louis Academy, the bishop stressed the importance not only of teaching the Ten Commandments, but also teaching the children to love and follow Jesus, to put Him first in their lives as His disciples. He said: “Jesus is calling us, like He called the young man, to holiness, which involves more than obeying the Ten Commandments. More radically, it involves discipleship, following and imitating Jesus along the path of love.”
“Jesus invited the young man, as He invites each one of us, to deny ourselves, take up his cross, and follow Him. Following the Lord brings joy and true human fulfillment. If we follow Him, unlike the rich young man, we will not go away sad.”
Following the final blessing, parishioners walked out into the crisp October air to witness as Bishop Rhoades blessed the project for which many of them had sacrificed their time and resources. They looked eager as they filed into the new gymnasium; the altar servers, led by Adam Freiburger and Sam Ensley, stood shoulder to shoulder behind Bishop Rhoades, who took a moment to speak with several parishioners.
Standing next to a beaming Father Muhlenkamp, who had recently returned from a pilgrimage to Rome and Spain, the bishop began: “My dear friends, after much work and prayer by many members of St. Louis Parish, we gather now to inaugurate and bless this new school addition,” he said. “Let us pray to the all-knowing God, who is Lord, that all who enter here, seeking instruction and right moral guidance, may hear Christ their teacher in His Gospel and receive the inner instruction of the Holy Spirit.” At this, he raised his hands, then continued to ask for the Lord’s blessing on the new addition in the presence of parishioners who, according to Father Muhlenkamp, had worked tirelessly to make it a reality.
“We therefore beseech you, through the intercession of St. Louis, to bless and to sanctify this school addition, destined for the education of the young, and the catechizing of parishioners of all ages,” he prayed.
After the general blessing, parishioners followed Bishop Rhoades and Father Muhlenkamp through the halls as he sprinkled holy water on the classrooms, hallways and kitchen. The school children flocked around him, like sheep to a shepherd, smiling from ear to ear as holy water was sprinkled on their new shelves, desks and toys.
Following the blessing, Father Muhlenkamp invited several of the project leaders to speak. Among them were principal Diller and Jim Holmes, who was in charge of the campus improvement plan. He also thanked Brad Smith, a parishioner who works for the construction company with which the parish contracted. In a letter to the parish, Father Muhlenkamp remarked that he would “never know the hours of sleep that Brad and Jim Holmes lost because of working and trying to make this dream a reality.”
In the new gymnasium, brunch had been set up and was enjoyed by the congregation and Bishop Rhoades, featuring dishes homemade by parishioners.
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