On the feast day of St. Ignatius of Antioch, and wearing the red vestments of a Mass celebrated for a martyr, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades gave attendees of the annual All-Schools Mass in Fort Wayne a preview of All Saints Day, with more than a little help from the Catholic elementary students.
The Oct. 17 Mass was celebrated in Expo Centers II and III of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, and schools from the eastern side of the diocese participated.
Bishop Rhoades’ homily colorfully made the day’s Scripture readings relevant for the young worshippers. The readings recounted Jesus’ calling of Peter, Andrew, James and John to their discipleship. Pointing out that one-third of the original Twelve were fishermen, the bishop said everyone has a call to be fishers of men, just like the disciples.
The word “disciple,” Bishop Rhoades said, translates to “student” in Greek, which means everyone is called to be a student and friend of Jesus. “Jesus is saying to all of us, ‘Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”
He lifted up St. Ignatius as an example of one who lived fully for Christ. St. Ignatius had succeeded St. Peter as the bishop of Antioch after Peter went to Rome, and he was martyred because he refused to worship Roman gods as was demanded by the emperor.
Bishop Rhoades said St. Ignatius had a special love for people who were suffering. He called on the students to do the same, saying they ought to have “special love, care and compassion for the suffering. That’s what it means to be Catholic.”
One way the plight of those who suffer was directly addressed at the event was through a food drive. Students dressed as saints brought forward donated food along with the gifts during the offertory. Those gifts were but a small amount of what had been donated by the students that day, however: Barrels of food bound for Community Harvest Food Bank overflowed at the entrance to the expo center.
A special part of the bishop’s homily featured interviews with two fourth-grade students from St. Mary of the Assumption School, Avilla. “Don’t be nervous, there are only … 3,000 people here,” he warmly teased, as he guided the conversation with the two about the saints they chose to represent with their costumes that day.
Fourth-grade students in each of the schools had researched and dressed as saints of their choosing. They sat together in chairs on the floor of the Memorial Coliseum, surrounded in the stadium-style arena by the rest of the students.
Later, Clara Liponoga, a fourth-grader at Most Precious Blood School, Fort Wayne, shared that her saint, St. Clare of Assisi, had sheltered a group of nuns who were endangered by invaders to her city. She held up a monstrance, “and they were suddenly scared away …. they could have killed her!” Clara said.
The All-Schools Masses are sponsored by the You Can Lend a Hand program, said Kelli Stopczynski, director of marketing for Quality Dining, Inc. The Fitzpatrick family, owners of the company, grew up in the Catholic schools and so appreciated their own educational experiences that they wanted to give back to the cause. Dan Fitzpatrick, now chairman and CEO, learned of some suboptimal situations in his then-area Catholic schools and started a dialogue, trying to find a way to help. From that, the coupon book fundraiser was started.
Now $3 apiece and sold every February, schools use the funds raised for everything from playground equipment to new technology, raising $11 million in the 37 years of the program’s existence
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