Catholic primary school students on the eastern half of the diocese gathered at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum Oct. 15 for an All-Schools Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. The annual Mass drew more than 2,500 students from 21 area schools.
Student volunteers from Bishop Dwenger and Bishop Luers high schools, both in Fort Wayne, assisted with the Mass by serving as ushers. The Bishop Luers choir also volunteered their voices to provide musical accompaniment for the liturgy.
Fourth graders in attendance dressed as their favorite saints, whom they had researched in class. Four came as St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast was celebrated on the day of the gathering. During the homily, Bishop Rhoades invited the four to the front of the congregation and asked them questions to help teach those present about the life of St. Teresa.
Fourth grade religion teacher Cassie Wagley of St. Charles Borromeo School, Fort Wayne, said her students went as far as writing an intercessory prayer to their saints. She added that they used Google Slides to make a creative presentation they will show to their peers and parents. “They have really enjoyed this project and have learned so much,” Wagley said.
The bishop spoke about unity through the Holy Spirit. “As He [Jesus] said in the Gospel we just heard, ‘I am the vine. You are the branches.’ The most important thing in our life is to stay connected to the vine; to stay united to Jesus. … If we stay connected to Jesus, our lives will bear good fruit, the fruits of the Holy Spirit; especially love,” he said.
“The saints, who we remember today, especially St. Teresa of Avila, were all fruitful branches on the vine. They stayed connected to Jesus. That is why we see so many beautiful fruits in their lives. That is why they are saints,” he told them.
He instructed that first, students should be Jesus’s friend through daily prayer.
“When we pray every day, we are staying connected to Jesus, our best friend. Prayer is so important. We also stay connected to Jesus when we receive the sacraments, when we receive His grace. Grace is like the sap in the vine that goes to the branches, giving them life so they can produce fruit. Every time we receive holy Communion, the holy Eucharist, we are united more closely to Jesus, because we receive His body and blood.
“Sometimes when we sin, our connection to Jesus becomes weaker. It can “dry up,” the bishop warned. “So, God gives us another sacrament to connect us more closely to Jesus by forgiving our sins. That sacrament is reconciliation; confession. It strengthens our union with Jesus, the vine.”
Reflecting on the importance of the annual All-Schools Mass, Superintendent of Catholic Schools Joseph Brettnacher said it’s but one example of how Jesus Christ remains the reason for the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
“It’s an opportunity for students to see their counterparts at other schools as they actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass, which culminates with the celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist,” he said. “In the eucharistic prayer we commemorate the sacrifice Jesus Christ made to atone for our sins and His glorious resurrection. For many of us, this Mass highlights the importance of Catholic schools to the Church.”
Brettnacher said that seeing the clergy, educators, bishop, family and relatives come together for Mass reminds him of “the role each one plays in helping boys and girls fulfill their destiny to become saints and reach heaven.”
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