October 13, 2010 // Uncategorized

Visit to rural parishes enjoyable and educational

Monroeville and Besancon
On this beautiful Sunday, which feels more like summer than fall, I celebrated Masses at two historic parishes of our diocese. The first, Saint Rose of Lima Parish, is located at Monroeville, a small town in southeastern Allen County. It was founded in 1868, during the episcopate of our first Bishop, Bishop John Luers. The second, Saint Louis Parish, is located east of Fort Wayne in an area called Besancon because of the French immigrants who settled in the area from Besancon, France. In fact, the parish is commonly called “Saint Louis Besancon.” Of course, it is named in honor of the holy king of France, Saint Louis. This parish was founded in 1848, eleven years before the Diocese of Fort Wayne was established! I noticed the many French names on the tombstones in the parish cemetery. I also learned that many present-day parishioners are descendants of the original French settlers of the area.

I have mentioned before in this column how much I enjoy these visits to our rural and small-town parishes. The churches are lovely and there is a family-like atmosphere in the parish communities. After the Mass at Saint Rose of Lima Church, I enjoyed meeting the parishioners in the school cafeteria for refreshments after Mass. The children of the parish school, named Saint Joseph School, sang a beautiful prayer of blessing at the gathering.

After the Mass at Saint Louis Besancon Church, I enjoyed a huge potluck dinner with many parishioners of both parishes. There, the children of the parish school, Saint Louis Academy, also sang a few beautiful songs. Then I experienced a few activities that I had never done before. First, I was a judge in a pie contest. Five of us ate slivers of eleven delicious pies and then we had to judge them on taste, crust, and appearance. I wish I had not already eaten a full meal before the contest, but I managed to enjoy all eleven pieces!

After the pies, I was treated to a ride on a huge combine harvester. I had never been on a combine nor did I know how they worked. Many of the parishioners at Saint Louis Besancon have farms or work on farms. I was happy to ride on the combine and watch the harvesting of the corn. It was amazing to see the threshing mechanism of the combine as the corn stalks were cut and the corn separated. When the combine was full, the corn was transferred into a truck that rode beside us. The speed of the whole process was amazing to me. After this most interesting and educational experience, I joined the children of the parish for a truck ride to a nearby pond where we saw geese and fish and a variety of plants and trees. All in all, it was a fun afternoon, a great opportunity to meet people and to learn about their lives.
I wish to thank Father Stephen Colchin, the pastor of both Saint Rose of Lima and Saint Louis Besancon, for his devoted priestly ministry and for his kind hospitality to me on Sunday!

Notre Dame Board of Trustees
Last Thursday, the Board of Trustees of the University of Notre Dame hosted me for a dinner in the beautiful rotunda of the Main Building, directly under the famous Golden Dome. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet the trustees. After the dinner, I delivered a speech on the theme of Catholic identity and mission. As bishop of a diocese with five Catholic universities and colleges, one of my important responsibilities is to promote and assist in the preservation and strengthening of the Catholic identity of these institutions. I am grateful for the opportunity to be an active participant in the life of the University of Notre Dame. In the past nine months, I have celebrated many liturgies, delivered several talks, and attended events at Our Lady’s University. I am grateful for the warm welcome and hospitality I have received from Father John Jenkins, CSC, the president, and from many others at Notre Dame.

Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic constitution “Ex corde ecclesiae,” stated that every Catholic university, as Catholic, must have the following four essential characteristics:

“1. a Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such;
2. a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research;
3. fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church;
4. an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life.”

In our culture of increasing secularism and relativism, it is vitally important that our Catholic institutions of higher education remain faithful to their Catholic identity and mission. Notre Dame and our other Catholic universities and colleges are in a unique position to contribute to the Church’s work of evangelization and in enriching our culture with the truths of the Gospel.

Women’s Day of Reflection
On October 2nd, I celebrated Mass at the beginning of the diocesan Women’s Day of Reflection held at the University of Saint Francis. It was great to see over 500 women of our diocese gathered for the day of prayer and reflection. We will need a bigger venue next year since not all the women who wanted to attend were able to. The keynote speaker at the conference was Teresa Tomeo who gave beautiful talks from her experience in the media. She left the secular media to work in Catholic media as a way to serve the Church and spread the faith, especially the truth about the dignity of life, marriage and family, and women.

Saint Francis of Assisi
In the last issue of Today’s Catholic, there was an article with photos about the Franciscan Sisters Minor who are now settled into the convent at Saint John the Baptist Parish in Fort Wayne. Together with Father Cyril Fernandes, the pastor of Saint John’s, I officially welcomed the sisters to the diocese and the parish at the evening Mass at Saint John’s on October 2nd. The next day, the eve of the Feast of Saint Francis, I joined the Sisters and the Franciscan Brothers Minor for the celebration of the “Transitus” service at Our Lady of the Angels Oratory at Saint Andrew Church in Fort Wayne. It was a beautiful way to prepare for the feast as we sang and prayed and listened to various readings about the death (the Transit from death to life) of the Seraphic Father, Saint Francis of Assisi. Father David Engo, FFM, delivered an inspiring homily on the life and death of Saint Francis.

The next morning I was blessed to join the Sisters and Brothers again for Holy Mass on the feast day itself. I shared with the congregation about the life of Saint Francis and how he teaches us today five ways to encounter Christ in our lives: through prayer; through others (especially the poor and outcast); through the Gospels; through creation; and through the Most Holy Eucharist. I focused on Saint Francis’ encounter with Christ, especially in the chapel of San Damiano and on Mount Alverno where he received the stigmata.

May Saint Francis of Assisi inspire all of us to follow Christ more closely! May God bless all the spiritual sons and daughters of Saint Francis here in our diocese and throughout the world!

Canonization of Brother André
I will not be writing a column next week since I will be in Rome for the canonization of Holy Cross Brother André Bessette on October 17th. I will remember all the faithful of our diocese in prayer at the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul. May God bless you!

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