Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades made his annual pastoral visit to Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne, on Tuesday, April 19. At the onset of his day-long stop, the bishop concelebrated Mass with school chaplains Father Michael Ammer and Father Luke Okoye, as well as Fathers Nathan Maskal and Jay Horning.
During his homily, he talked to students about the resurrection of Jesus and how the event cooperates with the natural world in terms of physics and biology.
“You are all studying science. Think about it this way – a theologian and scientist I know wrote the following: ‘From the perspective of physics, the Resurrection is the elevation of matter to a new way of existing beyond what is possible in the normal state of the universe.’”
He continued by stating that the resurrection of Jesus on Easter “doesn’t contradict science since it is something beyond science. It’s about a new dimension of human existence, the final stage of human evolution.”
During Mass, the bishop also mentioned that he would soon celebrate baccalaureate Mass for the graduating senior class.
At the end of Mass, Bishop Dwenger principal Jason Schiffli honored science teacher Elizabeth Walker as the 2021-22 Christ the Teacher awardee in recognition of her contributions to the education, well-being and faith of her students.
Then Bishop Rhoades was off to visit a few classrooms, including Tristin Conroy’s ceramics class, where he watched students spin clay. He expressed surprise that, when finished, these pieces of art must remain in the kiln for several days.
Numerous students greeted the bishop as he passed through halls between classes, stopping by both an American Literature and French class before heading to sociology. Though the French classroom was empty of students at the time, he spent a few minutes speaking with French teacher Lori Foltz.
The students in the sociology class, instructed by social studies teacher Tabitha Ray, discussed the difference between criminality and deviance. Ray gave her students a collaborative activity, and two of them invited Bishop Rhoades to join in their work group.
The students and Bishop Rhoades, who had been given a list of hypothetical scenarios, were tasked with determining whether an act was deviant or if the act was criminal. The bishop admitted that it was tough deciding how to label certain actions. He added that, while perhaps living as a hermit may seem deviant to the world at large, from a Catholic perspective it may not be as unusual.
At midday, Bishop Rhoades met with the student council for lunch, and they discussed theology, family and highlights of the current school year. He also asked the senior members of the council about their post-graduation plans.
One council member, a relative of Archbishop John F. Noll, asked Bishop Rhoades about the recent sale of Victory Noll, where the late archbishop is buried. According to Global Sisters Report, much of the land at Victory Noll was sold to local preservation nonprofit ACRES Land Trust, and the motherhouse was sold within the last several months to the Huntington County Community Corrections Program to assist in the treatment of drug addicts.
Bishop Rhoades said that, while parts of the property have been sold to different groups, the cemetery where Archbishop Noll and several religious sisters are buried would remain in Catholic possession.
Joseph Bulanda, student body president, spoke of the fruits of the council’s lunchtime discussion with Bishop Rhoades. “I enjoyed talking with him, and he seemed to have a genuine care for all of our futures, and he really wanted to know the truth about Dwenger, so we got to talk to him about that.”
Bishop Rhoades leaped at the opportunity to learn the sport of pickleball in physical education class before his afternoon meetings. Teachers Matt Kostoff and John Tone taught the bishop how to play, and three students practiced several rounds of the game with him.
At the end of the day, the bishop met with the high school’s theology teachers as well as Schiffli. The principal said that they “all shared a laugh because we pointed out a rip in Bishop’s pants at the knee.”
“Bishop had dived for a ball with his paddle during a pickleball match in the PE class,” Schiffli said. “Bishop sacrificed his pants, and he had a floor burn mark on his leg. I’m sure it hurt, but Bishop told me he loved playing the game with the students. It was fantastic and undoubtedly memorable for our students to see Bishop enjoying a game with them.”
He added that they were “blessed to have Bishop Rhoades visit Bishop Dwenger during the Octave of Easter.”
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