• Seniors Taylor Ryan-Sizemore and Alex Dlugosz lead the Marian community in the responsorial Psalm “I Will Bless the Lord at All Times” during a Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades Feb. 10. The bishop made a pastoral visit to the school on the feast day of Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel.

    Bishop speaks to the challenges of young adulthood

    By Jeannie Ewing 

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades blesses the congregation with the relic of Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel, the foundress of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. — All photos by Kevin Haggenjos

    Click here for more photos from the visit.

    “Be open to God’s call in your life.” The crux of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades’ message to Marian High School students framed the entire day of his annual visit to the Mishawaka school, which took place Feb. 9, as he discussed with fervor and candor the importance of discovery and discernment in young people’s lives. Among his favorite aspects of serving as bishop of the diocese, he told the students during Mass, is mingling with adolescents and young adults. In this way he unravels what is important to them, as well as what they are dealing with in the outside world.

    “I see three particular challenges in our culture, which I call the ‘dark side’ of young adulthood: consumerism, intoxication and sex before marriage,” he said. These specific social pressures often sway young people away from the beauty of Jesus’ mandate that we work for food that   satisfies   eternally,   which was a reference to the Eucharistic discourse in St. John’s Gospel for the Mass. “Embrace the countercultural values you learn here,” he added. “People are hungry for truth, freedom, justice, peace, meaning and purpose. The bread of God satisfies all the hungers of the heart. None of the pressures from the world will grant you the happiness you seek.”

    The date of Bishop’s pastoral visit to the school fell on the feast day of Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel, foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. The close connection between the sisters and Marian High School led Bishop Rhoades to invite the Franciscan friars and sisters to join in celebrating Mass together with the students and staff. The faithful who were present heard about the mission and ministry of Blessed Maria Theresia, which tied in with Bishop’s message of discovery and discernment.

    Marian Principal Mark Kirzeder and the bishop hold signs of appreciation for Marian alumnus Demetrius Jackson, ‘13, who went on to play basketball at the University of Notre Dame and, currently, the Boston Celtics. Jackson recently made a gift of equipment to the school’s basketball teams.

    “Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel is a perfect example of faith,” he said. Even though she was a woman who grew up in a wealthy family, with countless opportunities for what she could do with her life, she discerned as a child that she wished live like St. Francis of Assisi, later founding a religious community of sisters who served the poor, sick and orphans in Germany. In the 1870s, six of the sisters traveled to the U.S and started a hospital in Lafayette. Eventually the sisters were transferred to Mishawaka, where they reside today.

    “If it weren’t for the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, there would be no Marian High School,” Bishop expounded. “They donated the land for this school to be built. Just as Mother Maria’s motto was, ‘He leads, I follow,’ so I encourage you to use your time of discovery and discernment to work for the food that endures for eternal life.”

    For everyone, discovery includes self-knowledge: understanding one’s natural gifts and talents, as well as supernatural gifts, which are most important of all. Discernment begins with praying about and being open to one’s vocation to the priesthood, religious or consecrated life, or marriage. For many people, both self-knowledge and discernment unfurl slowly beginning in the teen years but continuing throughout adult life. Bishop Rhoades encouraged the students to “pray, ask and be open” to God’s will for their lives every day.

    Seventeen members of the Marian Student Council and Campus Ministry enjoyed lunch and a conversation with Bishop Rhoades during his time at the school on Feb. 10.

    A major part of being open includes education about the plight of those who are suffering throughout the world. Bishop Rhoades recalled and shared about his time spent in the Holy Land in January as part of the Catholic Relief Services board of directors, specifically in the war-torn areas of Palestine and Gaza. After meeting with leaders of the Palestinian government to understand more about the current political, economic and religious climate, he realized how incredibly divided, tense and oppressed the people of the Middle East truly are. One of the highlights of the trip, however, was helping the Missionaries of Charity take care of the disabled children and elderly in the homes they established near the one Catholic church in Gaza. “Learn about the church’s work in these areas of the world. There are so many people hurting and suffering who need our help,” he concluded.

    These closing remarks of the Mass segued into Bishop Rhoades’ classroom visits, mainly to theology classes: Apologetics, for seniors; Christ’s Mission Continues in the Church, for sophomores; and Christology: Who is Jesus Christ? for freshmen. The conversations each began as true encounters between the bishop and the students, who seemed to feel comfortable opening up and laughing about their everyday lives. The youth were vibrant in the presence of the bishop and unpacked conversations about original sin, what the faculties of the bishop include, and even how St. Thomas Aquinas’ theology is relevant today.

    Midday, Bishop Rhoades mingled with student members of Campus Ministry and the Student Council over lunch as they shared both a prayer and the meal. Many of the students discussed issues that concerned them and ways they wanted to make a difference in the world, to which the bishop responded, “Speak with respect for the other, and be honest. Be evangelizers, not proselytizers.”

     

    Posted on February 14, 2017, to:

  • Bishop makes pastoral visit to St. Matthew Cathedral School

    By Dan Przybyla

    Click here for more photos from the visit.

    While visiting St. Matthew Cathedral School Feb. 3, the Feast of St. Blaise, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades engages the students during his homily.

    Capping the end of Catholic Schools Week, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades began a pastoral visit to St. Matthew Cathedral School, South Bend, by celebrating Mass for the nearly 500 students, along with faculty and staff members. Donned in red vestments commemorating the feast day of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, Bishop Rhoades immediately connected with the children by asking them questions during his homily.

    Bishop Rhoades’ homily focused on a sentence from the first reading: “Let your brotherly love continue.” — (Hebrews 13:1). The bishop shared that he attended two years of seminary in a city whose name means “brotherly love” in Greek. In response to the bishop’s question about what city has this name, one student correctly answered, “Philadelphia.”

    Bishop Rhoades went on to explain how every Catholic school is to be a community of brotherly love, a “philadelphia.” He spoke of the love of teachers and students, helping and supporting one another. He encouraged the children to show a special love for classmates who may be stuggling, hurting or in need of friends.

    The bishop pointed to Jesus as our perfect model of such brotherly love in laying down His life for us. “The Holy Eucharist is the the sacrament of this love because it is Christ’s body given for us and His blood poured out for us. The Eucharist strengthens us to love one another as Jesus has loved us.”

    The leadership of St. Matthew Cathedral School enjoys a moment with Bishop Rhoades during his visit. From left are Principal Sister Gianna Marie Webber, Father Terry Fisher, Bishop Rhoades and Father David Violi.

    Following Mass, Bishop Rhoades spent the rest of the day engaging students in conversation by visiting every classroom and answering just about every question imaginable. Thanks to their bevy of questions, students learned that the bishop is a fan of Italian food, the Philadelphia Eagles, and history; and that he carries a prayer card given to him by St. Teresa of Kolkata.

    All that he shared was more than enough to gain the admiration of sixth-grader Nicholas Becker. “I was really excited to see him. He’s a really good person,” Nicholas said.

    Joseph Malenda, a fifth-grader, said his class asked the bishop about his childhood. “I wish we had had more time with him. We had so many more questions to ask him,” he said.

    Joseph’s twin brother, Luke, had the honor of serving as lector at Mass and was excited about the bishop’s visit as well. “I think it’s great that the bishop came to visit our school out of all of the Catholic schools in the diocese,” he said.

    After enjoying lunch with the St. Matthew Cathedral student council, the bishop accepted a request sent to him in a letter from students to play in the annual volleyball game between teachers and eighth-graders. Despite some stellar play by Bishop Rhoades on the student team, the teachers were victorious; but the students were impressed by the bishop’s skills.

    “He was pretty good, I was surprised. He had a good serve,” said eighth-grader Cassidy Richardson.

    Keegan Quinn, a sixth-grader at St. Matthew Cathedral, could hardly believe his eyes. “It was so cool that he played volleyball at our school,” said Keegan, beaming.

    Bishop Rhoades prepares a serve during a student-vs.-faculty volleyball game.

    Father Terry Fisher, pastor of St. Matthew Cathedral, was grateful for the bishop’s visit and the positive impression he left on the kids.

    “The students had so much fun with him. It was a wonderful week and a great way to close Catholic Schools Week,” said Father Fisher.

    Julie Malenda, English Language Learner teacher at the school, said the bishop’s visit to means more than students might think.

    “Our role models can be the saints and our priest and religious sisters. What better people can there be for us to learn from?” she asked. “I appreciate that our children get to experience the value of vocations first hand and get to see the religious and the ordained, like Bishop Rhoades, as people they can relate to.”

     

     

    Posted on February 7, 2017, to:

  • Youth from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend stand in support of life at the national march in Washington, D.C., Friday, Jan. 27.

    Click here for more photos from the march.

    By Carol Zimmerman

    New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, delivers the homily during the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 26. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation.

    WASHINGTON (CNS) — Several contingents from the Diocese of South Bend-Fort Wayne and tens of thousands of other pro-lifers filled the grounds near the Washington Monument and marched up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 27 as both a protest of legalized abortion and a celebration of successful pro-life efforts across the country.

    In years past, the March for Life — which takes place on or near Jan. 22 to mark the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that legalized abortion virtually on demand — has been almost a battle cry for the uphill and constant fight faced by those in the pro-life movement hoping for more abortion restrictions and ultimately an end to abortion.

    This year’s March for Life, under mostly sunny skies and 40-degree temperatures, was decidedly more upbeat, in part because one of the first speakers was Vice President Mike Pence: the first time a vice president attended the rally.

    Pence, who has marched at the event before as a participant and addressed it as a congressman, repeatedly told the crowd — huddled together in winter coats and hats in front of the stage — that “life is winning” and assured them the Trump administration was behind them.

    Kellyanne Conway, special adviser to Trump, and the first on the speakers’ list to address the group — holding aloft placards but none of the usual giant banners, which were banned for security reasons — similarly got plenty of cheers when she said: “This is a new day, a new dawn for life.”

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades gives a homily at a diocesan Mass for pilgrims at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., on Saturday morning.

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades joined the adults, young people and several parish priests and religious from the diocese in Washington, where he concelebrated the Jan. 26 opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life with Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. On Friday the group joined their Catholic brothers and sisters for the walk down the National Mall to the Supreme Court.

    Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, noted that the group has been marching in all types of bad weather over the years. She also pointed out that amid recent discussion about crowd size at events in Washington, it was hard to measure the number of people that day or for the total who have come out for the annual march over the past four decades. “The only number we care about is the 58 million” lost to abortion since it was legalized, she said.

    As in years past, the crowd was primarily young, with a lot of high school and college-age groups. It was something the speakers took note of, saying this generation would not only keep the pro-life movement going but bring about changes.

    Andrew Ouellette, director of youth ministry for the diocese, and Carl Loesch, director of the Secretariat for Catholic Education, accompanied the Fort Wayne-South Bend contingent to the nation’s capital.

    High school youth and chaperones from the South Bend, Mishawaka and Elkhart area pose with Bishop Rhoades outside the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

    “I am always honored to lead the youth of our diocese to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life,” said Ouellette. “This past weekend is a reminder to me as to why I went into diocesan ministry in the first place and why this march is so important. On our return home, I always notice how many of the teens come back with a desire and a zeal to spread the good news of life and to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ through the sacraments.”

    Loesch noted that the young people especially enjoyed hearing Vice President Pence and some of the other speakers at the rally before the march. “They were very moved by Representative Mia Love’s personal witness of her parents choosing life for her despite their difficult situation,” he said. Msgr. Michael Heintz and diocesan seminarians at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., hosted the Fort Wayne-South Bend group for Mass following the march, giving everyone an opportunity to meet with seminarians of the diocese on the way back home.

    Father Royce Gregorson, parochial vicar at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Fort Wayne, accompanied local marchers for the first time in six years. Afterwards, he reflected that “The presence of so many young people is a cause for so much hope for our country and our world.”

    He also noted the peaceful tone of the event.

    “The marchers” do not carry signs with derogatory language and they refrain from inflammatory statements about people with whom they disagree. … The March for Life reminded me about how much brokenness there is in the world. Women gave testimonies about how their lives had been affected by abortion. Women from minority communities and others from the inner city spoke about how abortion providers prey upon ethnic minorities and the economically disadvantaged. But even more than the brokenness, what stood out was hope.”

    “This is a message of love,” said Bridget Donofrio, from Washington, holding aloft a poster-board sign with words written with a black marker: “Respect all women born and unborn.”

    Many of the march signs were pre-made placards with messages such as “I am pro abundant life” or “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “I am the pro-life generation.”

    The city of Washington, fresh from the inauguration crowd and the women’s march held the next day, seemed prepared for this march.

    On the Metro, when two older women asked a young woman for directions and pointed to the group with signs that they wanted to join, the woman looked up from her phone and asked if there was a protest today.

    “It’s the March for Life,” one woman said. A few seconds later she added: “It’s not a protest; it’s more of a celebration.”

    During a homily delivered to about 3,000 of the faithful from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and others on Saturday morning at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop Rhoades reflected on the letter to the Hebrews, which extols the faith Abraham had in God.

    “The author recounts that by faith Abraham went out when God called him, not knowing where he was to go. And then by faith he sojourned in this land of promise, living in tents as a nomad,” Bishop said. “By faith Abraham received power to generate even though he was past the normal age and his wife Sarah was sterile. And by faith, when put to the test, he offered up Isaac.

    “We’ve come as pilgrims of faith to this Basilica of Our Lady,” he continued.” By faith, we participated in the March for Life yesterday. We come with faith in God as the Creator and Author of Life. By faith, we stand up for the dignity and sacredness of the lives of unborn children and all human life. When our faith is put to the test, especially in this anti-life and pro-death culture, we need that strong and obedient faith of Abraham, who trusts in God no matter what. When the storms come, our faith can be shaken like that of the disciples in the boat. When we cry out to Him like the disciples, Jesus calms the storm. The Lord brings peace and calm not only to the sea, but to our anxious or fearful hearts.”

    Bishop Rhoades then drew a parallel to the faith of those whom he met during a recent visit Catholic Relief Services programs in the Holy Land. He encouraged the March for Life pilgrims to buttress their faith in a manner similar to the Palestinians, who live with crippling scarcity and a lack of freedom of movement.

    “We must never give up or lose hope. We must persevere, trusting that goodness will overcome evil and working so that life and justice will prevail. May Mary, our Immaculate Mother, and Saint Thomas Aquinas, the great Angelic Doctor of the Church, intercede for us and all who serve the Gospel of life!”

     

    Posted on February 1, 2017, to:

  • As a board member of Catholic Relief Services, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades visited CRS sites in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza last week. He is shown with young Palestinians who serve at CRS-sponsored community centers for children in Gaza.

    For more photos from Bishop’s trip visit his Facebook page here.
    Or the Today’s Catholic photo gallery here. All photos contributed by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.

    By Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

    Click for the 4 page spread from Today’s Catholic.

    I had the privilege to travel to Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza last week (January 15-22) with Catholic Relief Services. Hosted by the wonderful staff of CRS in the Holy Land, Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, and I, along with two CRS staff from the U.S., seven board members and benefactors and the CRS regional director participated in the trip. I was especially delighted that one of the participants was from our diocese: Tom Veldman, parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in South Bend and a great supporter of Saint Joseph High School.

    The work of Catholic Relief Services in the Holy Land began in the 1940s and focused on assisting refugees displaced by the devastation of World War II. CRS established a program office in 1961 under an agreement with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In 1967, the Israeli government asked CRS to continue its presence. In 1999, CRS was officially registered with the Palestinian National Authority’s Ministry of Interior to carry on its work in the West Bank and Gaza.

    CRS has offices today in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Gaza, from which it implements many programs. Presently, there are 49 national staff and six international staff of CRS in the Holy Land. The CRS Country Representative, Hilary Dubose, who leads CRS programs and staff in the Holy Land, graciously hosted and guided us throughout the week.

    East Jerusalem and Ramallah

    Our first full day, January 16, was spent in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian section of the city that was annexed by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. To this day, no country has recognized the legitimacy of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem or of Israeli rule in this area. The 308,000 Palestinians of East Jerusalem, with rare exception, are not citizens of Israel, but are classified as “permanent residents” with very limited rights. A great source of consternation for the Palestinians is the Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem that solidifies Israeli control. Settlement blocs now house 200,000 Israelis in East Jerusalem.

    In the morning, a well-known Israeli attorney who defends the rights of Palestinians gave us a tour of East Jerusalem. At one stop, we were able to look out over an area of an Israeli settlement and a Palestinian neighborhood on two hills separated by an area called “E-1.” Controversial and problematic plans have been in the works for an Israeli settlement there that would separate the northern and southern parts of any future Palestinian state, undermining its geographical integrity and the viability of East Jerusalem as the capital of that state.

    After the tour of East Jerusalem, we travelled 10 kilometers north to Ramallah in the central West Bank. Ramallah is the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority. It was historically an Arab Christian town, but today has a Muslim majority. We visited the Muqata’a, the government headquarters and presidential compound of the Palestinian National Authority. Two Palestinian officials, strategic advisors of President Mahmoud Abbas, spoke to us about the challenges of the Palestinian government, including the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the humanitarian disaster in Gaza. One of the advisors, a Catholic, shared with us the good relationship between Christian and Muslim Palestinians, though he expressed concern for the decline of the Christian population in the Holy Land. Today, 1.8 percent of Palestinians are Christians. Both officials expressed deep gratitude for the work of CRS in Palestine and especially in Gaza. They expressed grave concern about the present very volatile situation and growing opposition to the two-state solution. They believe an international commitment is needed, given the lack of progress in bi-lateral negotiation. They asked for our help in shedding light on the injustices suffered by the Palestinian people.

    Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Latin Patriarchate

    We began our second day in Jerusalem with Mass at the chapel on Mount Golgatha, within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, followed by a tour of this holiest church in the world, on the site of Our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. If you have been there, you know the indescribable experience of entering the Edicule, the shrine that encloses Jesus’ empty tomb. Kneeling at the tomb, I prayed for justice, peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land. Presently, the Edicule is being restored and is covered with scaffolding. I was happy that it is still open for pilgrims. A few months ago researchers found the original rock surface, the bed of Jesus’ burial, under the marble slab where people pray. The limestone cave walls of the tomb are also intact.

    After the tour and breakfast in the Christian Quarter of the old city, we visited the residence and offices of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Latin Patriarch is the Bishop of all the Latin Roman Catholics in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Cyprus (approximately 150,000 Catholics today). Last year the Patriarch retired, so the Patriarchate is presently governed by an Apostolic Administrator, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, an Italian Franciscan.

    We had a very friendly audience with Archbishop Pizzaballa, who expressed his deep appreciation for the work of CRS in the Holy Land. He shared with us his concern about the diminishing population of Christians in Jerusalem, now numbering only 12,000. He wants the Church to be a living presence in Jerusalem. Archbishop Pizzaballa expressed gratitude for U.S. pilgrims to the Holy Land who support the local Christians. He also spoke about the universal, international significance of Jerusalem and the need for a just and stable solution for the Palestinians.

    After the meeting with Archbishop Pizzaballa, we visited the U.S. Consulate for a meeting with Mr. Donald Blome, the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem. This is the oldest continually operating U.S. diplomatic mission in the world. Mr. Blome spoke of CRS as “a great partner” and praised the work of CRS in Gaza. He discussed the political problems in the region and the “pretty awful” status quo situation. Like others whom we met, the Consul spoke of the extremely tense situation at the present time and the real possibility of more violence.

    Hebron

    In the afternoon we travelled to Hebron, a city I was anxious to visit since, when I was there in 1981, we were not able to stay and visit because it was too dangerous. We had left quickly because stones and rocks were being thrown at our bus. This time it was different. We began by visiting the famous Tomb of the Patriarchs, the burial place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. This is the second holiest place in the world for the Jewish people. King David began his reign in Hebron. Many Jews were praying or studying in the synagogues and halls within the building of the Tombs when we visited.

    Our guide in Hebron was an Israeli woman, a leader of one of CRS’ partners in the Holy Land, B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Hebron, a Palestinian city in the West Bank, is now divided, with parts under Israeli control and parts under the Palestinian Authority. There are no Christians in Hebron. It truly felt like an occupied city, with Israeli soldiers everywhere and Israeli checkpoints throughout the city. Israeli settlements have been built throughout the city and Palestinians are prohibited from being on various streets, making mobility a challenge. I spoke with two friendly shopkeepers near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, who shared with me about the severe restrictions on them as well as the poor business because of lack of tourists.

    We visited the home of one of the Palestinian families in Hebron who participated in the CRS and B’Tselem Visual Impact Project. This project provides video cameras so they can collect footage of their daily lives and violations of human rights under occupation. This has helped educate people outside to their plight, monitoring and documenting human rights violations.

    Gaza

    We spent the next two days in Gaza, really the heart of our trip, where 90 percent of CRS’ work in the Holy Land takes place. Since 2007, the people of Gaza have lived through three wars, a crippling blockade, economic stagnation and accelerating environmental collapse. Nearly a third of the population (over 500,000 people) fled their homes during the 2014 war and bombings. The water is contaminated and electric power is sporadic. Thousands of families still need safe and adequate housing today. Gaza has the highest rate of unemployment in the world, about 40 percent. It is governed by Hamas, which took over the Gaza Strip after the Fatah party lost the elections in 2007. Hamas is a militant Islamist group, designated by the U.S., Israel and others as a terrorist organization, but considered by its supporters as a legitimate resistance movement. Hamas, unlike Fatah, has refused to renounce violence.

    CRS was a leader in providing emergency relief during the wars and has been a leader in recovery, rebuilding homes, lives and opportunity in Gaza. CRS works with local partners and has built transitional shelters and distributed food and water. It is involved in many projects today: restoring agricultural land and livelihoods, repairing and winterizing homes, providing work opportunities and offering psychological support. CRS is implementing the USAID-funded “Envision Gaza 2020” Project to build resilience and self-reliance in vulnerable communities through reconstruction and redevelopment, expansion of employment opportunities and targeted emergency assistance.

    We visited several CRS projects during our two days in Gaza. We attended a meeting of a group of local women, one of many “Savings and Internal Lending Communities” organized by CRS to help participants build savings and assist each other through loans. We visited a center where young adults are trained by CRS to work in Child-Friendly Community Centers to help children develop greater psychosocial resilience and wellbeing. We also visited a supermarket where recipients of USAID/CRS electronic food vouchers purchase the food they need. Many of these families are participating in CRS livelihood and jobs programs.

    While in Gaza we celebrated two Masses in the only Catholic parish there, named “Holy Family Parish” since Mary, Joseph and Jesus would have gone through Gaza during the flight into Egypt. Two Brazilian priests serve the 130 Catholics in Gaza, a tiny Catholic community. At present, their church is being reconstructed. Six Missionaries of Charity and two Holy Rosary sisters joined us for Mass. It was beautiful to see the devotion of these priests and sisters to the people they serve.

    We visited the two houses of the Missionaries of Charity next to Holy Family Church. The sisters care for 37 disabled children and 10 disabled elderly people, truly the poorest of the poor in Gaza. CRS assists the sisters with many of their needs, including building repairs and utilities. It was a joy to visit and hold the children who are so lovingly cared for by Mother Teresa’s sisters.

    Entering and leaving Gaza involved going through three checkpoints: Israeli, Palestinian Authority and Gaza’s Hamas authority. The people of Gaza are like prisoners, since they are unable to leave except for rare emergency or other special situations. It was hard to leave Gaza and to say goodbye to the sisters, the priests and the CRS workers. The people of Gaza rarely see visitors from outside, since few are allowed entry to Gaza. They can feel “forgotten by the world.” They were very happy and grateful for our visit. I assured them of the prayers of the people of our diocese and that I would share with others about them and their difficult lives.

    Apostolic Nunciature 

    Back in Jerusalem on Friday, we began the day with a visit with Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine. The nunciature is located on the Mount of Olives. We met in the room where Blessed Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras met and embraced in 1964, the first such visit since the Catholic-Orthodox split 900 years ago. Archbishop Lazzarotto enthusiastically shared with us about that historic event.

    Archbishop Lazzarotto spoke to us about the issues that the Church and the Holy See face in the Holy Land today, including negotiations with Israel and with the Palestinian Authority about the Church’s status and taxation issues. He also spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the Holy See’s promotion of dialogue and peace. The Archbishop expressed gratitude to CRS for its work in Gaza and also was very interested in CRS’ work to establish a pediatric palliative care program at Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. CRS is bringing medical professionals together to support the dignity and wellbeing of terminally ill children and their families. This will be the first pediatric palliative care center in the West Bank, if all goes well.

    Bethlehem

    After our meeting with the Nuncio, we proceeded to Bethlehem through the “Wall” (Separation Barrier). We celebrated Mass in the Saint Jerome Chapel near the Grotto of the Nativity in the crypt of the Church of the Nativity. The chapel is located in the cell or cave where Saint Jerome lived for thirty years and translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin (the Vulgate). After Mass, we had an excellent tour of the Church of the Nativity given by a Coptic Orthodox scholar who had also given us a very fine tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

    We had lunch and a meeting with the De La Salle Brothers and students at Bethlehem University. This Catholic University has a majority Muslim student body. It is considered by many to be the best university in the West Bank. I was quite impressed by the students and their commitment to justice and peace in their homeland. They shared with us that their biggest struggle as students is the difficulty in transportation because of the Separation Wall and checkpoints, making them sometimes late for class or missing class. Still, they value the education they are receiving. Bethlehem University receives significant financial support from the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, as the Knights and Ladies in our diocese well know. It is a beacon of hope in the place where Jesus was born.

    In Bethlehem, we also visited one of several olivewood workshops renovated with CRS funding. Olivewood works provide a livelihood for many Bethlehem Christians. There are poor working conditions in many workshops, including lack of ventilation leading to lung and other health problems. CRS is helping to improve these conditions by funding renovations. We then visited the Fair Trade – Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society Shop, a CRS partner. We spent some time shopping there in support of the olivewood and other handicraft workers.

    Gethsemane and Western Wall

    On Saturday, our final full day in the Holy Land, we celebrated morning Mass in the Church of the Agony (also called the “Church of All Nations”) in the Garden of Gethsemane. In front of the altar, a large rock formation in the ground is said to mark the place where Jesus prayed in agony before his arrest on Holy Thursday night. We also saw the ancient olive trees in the Garden that have roots going back to the time of Jesus.

    Near Gethsemane, also on the Mount of Olives, we visited the Orthodox Church which contains what the Orthodox believe to be the Tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where her body was laid before the Assumption. An Armenian liturgy was taking place while we visited there.

    The rest of the day in Jerusalem was free. I spent the day visiting the four quarters of the Old City: Christian, Armenian, Jewish, and Muslim. I prayed at the Western Wall and spent a good amount of time placing the over 1,000 little slips of paper with prayer petitions from the Bishop Dwenger students in the crevices of the wall. Actually, I enjoyed this activity as devout Jews watched me doing this, perhaps wondering about so many prayer intentions!

    I stopped at many other sites and shops in the Old City and especially enjoyed some prayer time at Saint Anne’s Church and the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the paralytic.

    Conclusion

    The week in the Holy Land was certainly a blessing, visiting holy sites, seeing the good works of CRS, and seeing the life and struggles of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. I invite you to pray for these brothers and sisters and for peace and reconciliation among peoples in the Holy Land. I thank you for your ongoing support of Catholic Relief Services and its operations in the Holy Land and so many other parts of the world.

    I end this column with the following words from Pope Francis’ homily during Mass at Manger Square in Bethlehem on May 20, 2014: “Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace.”

    Throughout the trip, I thought of the words of Blessed Pope Paul VI:  “There is no peace without justice”; and the equally important words of Pope Saint John Paul II: “There is no justice without forgiveness.”

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    Posted on February 1, 2017, to:

  • 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: