February 1, 2022 // Diocese

Using talents is a focus of pastoral visit to St. Anthony de Padua

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades began his pastoral visit to St. Anthony de Padua School in South Bend by celebrating Mass on St. Thomas Aquinas’ feast day, Jan. 28. As St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint of Catholic schools, Bishop Rhoades said he could think of no better school to celebrate this feast day at than with the community of St. Anthony de Padua. After the Mass, the bishop blessed the new combined school and parish office. He then visited the classrooms and had lunch with the teachers. 

Photos by Derby Photography
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades speaks to students and staff of St. Anthony de Padua Catholic Parish and School in South Bend at his pastoral visit on Jan. 28.

Teaching the students

Bishop Rhoades focused his homily on the kingdom of God and the two parables in the Gospel reading in which Jesus compared seeds that are sown in the ground to heaven. He taught the students that Jesus used stories like these to help the people with whom he was speaking to understand his message. He talked about how the seeds that grow into big branches are like the Church because it also started small and continues to grow. He encouraged each of the students to participate in the kingdom of God. “The kingdom of God is a kingdom of love and peace. It’s a kingdom of justice. That’s the community we belong to,” he said. “When you go to Catholic school, you learn to live in God’s kingdom, to grow in love, to follow Jesus and to learn from Him.

“A Catholic school helps you to live as citizens of God’s kingdom.”

Bishop Rhoades then spoke about St. Thomas Aquinas. He said, “Some of the greatest members of the kingdom of God were the saints because they lived the teachings of Jesus, and we are all called to be saints.” He shared the story of St. Thomas Aquinas’ life and how he was called to be a priest almost 800 years ago. He told everyone how St. Thomas grew up with a lot of wealth and even lived in a castle. When the future saint told his parents that he wanted to be a Dominican priest, they did not want this because of their vow of poverty, so they locked him in their castle for more than a year. But St. Thomas persevered and eventually his parents agreed to let him become a Dominican. 

Bishop Rhoades talked about how influential St. Thomas Aquinas’ writings still are so many years later. He said that St. Thomas “wrote beautiful philosophy and theology and became an excellent teacher.”

He also told the students about how St. Thomas Aquinas’ fellow classmates gave him the nickname of “dumb ox” because of how quiet he was in class. Despite this teasing, he said that St. Thomas Aquinas went on to become “a great teacher who wrote all those books that we read today, explaining the faith so beautifully. He was not only smart, he was holy and he loved God very much. He loved the Church and he loved the people.” 

Bishop Rhoades then encouraged the students to be like St. Thomas, saying, “You should use your gifts. God has given all of you gifts. Some of you may come by studies easier than others, but the important thing is that we all work hard.” 

Celebrating the Mass, from left to right, are Deacon Brian Miller, Father John Sollee, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Father Ben Muhlenkamp.

Blessing the workspace

After Mass, Bishop Rhoades stopped into the office at St. Anthony de Padua to offer a blessing of this new addition to the school and church. Father Ben Muhlenkamp, the parish pastor and interim principal, gave him a tour of the new space. The eighth-grade class was present for the blessing, as some of the students had helped with the project. Previously, the church and school offices were in separate buildings and this new addition allows both staffs to be in the same office. Kim DeBoe, the school secretary, noted that, “It’s just such an incredible blessing to be able to be in the same space.” 

This is a project that was made possible through the involvement of the greater St. Anthony de Padua community. A volunteer offered to the do the masonry involved to create the new entrance, which will add a greater sense of security to the school. Breeyan Antongiovanni, the vice president of the board, said that “so many community members, both in our parish and in our school, were able to help under the great leadership of Father Ben and Andrew Turba, our maintenance person, who has helped tremendously with the project.” 

Bishop Rhoades offered a blessing over the new spaces and sprinkled each room with holy water. Father Muhlenkamp even ensured that the new coffee bar was blessed. 

Stephenie Johnson’s preschool class welcomes Bishop Rhoades to their classroom as a special guest.

Visiting the Classrooms

After the blessing, Bishop Rhoades took the opportunity to meet with the classes, from preschool up through eighth grade. In preschool, he talked to the kids about Jesus, telling them, “Jesus is my best friend,” and encouraging them to form a friendship with Jesus as well. 

When he learned that the seventh grade was doing projects on the countries in Africa, Bishop Rhoades talked about his trips to Nigeria and Ethiopia, working with Catholic Relief Services to help bring food to those in need. Many students’ jaws dropped when he told them that he celebrated a five-hour Mass in Nigeria, helping to ordain 23 priests. 

In all the classrooms, Bishop Rhoades asked the students if they had any questions and many came up about his crosier and miter, with one student in sixth grade asking why he took his hat on and off so much during Mass. Bishop Rhoades explained that when he is addressing the public, he keeps his miter on, but if he is talking to God, such as during the consecration, he takes the miter off. Father Muhlenkamp remarked from the back of the classroom that he never knew that and that even he was learning new things from this visit. 

Bishop Rhoades also explained to several classes that he wore a ring to signify that he is married to the Church. He told the students that just as husbands are called to sacrifice for and care for their wives, he is called to sacrifice and care for his flock. 

A third-grade student answers a question from Bishop Rhoades as he spent time in the classrooms at St. Anthony de Padua school during his pastoral visit.

The fourth-grade class shared that they were reading biographies and the bishop took time to ask each student whose biography they were currently reading. Three different students were reading a biography on James Madison and Bishop Rhoades told them about the time he visited Madison’s house in Virginia. He also shared with the class that he was currently reading a two-volume biography on Pope Benedict XVI. 

Katie Lasseter, one of the fourth-grade teachers, commented, “Bishop Rhoades took the time to speak to each one of the students and they were so enthusiastic about that and so excited to share what they were learning.” Breeyan, who has four children at the school, said that “Bishop Rhoades was just so patient and kind with the kids and he took the time to speak to them one on one and answer their questions and just gave them the gift of time. He spent a lot of good, quality time with them.”

St. Anthony de Padua teachers invite Bishop Rhoades to a luncheon to celebrate his pastoral visit to the parish and school.


St. Anthony de Padua’s community is one that has come together in numerous ways. Father Muhlenkamp remarked, “Today is just such a great celebration of what a community can do together. A lot of those kids’ parents contributed in numerous ways to the completion of that project, hanging drywall, and I am so grateful for the generosity of the people here at the parish.” As St. Anthony de Padua searches for a new principal, Fr. Muhlenkamp is currently acting as the principal as well as pastor. He expressed his gratitude for the number of ways that all the teachers and administrative staff has stepped up and used their gifts to help the school continue to run smoothly. Pam White, the assistant to the principal, said, “The teachers are the heart of the school.” Breeyan agreed, noting that one of the reasons her children attend the school is the “wonderful teachers. They are so approachable; they take the time to care for the whole child.” 

Bishop Rhoades stands in as a middle-school teacher for seventh grade during his visit to St. Anthony de Padua School.

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