• Father Ben Muhlenkamp talks to a College Crew attendee during the social hour at the June 28 session at St. John the Baptist Church in Fort Wayne.

    By Lauren Caggiano

    The weekly College Crew program provides an outlet for diocesan college students to connect and learn about their faith in a casual environment in the summer months.

    Seminarian Mark Hellinger, who’s going into his third year of study, is one of the organizers.

    “The whole premise of College Crew is to bring college students together while back home and see other students living faith,” he said, adding that, “it’s a community building activity.”

    According to Hellinger, College Crew is Father Benjamin Muhlenkamp’s brainchild, and the specifics vary each week. In general, there is always social time, devotion and a talk to conclude the evening. On June 28, the program was held from 7-9 p.m. at St. John the Baptist parish in Fort Wayne.

    Hellinger said the program is open to both current college students, as well as recent high school and college graduates. Students come from several parishes, including St. John, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Louis Besancon in New Haven.

    On average about 50 students attend. There are a few regular attendees and a sense of comradery. But the most important aspect is the spiritual one.

    “During these college years, life can get confusing and we want to promote an event in which young Catholics can be strengthened in their faith,” said Father Mulenkamp.

    Sometimes faith can be pushed to the periphery in college, especially when youth don’t attend a Catholic institution. That’s why the communal nature of College Crew is so important.

    “It’s critical that young people are around other young people who share the faith so they’re not alone in discipleship,” he said. It also gives the confidence to witness faith and fall more deeply in love with Christ.

    Chris Stuck is one young person who has felt welcomed by the College Crew community. A recent graduate of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, he attends St. Vincent de Paul. A former Lutheran, he found the Catholic faith and it really “spoke” to him, as he put it. He met some friends at IPFW who identified as Catholic, which affirmed his faith. “They really spoke to what the (Catholic) Church is,” he said.

    Phillip Litchfield, a junior at IPFW, has also found College Crew to be gratifying. He said he appreciates the community aspect, as the group is full of “a lot of young people full of life” and deep in faith.

    Father Royce Gregersen lectures on the spiritual aspect of voting and the need for an informed approach.

    Following social time and adoration on June 28, Father Royce Gregerson was invited to speak about the challenges of voting as a Catholic. The current parochial vicar at St. Charles Borromeo and chaplin at IPFW, Father Gregerson recently returned from studying in Rome.

    Voting is something Catholics ought to take seriously and approach with prayerful consideration. There is a certain power that rests in each one of us that needs to be acknowledged, he said.  As Catholics, we can’t close ourselves off from the outside world. Rather “we have to be engaged in the process,” he said. That can be voting or running for office. To that end, he said there’s a need for “good, committed, Catholic leaders.”

    Speaking of good, he provided an explanation of the Catholic concept of the common good and how it should enter the equation when evaluating political candidates.

    “The Church is not a group within society,” he said. “All people are destined to the Church. The good of the Church is the common good.”

    He cautioned against a utilitarian approach. The common good is not to be confused with the greatest good for the greatest number of people, citing the Church’s teaching on the preferential option for the poor.

    Making an informed decision in the voting box is hard enough, and when you add faith into the mix it can be a contentious one. According to Father Gregerson, Catholics should avoid glorifying one political party over another.

    “A true Catholic shouldn’t feel at home in either of the major American political parties,” he said. “Each holds positions contrary to Church teachings.”

    His advice: Don’t vote on a whim or because of party affiliation. Do it as a Catholic and with Catholic teaching in mind. For further reference, he recommends the Catholicism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

    For more information about future College Crew events, follow the Diocese of Fort Wayne- South Bend’s College Crew Facebook page.












    Posted on July 20, 2016, to:

  • Photos available in the photo gallery.



    Posted on July 6, 2016, to:

  • By Denise Fedorow

    Visit the photo gallery for more.

    LaGrange — St. Joseph Church in LaGrange has the distinction of being the only Catholic Church in LaGrange County and reportedly the last county to get a Catholic Church; but that’s not the only thing that stands out about St. Joseph. It’s a vibrant parish and is in the midst of a building project.

    St. Joseph Parish, like Blessed Sacrament Parish in Albion, owes its founding to a meeting hosted by a Methodist minister in LaGrange in the 1930’s to help his congregation and others in the area to learn about Catholicism in a very anti-Catholic era.

    The Methodist minister invited a priest, Father William Ehrman from Kendallville to speak and reportedly there were 28 Catholics from Albion and LaGrange present who approached the priest afterwards about getting their parishes started, or in Albion’s case, restarted.

    Holy Cross Father J. Steele, who is pastor for both parishes, said there was a log chapel by the lake where, in frontier days, an occasional Mass was celebrated. After 1931, the original parish celebrated Mass in the Burr Hotel, which is still standing and Father Steele said descendents of the Burr family still attend St. Joseph. The original parish was just a handful of families and they built the first church on US Hwy 20 on the west side of town.

    They outgrew that church when an influx of Catholics came to the area. The current church was built in 1978. They expanded and built a social hall and gym in 1993. The current church building is all one connected building — the rectory, parish office, church sanctuary, social hall and gym.

    Father Steelee said the original plans called for a separate rectory but due to lack of funds, built it inside the church in space originally meant for classrooms.

    “So classroom space has always been tight here,” he said.

    St. Joseph had a lot of growth in the 1970’s and 1980’s and since 2000; a fairly large Hispanic community has come into the parish. Father Steelee, who came in 2012, said even the last couple of years the growth has been very rapid. When he came to St. Joseph there were 165 kids in religious education and now there are 225. That growth has created the need for new classroom space and they decided to complete some other work that has been planned for a while.

    Building Project

    There’s a big mound of dirt on the site of St. Joseph parish — the mound of dirt which will someday soon be the site of the new rectory. The new rectory is the first step in the multi-phased project for the parish.

    Father Steele said once the new rectory is built, the place he’s called home for the past four years will be converted into the classroom space it was originally intended to be.

    Next, they’ll be expanding the entryway to the church, which Father Steelee said now is more like a hallway and forces parishioners out into the parking lot.

    “We want it to be a bigger space so they can socialize after Mass,” he said.

    They’ll also be renovating the sanctuary, where they will be introducing classical elements. They’ll be adding three reredos above and against the wall of the central altar. There will be three new altars — one central altar, one for Mary and one for Joseph.

    An outdoor chapel for Our Lady of Guadalupe will also be built in the shape of a half octagon. The chapel will lean up against the sanctuary wall.

    Father Steele explained the significance of the placement of the chapel. “In some places in Latin America when the church is closed, people go and pray touching the tabernacle wall. In some places there are grooves worn into the ground from so many of the faithful,” he said.

    In the chapel, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the tabernacle will be back to back.

    Father Steele said there are several different aspects to the building project.

    “What’s really great is these building projects will be completed without debt,” he said. “In order to do all this construction without debt we are doing a lot of the work ourselves.”

    Some of the work being done by parishioners includes demolition, drywall work and all the finish work like carpeting, laying tile, etc. He said the altars are being built by a local craftsman, Barry Campbell of LaOtto. According to Father Steelee, Campbell does work for churches all over the country, but he hasn’t done a lot of work in the diocese.

    “I’m really pleased he’s building four altars for us; plus a new pulpit and Baptismal font in the old traditional octagonal style,” he said.

    People and ministries of St. Joseph

    There are approximately 360 families at St. Joseph and because it is the only Catholic Church in the county, parishioners come from as far away as Shipshewana and Topeka in Indiana and White Pigeon and Sturgis in Lower Michigan. Hispanic parishioners may come from even farther as there is no Spanish Sunday Mass in Steuben County.

    “We have a very vibrant Hispanic community with a newly developing charismatic movement,” Father Steele said.

    An overnight Eucharistic adoration was recently started from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and adorers all come as a group at 7 p.m. It is held every second Saturday of the month.

    “They love it — it’s very high-spirited. It’s very impressive,” Father Steele said.

    He said the Hispanic community also likes to put on dramas for Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations, Stations of the Cross and Christ’s passion. The parish just started a Corpus Christi procession.

    St. Joseph’s Youth Group is going to the Steubenville conferences at Franciscan University for the first time this summer. Father Steele said their youth group re-grouped and re-energized about two years ago and they have about 25 kids involved. The youth group meets the second and fourth Sundays of the month.

    They also have a seniors group that meets once a month. Father Steele said they hold potlucks and plan annual pilgrimages, among other things.

    Adult education programs held at St. Joseph in the past have been Arise, Symbolon, about which Father Steele said, “It’s an excellent resource, we’re now using it for RCIA.”

    They are currently doing a Bible study by Dr. John Bergsma — ‘Bible Basics for Catholics — a new picture of Salvation history.’ Father Steele “highly recommends” this program.

    St. Joseph’s has a large social hall and full gymnasium that; Father Steele said for many years, before the town had a youth center, was used by all the youth in LaGrange for playing basketball.

    “We have a tremendous facility but there’s a lot more to be done,” Father Steele said.

    St. Joseph preschool

    St. Joseph’s Parish also has a preschool that serves not only its parishioners, but many in the community.

    Father J. Steelee, pastor of St. Joseph, said their preschool was the leader in academic preschools in town, stating that St. Joseph’s preschool was a “pioneer” in offering an academic preschool.

    The preschool has been open about 12 years and has classes for three four-year-old and four five-year-old children. The children learn their letters, colors and shapes, have physical activities and they offer a light introduction to Bible stories and prayers.

    Father Steele said they have the children pray at the beginning of the day and before meals. He said although it is part of the parish, it’s not a Catholic pre-school but instead an Ecumenical one.

    “We emphasize the shared parts of our faith,” he said.

    Knights of Columbus

    The St. Joseph, LaGrange Knights of Columbus Council 13962 is an active group of men who’ve added some new projects in the last few years.

    Grand Knight Warren Patka said one of those new projects came about last Christmas when they decided to make plywood Nativity scenes. He said they made about eight or nine large scenes and three small ones last year. He said they didn’t really sell them, but would accept donations instead. If someone took a Nativity scene, they were asked to display it.

    “Our main goal was to get them out there and remind people to put Christ back in Christmas,” Patka said.

    The other project that started last year was hosting a social breakfast for the parish — they hosted two — one in the spring and one in the fall. Patka said about 100 people attended. There was no charge for the breakfast.

    The Knights sponsor two Red Cross Blood drives — one in the spring and one in the fall and around Thanksgiving they have a Turkey Bingo, where they give away about 20 turkeys and other prizes. They also host fish frys during Lent.

    This group of dedicated men is only about 15 strong. Patka said they originally had about 30 active members but lost several due to death and relocation. So they are always looking for more members. They connect with the Angola council for events where they attend in full regalia.

    Posted on June 22, 2016, to:

  • VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis offered prayers for the families of the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, and expressed hope that people would find ways to identify and uproot “the causes of such terrible and absurd violence.”

    A lone gunman, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, killed 49 people early June 12 at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. Another 53 people were injured before the gunman, identified as 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, was killed by members of a police SWAT team.

    Police said Mateen, a private security guard, legally purchased the two guns he used in the shooting, which is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

    Describing the shooting as an expression of “homicidal folly and senseless hatred,” a Vatican statement said, “The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil.”

    “Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion,” said the statement released June 12. “Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort.

    “We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity,” the statement concluded.

    Posted on June 14, 2016, to:

  • Bishop Kevin Rhoades, carrying the monstrance holding the Eucharist, joined parishioners at Corpus Christi Parish Sunday in South Bend, in celebration of their patron feast day. Over a hundred faithful walked with the bishop and Corpus Christi pastor, Father Daryl Rybicki, for a prayerful and joy-filled procession in honor of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Altar servers Johnathon Zmyslo and T.J. Freeby carried the bishop’s crosier and the crucifix on a beautiful sun-kissed afternoon. The procession was followed by a parish picnic. — Diane Freeby


    Worldwide public adoration brings Jesus to the neighborhoods

    Father Andrew Budzinski reads devotional prayers from the porch of a parishioner where an altar which holds the monstrance was set up for a stop during the procession through the neighborhood of St. John the Baptist Church in Fort Wayne. — Jerry Kessens

    Procession leaving St. John the Baptist , Fort Wayne, to process through the neighborhood. Father Andrew Budzinski, Pastor, carries the monstrance holding the Eucharist. — Jerry Kessens

    The faithful make the final stop at the Mother Theodore Guerin Chapel at St. John the Baptist Church, Fort Wayne, at the conclusion of the procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the neighborhood.

    Bishop Rhoades prepares to lead the faithful of Corpus Christi Parish in a Eucharistic procession. Parishioners Bill Green, Dennis Zmyslo and Rodney Green are shown holding the canopy, with altar server Anthony Nemeti and Deacon Bob Garrow assisting the bishop. — Diane Freeby

    Following the procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the grounds of Corpus Christi Parish in South Bend, Bishop Kevin Rhoades leads the faithful in Benediction inside the church. He is flanked by altar server Zachary Zmyslo and Deacon Bob Garrow. — Diane Freeby

    Posted on June 1, 2016, to: