May 7, 2024 // Bishop

Students, Faculty Enter the Church at Saint Joseph High School During Pastoral Visit

Bishop Rhoades made a special visit to Saint Joseph High School in South Bend on Wednesday, May 1, to confer the sacraments of initiation on six members of the school community.

Four students were baptized, and one student and one teacher entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. The all-school Mass was held on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, one of the school’s patron saints.

“There’s an exhilaration in that and a joy in that, seeing these individuals make that decision to be with God and to embrace the Church,” Saint Joseph Principal John Kennedy said. “And it’s an example for others, and it’s a celebration.”

Teacher Jill Jonatzke is anointed with sacred chrism during her confirmation.

In his homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke primarily about the sacraments of initiation and how they build upon one another. Baptism is “participation in God’s own life,” and confirmation strengthens the graces of baptism.

Addressing the candidates and catechumens, Bishop Rhoades said of the Eucharist: “I hope and pray that you will always treasure this amazing gift that Our Lord gave us the night before He died. It’s the gift of Himself … the food for our journey through life. And remember, it is holy Communion that preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace that we receive at baptism.”

Bishop Rhoades then invoked the intercession of the saints and held them up as examples. “The destiny of the saints is your destiny,” he reminded the Saint Joseph community.

Saint Joseph High School Principal John Kennedy addresses the school community after Mass.

After Mass, Kennedy led the school community in recognizing the monthly community award winners, the Saint Joseph Scholars (seniors who have earned a 4.0 grade point average or higher), and the entire senior class of 2024. The school’s representatives for Catholic Relief Services also presented the school’s $1,500 donation in Bishop Rhoades’ name.

Additionally, Bishop Rhoades received a special gift, presented by two student athletes: a gift bag that included a Saint Joseph Huskies sweatshirt and a stuffed husky, in honor of the school’s recent mascot change. Bishop Rhoades expressed his thanks for the gift, though he also wondered aloud why nobody had voted for his mascot suggestion: the Saint Joseph Beavers. “They’re very tough – just think of their teeth!” Bishop Rhoades joked.

After Mass, the bishop had lunch with school and diocesan administrators as well as student leaders. Bishop Rhoades talked with students and staff about athletics and plans for the school’s future, as well as the recent school musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The school’s Office of Pastoral Ministry managed logistics for the day. The office oversees “anything that is faith-based” at the school, as Director of Pastoral Ministry Christine Baglow told Today’s Catholic. This includes daily morning and afternoon prayer, regular opportunities for the sacraments, a Lenten Passion Play, and yearly retreats. But the office – and the students it trains – also plays a large part in OCIA (the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults).

Student members of pastoral ministry listen to Director of Pastoral Ministry Christine Baglow at Saint Joseph High School on Wednesday, May 1.

Baglow said the process usually begins when the office sends out a survey at the end of the year to the student body asking what they participated in and what they’re interested in learning more about. This often encourages students who are interested in Catholicism to make that desire known.

“We try to give them an opportunity to be invited into that if they are interested,” Baglow said. “There’s no pressure at all; it’s simply an invitation and an inquiry.”

Baglow said helping students explore Catholicism is a “big priority” for her, partly because of an experience she had at a previous ministry job. Baglow knew one woman who had run Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at her parish for many years but was not Catholic. “I remember one day just saying to her, ‘Have you ever thought about becoming Catholic?’” Baglow said. “She had been there for years, and this was the first time anybody had ever asked her. And that made such a huge impression on me. I didn’t know I was doing anything extraordinary.”

The Saint Joe Liturgical Choir is directed by Mika Brunson and accompanied by student instrumentalists.

The school connects each interested student to a nearby parish’s OCIA program, but there is also extensive on-campus formation. Throughout the school year, students interested in Catholicism check in with a theology teacher and meet regularly one-on-one with a Catholic peer. Baglow put the peer ministry work in terms of “accompaniment” – every pair of students prays and has conversations about the Catholic faith together. This year, Baglow said, each candidate and catechumen picked their student peer sponsor as their confirmation sponsor.

Baglow and Deacon Andy Oross, Associate Director of Pastoral Ministry, said several students recently baptized at the school are now leaders in student peer ministry. “They don’t miss an opportunity to share how great this has been for them,” Baglow said.

Deacon Oross said Bishop Rhoades was instrumental in helping Saint Joseph High School host the sacraments of initiation. Before this, every student interested in becoming Catholic would have to do all their formation outside the school. “The influence was here before that, we just couldn’t really facilitate it effectively,” Deacon Oross said. Saint Joseph High School has hosted the sacraments of initiation for at least the past three years.

Kennedy said he appreciates the ability to confirm students on site within the school community. “Your peers, your classmates, your teammates … all those people got to be with them. And that’s really special,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy also expressed gratitude for the work of the Office of Pastoral Ministry, both on the day of the Mass and throughout the year. “We have a dynamic pastoral ministry team, and we have many opportunities for students to grow in their faith, to learn about it, embrace the Catholic faith, and to grow in their relationship with Jesus. And today was a day you could kind of see it and feel it,” Kennedy said.

Newly baptized and confirmed student Jaylin Halley is congratulated by her family.

Baglow said watching one of the students being confirmed made the importance of the sacrament hit home for her.

“The expression on her face, being able to see her as the bishop was receiving her, it was like, she’s coming home,” Baglow said. “This is homecoming for her. This is a sense of belonging, which of course every person longs for.”

453 N. Notre Dame Avenue, South Bend


Year founded: 1953

Number of students: 841

Principal: John Kennedy


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