Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer
May 30, 2023 // Bishop

The Crucifix is Center of Dwenger Baccalaureate Mass

Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer

Addressing the 2023 graduates of Bishop Dwenger High School, Bishop Kevin Rhoades laid before them the path of the Cross and the opportunity to walk this path of life and holiness as they go forward. He exclaimed, “Our Lord himself invites you to walk the path of faith, the way of the Cross. Jesus said, ‘If you wish to follow me, you must take up your cross and follow me.’ Our Lord invites you to embrace His cross, the sign of His love, as the source of new life.”

Bella Hilger sings the responsorial psalm at the Bishop Dwenger High School Baccalaureate Mass on Wednesday, May 24, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

He continued, saying, “Graduates, the cross can frighten us, because it seems to be a denial of life. But the opposite is true. It is the supreme expression of God’s love and the source from which eternal life flows. It is only love that can free the world from evil. It shows that each of us is loved personally by Jesus with a passionate and faithful love, a love without limits, a love that even conquers death. We can choose to follow Him on that path of love, inspired by His love to live no longer for ourselves, but for Him and with Him for others. We are encouraged to do so by the fact that the love of Christ did not end in His crucifixion but culminated in the joy of His resurrection. Evil does not have the last word. Truth and love triumph. The Cross, which for many is a scandal or foolishness, is in fact, as St. Paul wrote, the power and wisdom of God. The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

At this baccalaureate Mass, celebrated on Wednesday, May 24, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, Bishop Rhoades also drew attention to the physical Cross before their eyes displayed in the Cathedral sanctuary.

He said, “The large Crucifix behind me, is the oldest item in this Cathedral. As a matter of fact, it is older than the Cathedral! This cathedral was built in 1860, but previously on this spot was a small, simple wooden church, the first Catholic Church built in Fort Wayne. That Crucifix was in that first Church. The French missionaries and the Miami native peoples prayed before that Cross and celebrated Mass, and here we are today. That faith that was planted here nearly 200 years ago, we also profess. We look at that crucifix and we see, as they did, the power and the wisdom of God.”

Bishop Rhoades emphasized to the current Bishop Dwenger students that he will be praying for them as they proceed to the next stage of their life’s journey, wherever it may lead, that they will remain faithful to Christ and His cross.

Bishop Dwenger High School Principal Jason Schiffli announces the senior male and female to receive the “Bishop’s Cross Award” during the Baccalaureate Mass on Wednesday, May 24, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Before the final blessing, Jason Schiffli, Principal of Bishop Dwenger, came forward to bestow a special award upon two graduating seniors that connected rather well with bishop’s homily.

Schiffli explained, “Several years ago, in reflecting on the Catholic identity of Bishop Dwenger High School, a new award was created reflecting the four pillars we consider to comprise a well-rounded individual: Faith Life, Life of Service, Academic Life, and Active Life. This award, called ‘The Bishop’s Cross,’ recognizes one male and one female member of the senior class who best personifies the four pillars and represents their class.”

The winners of The Bishop’s Cross for 2023 were announced to be Sofia Vazquez and Joseph Moran. Each received a “Penal Cross” which takes its name from a series of laws passed to suppress the Catholic population in Ireland. The Penal Codes restricted opportunities for employment, land ownership, and even worship for Catholics. Schiffli stated to the students that the Penal Cross depicts the powerful symbol of Christ’s triumph, in a thinly shaped way, so that it could be easily hidden up one’s sleeve unnoticed.

It serves as a recognition that these students lived their Catholic faith with conviction during their high school years, while also encouraging them to remain faithful to this identity through the difficult moments that life will bring.

Schiffli exclaimed, “It is our hope that these recipients, no matter the opposition, will look upon this cross throughout their lives as a source of triumph and comfort.”

Christopher Lushis
Bishop Dwenger High School graduates pose for a photo with Bishop Rhoades following the Baccalaureate Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday, May 24.

Bishop Rhoades also thanked people at Bishop Dwenger High School for educating the two deacons who assisted at this Mass, Deacon Jacob Schneider and Deacon Caleb Kruse. Deacon Schneider, who proclaimed the Gospel, is a 2013 Bishop Dwenger graduate preparing for his ordination to the priesthood this Saturday, June 3. Deacon Kruse, a 2014 Bishop Dwenger graduate, taught these graduating seniors. Kruse was ordained to the diaconate last month and will be serving at St. John the Baptist, New Haven, this summer before running to Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary for his final year of studies.

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