• The following is the homily of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades from the solemnity of the Assumption, Aug. 15, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne.

    Today on this beautiful feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, with joy and thanksgiving, the Church consecrates Jessica Hayes to a life of virginity. God has called Jessica to be more closely united to Himself and to be dedicated to the service of the Church. It is God who gives the grace of virginity. He gave this grace to the young woman of Nazareth, to Mary, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to choose the life of virginity. Mary made a personal decision in faith to remain a virgin, to offer her heart to the Lord. She wanted to be His faithful bride. Thus, Mary became the model for all those who have chosen to serve the Lord with an undivided heart in virginity. It seems most appropriate that Jessica gives herself totally to Jesus, is consecrated to a life of virginity, on a feast of Our Lady, who gave herself totally to God as the virgin handmaid of the Lord.

    Jessica, like Mary and the many consecrated virgins in the early history of the Church, several of whom are canonized saints, has heard the call of the Lord to live as His spouse. The Church confirms this call as authentic. Jessica is making the courageous choice that our Blessed Mother made — the choice of virginity in order to consecrate herself totally to the love of God. This choice is motivated by love, love for Jesus and for His Church. The life of a consecrated virgin is all about love. Saint John Paul II understood this well and wrote that “one cannot correctly understand a woman’s consecration in virginity without referring to spousal love.” Jessica knows this theology of Saint John Paul well. As many of you know, (I see many of Miss Hayes’ students and former students here today) she teaches a wonderful course at Bishop Dwenger High School on the dignity and vocation of women and uses the deep and profound teaching of John Paul on women.

    In his apostolic letter on the dignity of women, Pope John Paul wrote about the value of consecrated virginity in which women become “a sincere gift for God who has revealed himself in Christ, a gift for Christ, the Redeemer of humanity and the Spouse of souls.” He wrote that “women, called from the very beginning to be loved and to love, in a vocation to virginity find Christ first of all as the Redeemer who ‘loved until the end’ through His total gift of self; and they respond to this gift with a sincere gift of their whole lives.” That’s what Jessica does today. She gives her life to the divine Spouse, to Jesus. “Through the Holy Spirit’s action” Jessica becomes “one spirit with Christ” her Spouse.

    The dignity and vocation of women is realized in a special way in consecrated virginity. Jessica is not just remaining unmarried or single. Virginity is not a mere “no” to human marriage. It is a profound “yes” (John Paul II), a yes to give oneself for love in a total and undivided manner. Today Jessica says yes like Mary did at the Annunciation, to be the virgin handmaid of the Lord, to love Him and serve Him in His Church with an undivided heart.

    There is also a true motherhood that is integral to a life of consecrated virginity. Virginity according to the Gospel includes giving up physical motherhood, which is a great sacrifice, but it “makes possible a different kind of motherhood: motherhood according to the Spirit.” In Jessica’s life, this spiritual motherhood will be lived and experienced in various ways. I think, for example, of her spiritual motherhood of her students. The love of a consecrated virgin is a maternal love; it is meant to be fruitful. The Fathers of the Church spoke about how consecrated virgins are instruments of the Church’s fruitfulness. We can think of the motherhood of the Virgin Mary, the motherhood of the Virgin Church, and the motherhood of consecrated virgins. It is something beautiful and fruitful: this virginal and spiritual motherhood. It extends far beyond that of a natural family. Like the love of the Church our mother, the horizons of the virgin’s love are the horizons of Christ: love of all her brothers and sisters, especially the poor and the afflicted, the weak and the suffering. Like Mary, Jessica is called to both virginity and motherhood, to be a mother in the Spirit, imitating the maternal love of Mary our mother whose charity we heard about in today’s Gospel of the Visitation.

    Jessica, I remind you of Saint John Paul’s exhortation to consecrated virgins: “Love Christ, the reason for your life. Return Christ’s infinite love with your own total and exclusive love. Love the Church.” “It is the task of virgins,” he said, “to be the hard-working hands of the local Church’s generosity, the voice of her prayer, the expression of her mercy, the relief of her poor, the comfort of her suffering sons and daughters, and the support of her orphans and widows.” He emphasized that consecrated virgins are to have a merciful heart, sharing the sufferings of others, and committing themselves to the defense of life, the advancement of women, and respect for their freedom and dignity.”

    Saint John Paul also said to consecrated virgins: “Love Mary of Nazareth, the first fruits of Christian virginity. … She was fully, in body and spirit, what you, (Jessica), with all your strength, want to be: a virgin in heart and body, a bride for the total and exclusive adherence to the love of Christ, a mother through the gift of the Spirit.”

    Jessica, on this feast of Mary’s Assumption, you are consecrated to a life of virginity. May you learn from Mary at the Annunciation to live as the handmaid of the Lord and to do the will of God, to keep his word! May you learn from Mary at the Visitation to bring Christ to others and to sing God’s praises, joining with Mary in her Magnificat! May you be with Mary at Cana, interceding for the needs of others! May you be with her at the foot of the cross, sharing in the mystery of Christ’s suffering! May you one day be with her in heaven where she was assumed body and soul to be with her Son forever!

    Jessica, in a spiritual sense, you are with Mary today in the upper room at Pentecost as you receive from the Holy Spirit the gift of consecrated virginity. May you persevere faithfully in your vocation! I pray that your life will be holy and enrich the life of the Church. May Blessed Mary, ever-virgin, assumed body and soul into heaven, intercede for you always!

    Posted on August 18, 2015, to:

  • This oil artwork of Lambert Lombard’s “The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes,” dates to the 16th century. It is displayed at Rockox House, Antwerp, Belgium.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about the unity of the divine plan in the Old and New Testaments and how the Church has illuminated this unity through “typology.” “Typology discerns in God’s works of the Old Testament prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son” (CCC 128). As Saint Augustine said: “The New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is made manifest in the New.” This is seen clearly in the Church’s selection of this Sunday’s first reading from the second book of Kings to be read along with the first part of chapter six of Saint John’s Gospel. We see the clear parallels. Both readings describe a crowd of hungry people. In both readings, someone brings forth barley loaves and in both accounts, someone objects that the bread is too little for the large crowd. In both accounts, all the people were able to eat their fill; there was a multiplication of the loaves and there was bread left over.

    The Old Testament reading features Elisha as the prophet who performs the miracle. Of course, it is Jesus in the New Testament who multiplies the loaves and the fish. There are several other miracles performed by Elisha that are also akin to the later miracles of Jesus. Elisha the prophet is truly a type, a figure of Christ.

    “The New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is made manifest in the New.” The crowd of 100 in the Old Testament and the crowd of 5000 in the New Testament are hungry. Their physical hunger is satisfied. But the New Testament account of the miracle is followed by a great discourse of Jesus in which he presents Himself as the Bread of Life. He is greater than Elisha the prophet and miracle worker. In fact, as we continue reading chapter six of John’s Gospel these next several Sundays, we will hear Jesus revealing Himself as greater even than Moses, the one through whom God fed the people with manna in the desert during the Exodus. It is no wonder that after the miracle, when the people saw the sign Jesus had done, said: “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”

    In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus identifies himself as the bread of life and says those words that Elisha and Moses would never dare to say: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus can do more than multiply bread and fish to feed the hungry. He manifests himself as the One who is capable of satisfying forever the hungers of our hearts.

    Scripture scholars have identified in the Gospel miracle another level of meaning in the multiplication of the loaves and fish: a Eucharistic meaning. The early Christians definitely recognized the connection between the multiplication of the loaves and the Eucharist. In the catacombs, there are artistic representations from the second century of the miracle of the multiplication to symbolize the Eucharist. But already in the four Gospel accounts of this miracle, we see a strong Eucharistic motif. For example, in the passage this Sunday from John’s Gospel, we see the same verbs used describing Jesus’ action at the miracle that are used in the account of the Last Supper: He took the loaves, gave thanks (the very word the Christians then used for the Eucharist — eucharistein); and he gave or distributed the loaves.

    When the people had their fill, Jesus told the disciples to gather the fragments that were left over so that nothing would be wasted. Scholars see a Eucharistic echo here since these words about gathering the fragments are very similar to the words of the eucharistic prayer in the second-century work, the Didache. And there was also in the early Church great care taken with the Eucharistic fragments left over. Interestingly also, the disciples filled twelve wicker baskets with the fragments, perhaps symbolizing the gathering of the Church with the twelve apostles, that it may not perish.

    It is good for all of us to seek to grow in our knowledge and understanding of the Word of God and its riches. Five years ago, Pope Benedict XVI, in his beautiful apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord), expressed his “heartfelt hope for the flowering of a new season of greater love for sacred Scripture on the part of every member of the People of God, so that their prayerful and faith-filled reading of the Bible will, with time, deepen their personal relationship with Jesus.” I recommend reading and praying with the Scriptures every day. The Bible helps us to encounter Jesus, the Bread of Life, in his word. As Pope Benedict has said, “the Church receives and gives to the faithful the bread of life from the two tables of the word of God and the Body of Christ.”

    Reflecting on this Sunday’s readings, we can place ourselves, along with all our brothers and sisters, into the scene. Many people in the world today are indeed hungry for material food. All of us hunger for truth, justice, love, peace, and beauty. In a word, we are hungry for God. Saint Augustine once exclaimed: “We must hunger for God!” Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, prefigured in the Old Testament, teaches us that the bread we need is first and foremost Jesus Himself, the bread of life. The bread we need is His Word, the word of truth that illumines the path of life for us on our earthly pilgrimage, the teaching that helps us to lead good and holy lives. The bread we need is also his grace, the life-giving power and nourishment we receive in the sacraments, most especially in the Holy Eucharist. We need to be nourished with “the Bread of life: the Word of God accepted in faith and the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist” (CCC 2835). That is what we pray for each time we pray the Our Father when we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. May the Lord Jesus multiply his bread for us and all who are hungry in the world today!

    Posted on July 21, 2015, to:

  • Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades shares this homily during the closing Mass of the Fortnight for Freedom on July 4 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

    The following is the text of Bishop Rhoades’ homily at Mass on July 4, 2015, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne:

    On July 4, 1776, in the midst of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia courageously declared the thirteen colonies independent from Great Britain. Today, 239 years later, we celebrate this Declaration. With all our fellow Americans, we celebrate our freedom on this Independence Day, the Fourth of July.  As Catholics, we especially pray for religious liberty as we conclude the 2015 Fortnight for Freedom.

    Many of the colonists who came to America in the 17th and 18th centuries were fleeing religious persecution. Like the Puritans and Quakers, Catholics came to America to escape persecution.  English and Irish Catholics first settled in Maryland since the first Baron of Baltimore, George Calvert, and his brother Leonard, who were Catholics, had founded Maryland as a haven for persecuted Christians. Catholics and Protestants lived peacefully side by side in Maryland. The famous Act of Toleration of 1649 guaranteed religious liberty. But in 1654, when Puritans took over the governance of Maryland, the Act of Toleration was repealed and Catholics were outlawed. Maryland joined the other colonies in enacting the English penal laws that restricted the freedom of Catholics: the denial of the right to vote or to hold public office, the prohibition of public worship, and even the imprisonment of priests. The penal laws against Catholics were in force with different levels of severity in the colonies for over a century. Pennsylvania was somewhat an exception, thanks to the religious tolerance of William Penn and the Quakers.

    By the time of the American Revolution, the number of Catholics in the thirteen colonies was rather small: about 25,000 among 2 ½ million colonists. For over a century, the small body of Catholics in the thirteen colonies had clung to their religious faith despite active persecution and denial of their civil rights. They supported the American Revolution with the hope that independence from Britain would bring them greater religious liberty in the new republic.

    American Catholics, including Father John Carroll, who in 1790 would become the first Catholic bishop in the United States, the first bishop of Baltimore, received with great satisfaction the Constitution in 1787 and the Bill of Rights a couple years later, especially the First Amendment and its definition of our first freedom: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment allowed Catholics the freedom to practice their faith, yet it did not eradicate the cultural anti-Catholicism that persisted in sometimes vigorous form during the following century. Sadly, this persistent prejudice is still alive today, especially among certain elites in academia, Hollywood, the media, and other influential molders of public opinion.

    Our concerns about religious liberty today are especially focused on a more general anti-religious cultural movement, rooted in secularism and relativism, which seeks to limit the role of religion in public life. This was certainly not the intent of our founding fathers who recognized the essential role of religion and the virtues it inspires in providing the foundation for the success of a democratic society. They believed in God and the divine law. In the Declaration of Independence, they specifically referred to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” They were not secularists and they were not moral relativists. They declared: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” At the end of the Declaration, they affirmed their “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” as they pledged to each other “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.”

    Our founding fathers believed that religion, virtue, and morality based on the natural law were essential foundations for the success of the American Experiment. In his farewell address, George Washington declared: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.” John Adams wrote: “It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. Religion and virtue are the only foundations… of republicanism and of all free governments.” As Catholics, we agree with this vision of our founding fathers. Recently, Pope Francis said something very similar in the following words: “When, in the name of an ideology, there is an attempt to remove God from society, it ends up adoring idols, and very soon men and women lose their way, their dignity is trampled and their rights violated.”

    The Catholic Church is at the forefront today in advocating and fighting for these indispensable supports of our nation and its freedom: for example, in defending the right to life and the truth about marriage. Through this Fortnight for Freedom, we are responding to an aggressive secularism in our society. We are standing up for our faith, to be sure. We are also standing up for the self-evident truths proclaimed by our founding fathers. We stand against the subjectivism and relativism that seeks to sever freedom from its indispensable foundation in truth. We stand up for the freedom not only to worship, but also to live our faith without government coercion to violate the sacred sanctuary of our conscience. Pope Francis says: “Religious freedom is not only that of private thought or worship. It is the liberty to live, both privately and publicly, according to the ethical principles resulting from found truth.” That is why we continue to vigorously object to the unjust HHS mandate that seeks to force us to provide health coverage for morally objectionable services. That is why we are very worried about being forced to cooperate with a redefinition of marriage that goes against the natural order as established by God. Sadly, in today’s cultural climate, speaking and defending the truth about marriage often results in unjust and false charges of bigotry. We can expect claims of discrimination for upholding what for millennia has been considered a self-evident truth: that marriage by its nature is between one man and one woman. In all this public debate about these matters, notice that the often anti-Catholic or anti-Christian bigotry of the Church’s critics and opponents is ignored.

    Jesus teaches us to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. In the contemporary debate and struggle, we seek to have the freedom to do so. This is part of our human dignity — not only to be free to worship God, but free to serve Him and others through our schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, charities, and other institutions and to do so without compromising our faith and moral convictions. There are many in our society who disagree with the teachings of the Catholic Church on various issues. They have the right to disagree. But it is quite another matter to deny to us the right to live our faith and to conduct our lives, ministries, and works in accord with the Church’s teachings. And rather than engaging in civil and respectful debate, critics and opponents of the Church will sometimes resort to attacks that reveal the persistent anti-Catholic prejudice that for some reason is still deemed acceptable in our culture.

    On this Independence Day, as we pray for the protection of religious freedom in our nation, let us also remember in prayer the millions of our brothers and sisters throughout the world who are persecuted and suffer injustices because of their faith. Not only are so many denied the right to live their faith or the right to worship, so many Christians and other minorities, innocent individuals and communities, are subjected to barbaric acts of violence, evicted from their homes and native lands, or sold as slaves. Some are killed, beheaded, crucified, or burned alive. It is a great sacrilege that this evil is being done in the name of God. We are living in a new age of Christian martyrdom. May these present-day martyrs inspire us by their faith and courage! Their suffering and death was not in vain: their lives bear eloquent witness to the love of Jesus Christ.

    Today ends the Fortnight for Freedom, but it does not end our prayers and efforts on behalf of religious liberty. May God who gave us life and liberty, bless us, our nation, and the world with renewed determination to protect these cherished gifts!

    Posted on July 7, 2015, to:

  • I was on retreat with our priests at Pokagon State Park when the new encyclical of Pope Francis was released. It is entitled Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home. The title comes from the Canticle of the Sun, by Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis praises God our Creator for the sun, the moon, the earth, and all creation. I read the encyclical surrounded by the beauty of the state park: the lake, the trees, the wildlife, and plants. It was a perfect locale to reflect on a document about the environment.

    I encourage everyone to read this important encyclical letter of our Holy Father. It has captured the world’s attention, as well it should, since it deals with matters very important for the present and the future of humanity. Pope Francis expresses his grave concern about the harm that has been inflicted upon the earth by “our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” He writes about the deterioration of the global environment. Building on the teaching of his predecessors, Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis brings new urgency to the need to respect the natural environment and to protect our common home. The Holy Father is appealing to everyone, not just Catholics, to address the immense challenge of preserving our planet for future generations.

    I don’t know how often we have considered the issue of ecology from the perspective of our faith, yet it is an integral part of our faith. We profess that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Our responsibility toward our Creator includes our stewardship of nature and creation. Pope Francis writes rather bluntly: “We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us.” The Pope explains that the Genesis account of man’s dominion over the earth does not mean domination. He writes: “we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”

    Pope Francis reminds us of the words of the book of Genesis: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it (2:15)”. The Holy Father writes: “‘Tilling’ refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.”

    Our responsibility for the care of the earth is part of our faith. We are to use the goods of the earth responsibly. We should be deeply concerned about the depletion of the natural resources of the earth, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. We should be concerned about the harmful effects of global warming, which most scientists attribute largely to greenhouse gases. Pope Francis writes: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

    We have a moral responsibility toward creation, a responsibility we must assert in the public sphere. This is about protecting God’s creation: the earth, water, and air. This is also about protecting human life, what the Popes have called “human ecology.” The deterioration of nature impacts human life and well-being. Our duties toward the environment are linked to our duties toward the human person. Pope Francis writes: “Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity. So we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration, current models of development and the throwaway culture.” The Pope highlights how those most harmed by environmental degradation are the poor.

    I am just highlighting in this column a few of the many points covered in Laudato Si. Again, I encourage you to read the encyclical in its entirety, to study it, and to prayerfully reflect on it. A global response is needed to the difficult challenges we face. Pope Francis is calling for public action on every level: local, national, and international. The Church has a duty to speak out in the public square. We are facing an ecological crisis. Too often, self-interest or political ideology can get in the way of progress in addressing this crisis. Pope Francis is challenging us to move forward together with a strong commitment to care for our common home today so that it will be a healthy home for future generations. This is not just a social or political issue. It is a spiritual and moral issue.

    Laudato Si is a call to conversion for all of us, a call to care better for God’s creation. It’s a call to reject consumerism and a “throwaway culture” that drives so many of our environmental problems. Pope Francis is calling us to examine our own lifestyles, for example, how we so often waste food and energy. Small everyday actions matter, like turning off unnecessary lights, recycling, planting trees, etc. The Holy Father is calling us to personal spiritual conversion, to live rightly within the world we live in, and to witness to our faith that creation is God’s gift to humanity, a gift that needs protection.

    Following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi and assisted by his intercession, may we praise and serve God by respecting the beauty and goodness of creation! May we be responsible guardians of creation, working together to protect our common home!

    Posted on June 23, 2015, to:

  • The following is the homily that Bishop Rhoades delivered at the Mass on May 31, 2015, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the city of South Bend:

    Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. We contemplate the mystery of God in Himself: one God in Three Divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the greatest mystery of our faith, a mystery we cannot fully comprehend, but which Jesus, the Son, revealed to us. He revealed to us that God is eternal and infinite love, a communion of three divine Persons. God is not infinite solitude, but an eternal communion of life and love. The Holy Trinity is a mystery that transcends us, yet the reality that is closest to us, the life that dwells in us and sustains us. We were all baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism, we were introduced into the life of the Blessed Trinity: the love of God was poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We are reminded of this every time we make the sign of the cross in the name of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

    Faith in the Most Holy Trinity was proclaimed and lived here in this area of northern Indiana long before South Bend was incorporated as a city 150 years ago. The first Mass in this region was probably celebrated in the late 1600’s by French missionary priests. We know that in the 1680’s Jesuit missionaries formed Saint Joseph Mission for the Native Potawatomis, a mission located between present-day Niles, Michigan, and South Bend. This mission laid the foundation for the Christian faith in this region. In the latter part of the 1700’s, the mission was left without resident priests for six decades, but thanks to Potawatomi Chief Leopold Pokagon, the missionary priest Father Stephen Badin, and his lay catechist Angelique Campeau, the mission was revived in 1830. The Catholic faith was reactivated among the native Americans. Today’s celebration would not be complete without our remembrance of the first native Catholics of this region, the Potawatomis. Nor would it be complete without our remembering the holy missionaries: Father Stephen Badin, Father Louis Deseille, and Father Benjamin Petit, beloved and holy priests who stood by the side of the Potawatomi faithful during those difficult and tragic times. I especially remember the young Father Petit who accompanied the Potawatomis on the Trail of Death, when so many of our brothers and sisters were expelled from this region. Father Petit himself died while returning to Indiana, at the age of 28. Though he is not canonized, I think he is our first saint of northern Indiana.

    It was just three years after Father Petit’s death that the young French priest, Father Edward Sorin, with six religious brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross, arrived here. They moved into a log building and chapel on a 524 acre property given to Father Sorin by the Bishop of Vincennes. This was property that was originally bought by Father Stephen Badin in 1832 and named by him Notre Dame des Lacs. With the arrival of Father Sorin and the Holy Cross brothers in 1842, a new era in the history of Catholic life in this region began. They began the school that became the University of Notre Dame. Father Sorin and later, a succession of Holy Cross priests, brothers and sisters ministered to the Catholics living in this area and beyond.

    The Diocese of Fort Wayne was established in 1857 and encompassed the whole northern half of the state of Indiana. There were probably about 20,000 Catholics in the whole diocese at that time. The Catholics in this area worshiped at Sacred Heart at Notre Dame until 1853 when Father Sorin and Holy Cross priests bought the land where we now stand and built a chapel in 1853 on the northeast corner of what is today Hill and LaSalle Streets. It was named Saint Alexis Chapel, in honor of the patron saint of South Bend’s founder, Alexis Coquillard. This became Saint Joseph Parish, the oldest Catholic parish of South Bend, though some debate this, since at that time, this property was part of Lowell, a town that was only annexed to South Bend in 1867. We can say, however, that it is the oldest parish in present-day South Bend. The first parishioners were mostly French, many from Canada, and a few German and Irish families. The first parish on the west side of the Saint Joseph River was founded in 1859 in honor of Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick’s was a multiethnic, but mostly Irish, parish. In 1865, when South Bend was incorporated as a city, Saint Patrick was the only Catholic parish within the city boundaries.

    The Catholic population of South Bend grew steadily beyond the original Native-Americans, French, and French-Canadians with the arrival of not only Irish and German immigrants, but later more numerous Polish, Hungarian, Italian and Belgian immigrants. Many ethnic parishes, along with Catholic schools, were established in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Polish Catholic presence has been especially prominent in the history of the Church in South Bend. In 1927, a specific ministry to South Bend’s fifty African-American Catholic families began and became Saint Augustine Parish in 1941. The Hispanic Catholic presence in South Bend began in the 1950’s and has grown significantly in the past several decades. We see a beautiful, rich tapestry of ethnic Catholic communities throughout South Bend’s history, a unity in diversity that is still evident today.

    I don’t have time to discuss all the rich history of the Church in South Bend these past 150 years, but I must mention the significant decree from the Vatican in 1960 changing the title of our diocese from the Diocese of Fort Wayne to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Bishop Leo Pursley asked for this change to honor South Bend and its religious heritage. With this re-naming of the diocese, Saint Matthew Church was promoted to the rank of the diocese’s co-cathedral.

    Today it is good to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the rich heritage of faith here in South Bend, to remember our ancestors in the faith, and to be resolved to continue their beautiful legacy in the present and future. We pray for the city of South Bend during this 150th anniversary year, for all our brothers and sisters of different faiths. Together we are called to work together for the good of this city, especially mindful of those who are in need or struggling to make a living. We pray for the peace and prosperity of this city.

    Finally, on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we praise God from whom all the blessings of our life flow. We praise the Father who is the origin of all life. We praise the Son who redeemed us by His death and resurrection. We praise the Holy Spirit who refreshes us and renews the face of the earth. We praise the One God who is love and who calls us to enter into the embrace of His love. May God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless you and bless this city of South Bend!


    Posted on June 2, 2015, to: