• Richard Levin hugs the Bishop after receiving the sacraments of baptism and confirmation.

    By Patrick Murphy

    Bishop Rhoades celebrates Mass for the Bishop Dwenger student body during his visit, the date of which coincided with his seventh anniversary as Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

    FORT WAYNE — Two milestones were commemorated Friday in Fort Wayne when Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades made his annual pastoral visit to Bishop Dwenger High School. Two students, Jilian Christlieb and Richard Levine, were welcomed into the church through baptism and confirmation, while the bishop celebrated his seventh year as the ordinary of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

    “This is a day of joy for the Dwenger community and the whole church, as two young people become Christians today, receiving the great blessing from God of becoming His children, becoming a brother and sister of Jesus in His Body, the holy, Catholic Church,” the bishop said in his homily during Mass in the gym.

    “Centuries before the coming of Christ as man, the prophet Ezekiel announced that God would sprinkle clean water upon the people to cleanse them from their impurities, from sin, and that God would give them a new heart and place a new spirit within them. This is what happens at baptism. It purifies one from all sins and it also makes the person a new creature, an adopted child of God, a member of Christ, and a temple of the Holy Spirit. Richard and Jilian, this is the great gift you receive today.

    “Baptism is the seal of eternal life and confirmation is the seal of the Holy Spirit, the indelible sign that consecrates you to the Lord,” he told the young people. “Of course, all of us are called to keep the seal until the end of our lives by remaining faithful to the promises and demands of our baptism, to keep the faith by living the Gospel of Jesus.”

    While the sacraments involve grace and God’s blessing, Bishop Rhoades continued, and they are the first steps on the path to holiness, they do not confer perfection.

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades baptizes student Richard Levine Jr. during a pastoral visit to Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne, on Jan. 13.

    “Sometimes we might stumble on the path, but the important thing is to that we get up and keep walking. That’s why we should be thankful for the sacrament of reconciliation in which God gives us the grace of forgiveness, so we can get up after we fall.”

    It was indeed a special day, according to sponsors of the young Christians who were received into the Catholic Church. “She’s happy and very proud,” said Kathy Pedro, Christlieb’s confirmation sponsor. Her dad, Joseph Christlieb, said she made the choice to become a Catholic “on her own, and we fully support her decision.”

    Levine’s sponsor, Colton Buescher, who is also a classmate, said receiving the sacraments had already made a big change in his friend’s life. “This is the first day of the rest of his life,” Buescher noted, “and it’s with Christ.” Levine’s mother, Melinda Stuller, said, “I’m excited he is committing his life to God.”

    Many of the school’s 1,000-plus students were gathered in the bleachers to enjoy the bishop’s appearance. Prior to the Mass, one of them, Jada Smith, said she was anxious to see the bishop later in the day as he visited classrooms — something he relishes. “It’s cool that he supports our school,” the sophomore said.

    In his homily, Bishop Rhoades complimented the choir and said he seldom, if ever, passes up a chance to visit students. “Hopefully we both learn something in the exchange,” he said. “I know I do.”

    During a Mass celebrated at the Fort Wayne high school Jan. 13, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades baptized and confirmed Bishop Dwenger students Jilian Christlieb and Richard Levine Jr. The students are pictured in the school chapel with the bishop and Father Robert Garrow, school chaplain, right.

    At the end of Mass, Principal Jason Schiffli introduced two gift presentations to Bishop Rhoades on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of his installation as Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend. He introduced Laura LaMaster, the school’s faculty advisor for Catholic Relief Services activities, who gave the bishop a check from the collection at the liturgy that the community donated for CRS’ work in the Holy Land. Bishop Rhoades was scheduled to leave to visit the Holy Land the following day.

    Schiffli then introduced Student Council leaders who presented the bishop with a check for $2,500, for the Diocesan Seminarian Education Fund. The Student Council raised the money through various school activities.

    Finally, the bishop was presented an envelope with dozens of prayer petitions for him to place in a crevice in the Western Wall, the only remaining part of the Temple in Jerusalem. He was very touched by the generous gifts and promised to remember the Bishop Dwenger community in his Masses and prayers in the Holy Land. The Bishop shared about his upcoming trip to Palestine and Gaza and the work of CRS there: He spoke of the challenges of young people in that region and expressed his desire to share with them the spiritual and material solidarity of the young people at Bishop Dwenger with their plight.

    Father Robert Garrow, Dwenger chaplain, then expressed personal and warm words of gratitude to the bishop for his seven years of episcopal service in the diocese. Finally, Bishop Rhoades again congratulated Christieb and Levine on their reception of the sacraments of initiation, which he described as “his greatest joy that day.”

    Posted on January 17, 2017, to:

  • Click here for more pro-life stories: Local March events   •   Arrival  •  Apostolate of Divine Mercy 

    By Frederick Everett

    What do you think of when you hear the word “leisure”? Do you think of weekend getaways, watching TV, gardening, reading a book, taking a walk, praying to God or just taking a nap? Is it time that you treasure, time that you feel that you have to justify to yourself (or others) or, perhaps, do you think of it as just wasted time?

    Interestingly, the way that each of us answers this question will help determine the type of culture in which we live — including whether or not we live in a culture of life, where every human being is cherished and respected from the moment of conception. How is it, you might wonder, that our idea of leisure can be so important?

    This past summer, while at a conference for diocesan pro-life directors from across the country, a young woman religious from the Sisters of Life gave a talk on the subject of holy leisure and how it is related to building a culture of life. Before the talk, I had my reservations on how helpful or interesting a talk it was going to be: After the conference, I confessed to my wife that the sister’s was the best talk, hands down. Here’s why.

    Sister Mariae Agnus Dei, SV, not only gave an inspiring talk, but she was simply a delightful person to hear and behold. She spoke cheerfully and from the heart, in measured tones that bespoke an inner peace and joy. In fact, part of her message was that unless we are able to radiate such peace and joy, and delight in others, we cannot build a true culture of life. The only path to achieving this is by delving into — you guessed it — holy leisure.

    Leisure, after all, is not just time spent not working. It is an attitude of mind, a capacity to be in touch with your true self and marvel at the world. It involves both a disposition of receptivity and reverence. It is, most profoundly, the capacity to appreciate the beauty, truth and goodness of creation as the gift of a gracious creator. As she would put it, “Leisure is not time off — it’s time in.”

    Relating this concept of leisure to the spiritual life, Sister Mariae Agnus Dei quoted a moving passage from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton:

    “I set off into the woods and soon found an outlet in a meadow; and a chestnut tree with rich moss underneath and a warm sun overhead. Here, then, was a sweet bed. The air still, a clear blue vault above — the numberless sounds of spring melody and joy filled the air — and my heart was made to be as innocent as a human heart could be, filled with an enthusiastic love for God and admiration of His works. … God was my father, my all. I prayed, sang hymns, cried, laughed and talked to myself about how far He could place me above my sorrow. Then I laid still to enjoy the heavenly peace that came over my soul; and I am sure, in the two hours so enjoyed, grew 10 years in the spiritual life.”

    This ability to contemplate the goodness of creation stands at the center of our spiritual journey that is echoed all the way back to the story of creation. God not only created everything good — and human beings very good — but He also rested on the seventh day in order to contemplate the goodness of His creation and to delight in it. This is why He commanded us to do the same. We are to delight in Him and in all that He has made so that the immense gratitude that we feel becomes the source of the peace and joy that we can radiate to others.

    The Sisters of Life have made this attitude an intentional part of their ministry with women experiencing a crisis pregnancy. The call it “Delighting in Her.” They try to echo God’s gaze of joyous delight, asking Him to move them by the goodness that He has inscribed in these women.

    Sister Mariae Agnus Dei told the story of one woman who had mistakenly walked into the Bronx crisis pregnancy center, thinking it was an abortion clinic. After listening empathetically to her fears and concerns, she invited the woman to join her and the other sisters for a day in the country in upstate New York. The sisters made it a point to ask the Holy Spirit to help them see the woman’s good qualities and to delight in them. “We sought to express that delight to her, like a mirror to reflect her goodness back to her — whether it was her smile, her courage, her strength or sense of humor.”

    After a day with the sisters, this woman’s sense of worth and beauty – something that is often strangled by the fears and difficulties of an unexpected pregnancy — was restored. In remembering her own goodness, she began to be able to affirm the goodness of the child that she was carrying. She had regained the confidence that she could, in fact, bring this child into the world — and she was actually excited about it.

    The importance of learning to delight in each other in this way cannot be overstated. Nobody wants to be an object of pity or the project of someone who just wants to help them. As the Rev. William Virtue puts so well:

    “The power of love to affirm the other person is this: Love is first an act of being moved by the other’s goodness. As we manifest our delight, this reveals to the other his or her goodness. This experience of being confirmed in one’s worth is the emotional ‘food’ that nourishes the growth of the human heart. … The acts that we do for the other person should be proceeded by first being moved — otherwise the other person gets the impression that we love them only because we are good, and not because of any goodness in them moving us. But the other is affirmed precisely in the realization that it is the goodness of his or her being which is the cause of our delight.”

    According to Sister Mariae Agnus Dei, in our workaholic world that focuses on productivity, “we have really lost sight of who we are because we have lost sight of who God is.” When we enter into holy leisure, we enter into God’s loving gaze and remember our dignity — not only as human beings created in His image and likeness — but as His redeemed sons and daughters called to an ever-deepening divine transformation. This — and only this — can be the foundation for building a true culture of life that can endure.”

    Frederick Everett, JD, is co-director of the Family Life Office for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.



    Posted on January 10, 2017, to:

  • The interior of the beautiful co-cathedral.

    St. Matthew Cathedral, our bishops’ South Bend parish home

    By Andrew Mentock

    St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend serves as the co-cathedral for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. It is located on Miami St., just south of downtown.

    St. Matthew went through a transition in 2016, when formal cathedral rector Msgr. Michael Heintz became the associate professor of systematic theology at the University of Mount Saint Mary’s in Maryland and Father Terry Fisher was named the new rector. Msgr. Heintz had been the pastor at St. Matthew for over a decade.

    Previous to coming to the cathedral Father Fisher was pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Mishawaka, but he had strong roots at St. Matthew. His mother has been a parishioner there for over 40 years; additionally, he taught third grade at the elementary school for 10 years prior to becoming a priest.

    “Coming back and getting to see and meet people all over again has been great,” said Father Fisher. “Some of the parishioners I taught years ago have grown up and now have children of their own.”

    St. Matthew was also the site of the ordination of three diocesan priests last year, for the first time in several years. One of the ordained was Father David Violi, who is now parochial vicar at the cathedral.

    Parish history 

    St. Matthew was established with humble beginnings, in 1922. The year prior, the plan for the parish included a church and a school; but after estimating the construction cost it was decided that a small wooden church would be built instead. The parish membership started out with 75 southeast South Bend families.

    Its initial capacity was a mere 240 people, but the population quickly grew. The church went through several expansions in its early days in order to accommodate the growth.

    In 1959 ground was broken for a new church, and before completion it was named the co-cathedral of the diocese, along with the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. Ever since then it has been the home of the auxiliary bishops of the diocese, who have traditionally lived in South Bend; as well as of the bishop when he visits.

    In 1929 the church established an elementary school, which had an initial enrollment of 150 students. Later, in 1934, the parish turned the second floor of the elementary school into an all-boys Catholic high school known as Central Catholic.

    However, in 1951, with the opening of St. Joseph High School in South Bend, Central Catholic closed. The second floor of the school was used to expand the elementary school.

    St. Matthew Cathedral School today

    St. Matthew Cathedral School has about 400 students in grades kindergarten through eighth.

    The school is an area leader in utilizing new technology in the classroom. This past fall it received a couple large technology grants that allowed the addition of several “smart” televisions. The classrooms also have access to “wireless hotspots,” which students without Internet access at home can use.

    This technology has also allowed teachers to address the needs of their students, no matter whether they are visual or auditory learners. Students are now better able to develop projects in collaboration with their classmates and they also connect with their entire class without moving from their seats.

    St. Matthew young adults

    St. Matthew Cathedral Parish has a very strong and dedicated number of young adults. As a result of their desire to form a community within their parish, the St. Matthew Young Adult Group was started in January of 2016.

    Its first event was hosted after 5:30 p.m. Mass by Msgr. Heintz and Father Chris Lapp, in the rectory. This allowed the participants to get to know the parish’s priests and gave them the opportunity to meet other young adults.

    The highlight of their 2016 gatherings was perhaps a Marian pilgrimage that took place in May. Participants prayed the rosary while visiting some of the Marian statues and shrines on the University of Notre Dame campus.

    The group is also optimistic regarding its plans for 2017. “We’re hoping to continue having opportunities for young adults to get together and also to encourage participation in the very active parish life of St. Matt’s,” said Caroline Cole, a member of the planning committee. “Monthly potlucks, small groups that meet regularly and daily Mass times are just a few of the ways the Young Adult Group can be a part of the parish community.” Other gatherings will take place as well, such as a possible “winter adventure” to an ice-skating rink or an outing to go sledding.

    Looking forward

    The parish is currently home to about 1,300 families. Some of the highlights every year are the Chrism Mass, which takes place on the Monday of Holy Week, and any occasion on which Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades leads Mass at his home parish in South Bend.


    Posted on January 4, 2017, to:

  • By Bonnie Elberson

    For more photos from St. Joseph visit the photo gallery.

    Children gathered in the hallway between classrooms as the bishop sprinkled holy water on them and the newly rennovated spaces for faith formation.

    LAGRANGE — St. Joseph Parish in LaGrange has many reasons to celebrate during this Advent season. An ambitious construction project of a new sanctuary (interior) in its last stages of completion, and the largely Hispanic church population has built a new shrine on the property dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

    The parish celebrated both on Sunday, Dec. 18, when Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades blessed the new construction, presided over a Spanish Mass and led a special procession of worshippers to the shrine.

    Father J. Steele, CSC, who is in his fourth year as pastor of the faith community, described his parish as “growing and thriving.” In fact, two years ago a pressing need for additional space for the burgeoning congregation led to ambitious expansion plans. Those plans have come to fruition in a five-part construction project under the auspices of general contractor D. M. Henry. No fundraising effort was required for the sanctuary, since the parish had money on hand for the work.

    “There were a lot of moving parts to this project,” said the pastor. First, in order to accommodate St. Joseph’s 230 religious education students, as well as other church groups, four temporary classrooms in the church building were converted to permanent spaces. Then additional classrooms were created from the pastor’s rectory apartment, which had been located in the building.

    The conversion of the pastor’s living quarters meant that a new rectory was needed; that residence was constructed on church grounds as well.

    A larger altar and sanctuary were also built and now grace the main body of the church, and a new gathering area expands the entrance. The newly constructed shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe stands directly behind the church, located on the opposite side of the wall of the tabernacle.

    Father J. Steele and Bishop Rhoades smile after the chapel blessing, as large snowflakes fall.

    Father Steele is especially pleased with the new, high altar, with its reredos, or decorative wall, behind the altar; and its 9-foot Corinthian columns and Roman arch of faux-painted gray and cream marble with gold detailing. It was built by area craftsman Barry Campbell, owner of Te Deum Construction in LaOtto.

    The new gathering area is a welcome change from a narrow entrance hall: The enlarged area is quite spacious, he said, and enables parishioners to linger and socialize after Mass while enjoying coffee and donuts. In the spring, a “porte cochere” or covered entry, will be added to provide shelter for those entering the church, which will especially benefit the elderly and handicapped.

    The new rectory is a 1,300-square foot modular home, with a south-facing view, an open concept floor plan, an attached breezeway and garage and a large porch.

    The shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe was constructed behind the sanctuary wall of the church so that “Jesus and His Mother are back to back,” Father Steele noted. The $50,000 construction cost was covered by St. Joseph’s Hispanic parishioners, who raised the money through taco sales and personal contributions over a two-year period.

    The most significant aspect of the ambitious project, he added, is that all the finish work was completed by parishioners.

    “A small army of dedicated volunteers headed up by long-time parishioner Salvador Nieves installed drywall, did general carpentry, painted, put down carpet and laid tile. Volunteers were present on a rotating basis, six days a week, and did a lot of work, said Nieves. Father Steele estimated that the volunteers contributed at least $150,000 worth of labor to the $500,000 project. “It’s been tremendous … a real community effort,” he said.

    The project culminated on the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Bishop Rhoades’ visit. He blessed the classrooms, gathering space, baptismal font, altar and shrine, then presided over a Spanish Mass with Father Steele.

    Parishioners gathered in the newly constructed narthex for the blessing of the new space and baptismal font.

    During his homily the bishop spoke about the courageous faith and the obedience of Mary and Joseph, calling attention to the fact that their example invites us to accept, with an open spirit, Jesus — who is Emmanuel, which means, “God-with-us.”

    The Gospel lesson for the day told of the angel’s appearance to Joseph, in a dream. Mary and Joseph received the same surprising announcement of Incarnation of God, Bishop Rhoades said, and both responded with faith and obedience to His word. Both said yes to God and to His plan for our salvation.

    “We prepare ourselves, then, to celebrate Christmas by contemplating Mary and Joseph: Mary, the woman full of grace, who had the courage to rely completely the Word of God; and Joseph, the faithful and just man who preferred to believe the Lord instead of listening to the voices of doubt and human pride. We walk together, with them, toward Bethlehem.”

    Bishop Rhoades also noted that the blessing and dedication of the new construction had been postponed one week due to weather. (But) “Thanks be to God, I could be with you today to celebrate the Holy Mass and to bless the new and beautiful church sanctuary and, at the end of the Mass, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe which sits outside.” The celebration continued with a procession to the shrine for that blessing, and parishioners joined in with traditional hymns and prayers to the Virgin Mary. The day’s festivities concluded with a parish dinner.

    The original December 25th issue of Today’s Catholic incorrectly named the Bix family as one of the original eight founding families. The correct name is Bir. Today’s Catholic regrets the error.



    Posted on December 20, 2016, to:

  • Children and adults at St. Joseph Parish, LaGrange, dress like the Aztecs at a Mass held Dec. 11 in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s 1531 appearance to St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in what is today Mexico City. — Stephanie A. Patka

    By Claire Kenney

    The traditional image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as she appeared to the indian and Catholic convert St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin was displayed at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, North Manchester, and stood witness to the weekend celebration of her feast day.

    Across the diocese, remembrances of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe took place in fervent and festive form Dec. 10-12 despite a winter-weather challenge. St. Robert Bellarmine, North Manchester, and St. Dominic, Bremen, were among the many Hispanic parishes where the sounds of worship, traditional Mexican “Mañanitas” song and drumming rang out.

    St. Robert Bellarmine has celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a parish community since 2012. Today it’s a popular tradition that has expanded to include a number of events. One of the reasons is the expanding Hispanic population within the parish.

    “The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe has become bigger as our Hispanic community grows,” St. Robert’s Pastoral Associate Isabella Duran-Price said.

    Spanish Mass and a mariachi band appearance have remained staples since the first celebration. Last year, folkloric dance and a communal rosary were added.

    This year St. Robert kicked off its celebration at 5 p.m. on the feast day, Monday, Dec. 12. A Spanish Mass was celebrated at 6 p.m., and a live mariachi band played from 7-10 p.m. The evening culminated with a firework display.

    “This is such a meaningful celebration for everyone, not only because it means a lot to the Mexican parishioners, but also to the rest of the community,” Duran-Price reflected. “It is one of the most stunning visitations of our dear mother in the world. She is not only the patroness of Mexico, but the patroness of the New Evangelization, as the popes have said. She is our dear mother, always looking out for her most humble and suffering children.”

    St. Dominic celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with an afternoon potluck on Sunday, Dec. 11, in the parish’s St. Isidore Hall, and a 6 p.m. Spanish Mass the following day.

    Approximately one-third of St. Dominic’s parish community is Hispanic, and several members of this Hispanic segment immigrated to the United States from small towns in Mexico.

    According to a parish representative, the opportunity to celebrate a feast day that is so very important to the country of Mexico, where the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe occurred, means a lot to those members of the parish of Mexican descent.

    Eighth-grade students students of Holy Family School and parish perform a reenactment of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s apparition at a Mass and celebration Monday, Dec. 12.

    “Their faith and traditions run deep and strong.
    They wish to continue celebrating Our Lady of
    Guadalupe with music, dancing, food and fellowship, just as they have through the years.”

    Posted on December 13, 2016, to: