• Today’s Catholic has an important mission in our diocese as our primarycommunications tool. It serves the Church’s mission of evangelization and catechesis with excellent material about our faith. –Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

    What is changing about Today’s Catholic? Why?

    Modern technology has forever changed the landscape of how people receive news. With the click of a button or a swipe of the finger, information from around the world can easily be at our fingertips. At the same time, the costs of producing complimentary issues of Today’s Catholic for every registered Catholic in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend is not sustainable for the future. Today’s Catholic is launching free digital products, including a brand new website, digital edition of Today’s Catholic (ePaper), a brand new app and a Facebook page. For those who wish to retain a print subscription, they may do so for an annual price of $20. Subscribe to print or digital in your parish or online at www.todayscatholic.org.

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    Check out our brand new website! At www.todayscatholic.org, you will find a completely redesigned website that enables visitors like you to access more articles, photos, columns and videos than ever before, and users can also interact by sharing and contributing content. Daily, we will be posting new articles, highlighting news, pilgrimages and events from diocesan parishes and schools.

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    APP

    Coming late July 2017, the Today’s Catholic app will provide all your favorite Today’s Catholic articles, columnists, and more, but in an exciting and different way. Through this app, you can receive notifications for certain things, like headline local and global stories, notifications on your favorite columnists, information regarding events, and more! Through our app, you can also browse the latest news, find a parish, access daily prayers, and read each day’s readings. It’s a one stop place to grow spiritually while staying current with the latest Catholic news.

    Posted on July 17, 2017, to:

  • Delegates (from left) Carl Loesch, Jeff Boetticher, Stacy Noem and Lisa and Fred Everett of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend attend Mass during the Convocation of Catholic Leaders that convened in Orlando, Fla., July 1-4. The retreat-style event intended to reinvigorate the evangelization efforts of those involved in diocesan leadership, and facilitated conversations about how to address the challenges to effective evangelization.

    By Carol Zimmermann

    ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) — From July 1-4 the main floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Orlando was transformed into a huge parish hall with places for worship, prayer, discussion, and even coffee and doughnuts during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.”

    At the convocation, 3,500 church leaders — men and women religious, bishops and laypeople — gathered to set a new course for the U.S. Catholic Church.

    Following a retreat format, each day started and ended with group prayer. Mass was celebrated each day in the hotel ballroom, and there were plenty of scheduled times for the sacrament of reconciliation and private prayer in a large room turned into an adoration chapel.

    Many of the keynote sessions took the form of pep talks encouraging delegates to share their faith boldly with the world at large and within their own families and parishes. The numerous breakout sessions provided the working aspect of the gathering: closely examining what the church is doing and where it can do more.

    More than 155 bishops attended the gathering, sitting with their delegations for meals and breakout sessions. Cardinals and bishops who spoke at keynote sessions or in Mass homilies encouraged participants that this was their time, their moment, stressing the urgency to bring God’s message of love to a divided world.

    The Fort Wayne-South Bend delegation to the convocation included a cross-section of individuals representing numerous groups within the diocese. In the front row, from left, are Jeff Boetticher, Office of Development; Joe Ryan, Business Office; Deacon Mel Tardy, Black Catholic Ministry; Marsha Jordan, Catholic Schools Office; Stacey Noem, University of Notre Dame; and Enid Roman-DeJesus, Hispanic Ministry. In the back row, from left, are Dr. Andrew Mullally, Catholic Medical Association; Stephanie A. Patka, Office of Communications; Matt Wood, Assistant to Bishop Rhoades; Gloria Whitcraft, Catholic Charities; Fred and Lisa Everett, Office of Family Life; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades; Mary Glowaski, Office of Evangelization; Cindy Black, Redeemer Radio; Dr. Thomas McGovern, Catholic Medical Association; Carl Loesch, Office of Catholic Education; Msgr. Robert Schulte, vicar general/chancellor; Sean Allen, Young Adult Ministry; and Father Mark Gurtner, Office of the Tribunal.

    At the final Mass, described as a “Mass of Sending,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the church is called to achieve great things in the face of the impossible — to unite people together by going to the peripheries of society and sharing the good news of Jesus through action rooted in faith.

    “Sisters and brothers, we are in a very, very significant time in our church in this country,” said Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and he urged the delegates to receive God’s grace for the work ahead.

    None of the homilists or keynote speakers sugarcoated the challenges for the modern church and more than once speakers pointed out that Catholics are leaving the church in greater numbers, particularly young adults, than those joining the church.

    But as Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles pointed out: “The saints always loved a good fight, and we should like a good fight too.”

    The bishop, who addressed the crowd through a video hookup July 4, told them it was an “exciting time to be an evangelist,” but that they also should pick up their game to evangelize effectively.

    Throughout the convocation Pope Francis was pointed out as a model for modern Catholics to follow in inviting others, especially those on the peripheries, to Christ. Speakers also were quick to quote his 2013 apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), which lays out a vision of the church dedicated to evangelization — or missionary discipleship — in a positive way, with a focus on society’s poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged, unborn and forgotten.

    Two homilies during the convocation specifically quoted the pope’s admonition in “Evangelii Gaudium” that Catholics shouldn’t be “sourpusses,” but should reflect joy.

    Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl acknowledged that Catholics are not always comfortable with the idea of evangelizing, but said they need to be willing to step out of themselves and talk with people about their faith as part of an encounter the pope speaks about. Part of this simply involves listening to people, caring for them and leading them to Jesus, said speaker Sister Miriam James Heidland, a sister of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

    Delegates were repeatedly encouraged to reach out to the peripheries especially to immigrants and the poor but also to all members of the church’s diverse family — people of all races, women and young people.

    Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, said it is time for the church to start building a “language of communion” rather than dividing the church community into different groups and individually responding to those needs.

    “It’s the church serving the church,” he said. “We all are the church.”

    That message inspired Sister Kathleen Burton, a Sister of St. Joseph who is co-director of the Office of Faith Formation, Family Life and Lay Ministry Formation in the Diocese of Camden, N.J., who said: “The walls need to come down.”

    “There’s a renewed sense of evangelization and re-evangelization,” the delegate told Catholic News Service. “We’re being challenged that we don’t wait for people to come to us, but we’ve got to go out to them.”

    For many delegates, seeing the church’s diversity — Latinos, African-Americans and Africans, Native Americans, and Asians from across the continent at the convocation — was an inspiring sight, helping them better understand the idea of the church as family.

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades engages in a roundtable discussion with local delegates to the convention.

    Vanessa Griffin Campbell, director of the Office of Ministry to African American Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland, said the key to embracing diversity and going to the peripheries will be teamwork among laypeople, clergy and diocesan staff.

    The church should “not just open the doors on Sunday,” she said, “but make sure our doors are open Sunday to Sunday.”

    At the end of the closing Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, who attended all four days of the convocation, congratulated attendees for the invigorating discussion.

    He called it a “kairos,” or opportune moment, in the life of the U.S. church and said he would tell Pope Francis: “the Spirit is alive in the church in the United States.”

    “I will tell him of the commitment of many missionary disciples and their love for the church,” he added.

    Contributing to this report was Dennis Sadowski in Orlando.

    Thoughts on a historic gathering

    By Greg Erlandson

    WASHINGTON (CNS) — The first century of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has concluded with its organization of an unprecedented and powerful gathering of Catholics in Orlando, Fla.

    With the somewhat ungainly title of “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America,” it was nine years in the making. It brought together more than 3,100 people, mainly laity but also more than 150 bishops and 500 priests and deacons. It felt a bit like a class reunion for highly engaged Catholics, or as one observer put it, a World Youth Day for adults.

    For four days of speeches, panels, Masses and much conversation, the convocation became a tangible expression of church unity and missionary zeal. There were many highlights, from the opening speech by Hosffman Ospino to the closing homily by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president.

    A tour de force was the final address by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States. He called the gathering “a new Catholic moment, a privileged time to be renewed for the mission of evangelization in this country.”

    Weaving together references to nearly every plenary talk, the archbishop showed that he had not just attended every session, but had listened as well.

    The nuncio called the convocation a “journeying together” that strengthened “our common bonds.”

    “This convocation has reawakened our collective conscience to the plight of the poor, the persecuted, and those at the peripheries,” he concluded.

    Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez spoke at length about the peripheries in our society. “America is pulling apart,” he warned. “We are people divided along lines of money and race, education and family backgrounds.”

    For Gomez, as for many other speakers, the challenges we face in society demand missionary discipleship, a going forth to evangelize anew. This means not just converting others, but first converting ourselves. “We know the church’s mission is not just a ‘job’ for bishops and clergy and ‘church professionals,’” he said.

    “You are here today,” he told the attendees, “because you have heard the call of Jesus: ‘Follow me!’”

    The speeches and liturgies were accompanied by dozens of breakout sessions featuring more than 239 panelists, each with bishop facilitators. The emphasis was more on dialogue than lectures. What was most evident, however, were the constant conversations taking place throughout the hotels and gathering spaces.

    This may have been the greatest gift of the convocation: opportunities for highly committed Catholics from chanceries and parishes, from Catholic apostolates and organizations, to mingle, to share, and to realize they were not alone.

    The convocation brought together people not just from prolife and social justice areas of the church, but also people involved in education, evangelization, media and communications, liturgy, and youth and young adult ministries. In addition, there were those serving Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans and other communities.

    This cross-fertilization of ministries may have been one of the great opportunities of the convocation, a breaking apart of the siloes that often impede the work of the church.

    While there was a great sense of unity, the delegates were challenged to hear the voices of the poor and the marginalized: Ospino on the growth of Latino Catholicism, strong words from Ansel Augustine on the role of African-American Catholics, and much applauded remarks by Helen Alvare and Kerry Weber on the role of women and the church.

    Patrick Lencioni, a famous management guru and founder of Amazing Parish, brought his analysis of successful teambuilding to the convocation, wittily skewering the kind of “nice” behavior that lacks trust, avoids conflict and ignores results in many church organizations. The knowing laughter and applause that accompanied many of his observations suggest where the church needs to get better.

    So what next? That question was constantly asked. How does this energy get brought back to parishes and dioceses? The last day each of the 157 diocesan delegations huddled to propose their own answers to these questions at the personal, parish and diocesan levels.

    One less obvious takeaway, however, is that the convocation underscored the value of the U.S. bishops’ conference itself. The conference was born in 1917 as a response to the demands of World War I and the realization by the bishops that they needed a national organization with a national voice.

    This convocation was the fruit of several years of work by USCCB staff and a bishops’ working group. It is impossible to imagine another organization with the resources, the skill sets and the knowledge to pull off such a gathering.

    Perhaps one fruit of the convocation will be that church leaders see their conference not only as a bureaucracy, but as a phenomenal tool for engaging our entire church in its 21st-century mission.

     

    Posted on July 12, 2017, to:

  • Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades greets a graduate of the Spanish-language Education for Ministry program at the beginning of a Mass to celebrate the participants’ graduation Friday, June 23, at St. John the Evangelist Church in Goshen.

    By Denise Fedorow

    Two dozen members of St. John the Evangelist Church’s Hispanic community graduated from the Education in Ministry program recently, and a Mass was celebrated June 23 with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades that included awarding the graduates their certificates.

    Three other members of the parish went through the program a second time as continuing education.

    At the beginning of the Mass, Bishop Rhoades welcomed everyone and said, “Brothers and sisters this is a very special day — we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and we celebrate your graduation.” He thanked the graduates for their hard work and studies, and their desire to serve the church.

    Education for Ministry is a two-year program. Enid Roman de Jesus, director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, and program director Lourdes Silva coordinated the studies. Silva said the goal was to ensure the graduates had “received solid formation with catechism” so they could instruct others. The program consisted of 18 classes; in this case, the students met once a month for a seven-hour day at St. John the Evangelist, Goshen.

    Several Notre Dame professors, including Timothy Matovina, Craig Iffland and Esther Terry conducted the classes, as did several priests, including Father Bob Lengerich, Father Evaristo Olivera and Father John Herman. Diaconate candidates Giovanni Munoz, St. John the Evangelist, Marco Castillo, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Jose Ruvalcaba, St. Adalbert, taught two classes each, as did Fred and Lisa Everett, co-directors of the Office of Family Life.

    Silva said an archbishop from Rome also came and taught a class, and the Franciscan Friars gave a full-day retreat as a closing to the program.

    Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

    Bishop Rhoades stands with Education for Ministry Spanish-language track graduates following a Mass to celebrate their graduation Friday, June 23, at St. John the Evangelist Church in Goshen. 

    During the homily the bishop said: “Today is a great feast in which we celebrate the mystery of God’s love. We can call this solemnity ‘the feast of love’ because we honor the heart that has loved so much, the heart of Jesus, the highest human expression of divine love.”

    He told them the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not an imaginary symbol, but a real one representing the source of salvation for all mankind. “From the heart of Jesus comes forgiveness and life for all men.”

    He referred to the first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses explained that the people of Israel were chosen. They were not chosen to be the most numerous, however, but rather to be the least numerous.

    “In the Gospel of today Jesus also speaks of the little ones. And to be able to understand the love of God, this smallness of heart is necessary,” Bishop Rhoades said. “In this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we acknowledge that in order to receive the love of God, we need to be humble, small, to make ourselves children. Only in that smallness, that lowering, can we receive God’s love. “

    “We have to let the Lord take us by the hand. We have to open our hearts, as children and let the Lord love us.”

    Bishop Rhoades said that in their pride, many do not accept the love of God and don’t feel they need his mercy — their hearts are closed.

    “Today is a feast in which we show our gratitude, reverence and appreciation for the love of God revealed in the Sacred Heart of his Son. Today we contemplate the pierced heart of Jesus crucified. We hear his words, ‘Bear with my yoke and learn from me that I am patient in heart and humble.’”

    He told the graduates: “You who are prepared to serve in the ministry of the church, always remember that the church was born from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, from his pierced heart. The mission of the church is to proclaim the love of God revealed by his Son, our redeemer. This is a great mission.”

    The bishop said the world is full of systems that seek to build based on wealth, power, strength, science of pleasure but that is not the Christian system.

    “Our mission, our job, is to proclaim love, salvation, redemption, eternal life. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is precisely the image that expresses our mission. It is the image of the infinite and merciful love that the Heavenly Father has poured into the world through his Son.”

    “The goal of all we do in the church must be to lead people to find this love. The love of the Heart of Christ can transform the human heart and bring true peace to the world,” he said.

    “As ministers of the church it is good to say this simple prayer, ‘Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours’. Prayer is essential in our lives. Those who serve in the church especially have to recognize that we cannot serve well if we depend on ourselves. We need God, we need to find him, listen to him and talk to him,” Bishop said. “We must have the hearts of the little ones, the children, the poor in spirit. We find in the Lord, in his Sacred Heart, rest in the fatigues of our journey and in our work. The love of God strengthens us and inspires us to imitate His love in our service to others.”

    The bishop concluded by telling the graduates, “You have learned a lot in your classes, but the most important class, the most important education is the one we received in this school now — the school of the Eucharist. Our teacher is the Lord. We learn from his Sacred Heart humility, mercy and love. We receive his love in the great sacrament of his Body and Blood. Here we receive his grace that strengthens us in our mission and in our life as his disciple in a world that needs both his love and mercy.”

    At the end of Mass the bishop handed the certificates to the graduates and each took the opportunity to have a few words with the bishop and share an embrace.

    Following the Mass, dozens of parishioners who had completed the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian consecration retreat came forward to pray the consecration prayer with Bishop Rhoades. All kneeled together before of a statue of Mary located in an alcove on the left side of the sanctuary, and prayed softly and reverently, as one. Silva said some had recently completed the retreat, while others were renewing their consecration.

    Graduates of the St. John the Evangelist Education for Ministry Spanish-language program are: Claudia Altamirano, Arturo Benitez, Maria Benitez, Sandra Carrasco, Arturo Cervantes, Maria Cervantes, Marcela Gomez, Alma D. Gonzalez, Celina Gonzalez, Maria del C. Hernandez, Gilberto Locsa, Braulio Machado, Yolanda Machado, Rosa T. Munoz, Hilda Nunez, Lupe Ornclas-Pizana, Carlos Ortega, Esperanza Perez, Eloina Quiroz, Mirna Rodriguez, Juana Rosales-Marin, Jose Ruiz, Ana Salazar and Maribel Salgado.

    The three women who participated in the program as a continuation of their previous Education for Ministry education are Ricarda Bizarro, Guillermina Ortega and Alejandra Serna.

    Posted on June 27, 2017, to:

  • The Most Holy Eucharist is carried by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades during a Corpus Christi procession Sunday afternoon, June 18, as it leaves St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Elkhart. The procession traveled approximately two miles, through the city’s downtown, to St. Vincent de Paul Church, with a stop for prayer at the Women’s Care Center. — Today’s Catholic Photo/Joe Raymond

    By Denise Fedorow

    Click here for more photos.

    Rather than spend the afternoon at a barbecue, many dads and their families spent Father’s Day walking with Jesus in a Corpus Christi eucharistic procession from St. Thomas the Apostle Church to St. Vincent de Paul Church in Elkhart.

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades led the procession, which has been taking place for over 20 years.

    Both parishes had been holding small Corpus Christi processions, but the shared procession came out of something known as the “E Team” – The Elkhart County Evangelization Team — which included both Elkhart parishes, St. John the Evangelist in Goshen and St. Mary of the Annunciation in Bristol.

    Renee Campanello, parish secretary at St. Thomas, was a member of that evangelization team and said Lisa Kloska Moreno came up with the idea of joining the two parishes and processing from one to the other as a means of witnessing the Catholic faith to the community. Her father, Irv Kloska, a loyal participant, confirmed that account, saying that while the Kloskas were St. Thomas parishioners, Lisa was RCIA instructor at St. Vincent and started the E Team.

    “I never miss it,” he said of the procession. “Celebrating Jesus in the Eucharist is fantastic! More people need to understand the Real Presence.”

    Fellow parishioners Kay Gonsosko, Carol Pawlak and Hannelore Dykes have been participating for most of those 20 years as well.

    Gonsosko said they come because they “like to witness for Christ and take him with us to the streets.”

    Like many others, Theresa and Brian Gerwels, parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul, pushed their baby and toddler in a stroller. Theresa said it’s the fourth year she’s participated and claimed it to be “a simple proclamation of the Gospel.”

    Members of the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus were there in full regalia as were members of the Nocturnal Adoration Society from St. John the Evangelist in Goshen. Other members from St. John the Evangelist participated, including Patrick Wheeler and George and Dawn Fattal and their twin sons.

    When asked why they came from Goshen, Dawn replied, “It’s such an important feast day – worthy of a grand celebration.” Her husband added the fact that the bishop was participating made it extra special.

    Wheeler responded, “It’s my favorite holiday on the entire calendar! Without the Eucharist I have no life in me, so I might as well celebrate the source of my life.”

    Campanello reported in past years the response of people on the procession route has “always been positive. We’ve gotten applause and thumbs up from people as we pass them sitting on their porches.”

    This is the first time the bishop has led the procession and the first time it has stopped at the Women’s Care Center to pray. The procession left St. Thomas and participants prayed and sang as they traveled along the 1-1/2 mile route to the Women’s Care Center, where an altar was waiting. The faithful responded with the Litany for Life as Bishop Rhoades prayed for all life to be honored with the dignity God created for them; for those affected by abortion, for mothers who are tempted to abort to have the patience to endure and deliver new life, and for fathers who are encouraged to abort to have strength and courage to defend, support and protect their loved ones.

    The bishop also prayed to remove from all hearts the temptation to harm human life, to remove the arrogance that our wants and needs are superior to others and that no person be treated as less than a child of God.

    He prayed that all who govern us “seek not to be great, but to be good.”

    He offered prayers for forgiveness for abortionists, and that they be granted the grace of repentance.

    “Deliver us from every temptation to despair; give us full confidence of the Gospel, ‘for those who love God all things come to good’.”

    He prayed, “When the culture of death surrounds us, never let us lose sight of the beauty of your Son’s face. Give us grace to do His will and carry every cross that comes our way.”

    “When the crusade for life seems unending, come to our aid. Give us assurance you are always with us and will bring victory to all.”

    The Litany for Life was followed by a litany of prayers for all fathers – those who are new fathers, fathers who are alone, unemployed, addicted and abusive. The litany was repeated for mothers, members of congress and other government leaders, lawmakers and medical professionals.

    They began praying the Divine Mercy chaplet as they processed the remaining distance to St. Vincent de Paul.

    The bells of St. Vincent pealed to announce the arrival of the Corpus Christi procession. After the benediction, Bishop Rhoades spoke briefly to those gathered.

    “It was wonderful to spend this great solemnity of Corpus Christi with you and joining in the procession through the streets of Elkhart with our Lord. I can’t even imagine all the blessings that will come from carrying Christ through the streets,” Bishop said.

    “I want to give deep thanks to all of you for your devotion, faith and love for our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and for accompanying Him through the streets of Elkhart.”

    Bishop Rhoades reminded everyone that we should never take for granted the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist.

    “The Eucharist is our food for the journey. Just as he gave the Israelites manna in the desert, he gives us the Eucharist for our journey to the promised land of heaven — one that’s much better,” he said.

    Refreshments were offered afterward in Vincent Hall. The Blessed Sacrament remained in the church at St. Vincent for adoration for one week.

    Posted on June 21, 2017, to:

  • Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades offered 11 men spiritual guidance during a Mass on June 10, as they began the climactic steps toward their ordination to the diaconate next June. “Brothers, in the last year of your preparation for diaconal ordination, I cannot think of any better advice than for you to take time for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. After Mass, the new acolytes gathered for a photo on the steps to the sanctuary of the cathedral with Bishop Rhoades, concelebrating priests and deacons. From left, in the front row, are: Fred Everett, Ricardo Garcia, Jose Ruvalcaba, Juan Campos, Christian Nieves, Giovani Munoz, Bishop Rhoades, Alejandro Garcia, Marco Castillo, Victor Sandoval, Blas Olayo and Huberto Vasquez. In the back two rows are Deacon Patrick Hake, Deacon Mel Tardy, Deacon Jim Fuchs, Deacon Jim Tighe, Father Constantino Rocha, Deacon Dave Elchert, Father Tony Steinacker, Msgr. Robert Schulte, Father Evaristo Olivera, Deacon Bill Gallagher, Father Kevin Bauman, Deacon Stan LeMieux, Deacon Bob Byrne and Deacon Jim Fitzpatrick.

    By Christopher Lushis

    “Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his church.” It was with these words that Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades formally instituted each member of the newest class of acolytes for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend on June 10.

    While the ceremony signified one of the customary steps on the path toward ordination, this particular Mass of installation  was the first class of acolytes to be uniquely tasked with the mission of serving Hispanic communities throughout the diocese. For the 11 men, representing seven parishes, all of their training, coursework and examinations have been administered in Spanish as they prepare for ordination to the diaconate in service to Hispanic Catholics.

    The final stage of preparation, the institution as acolytes — meaning “attendant” in Greek —  indicates the new role each of these men now have to serve at the altar in a special way.

    Bishop Rhoades, who celebrated the Mass entirely in Spanish, emphatically stressed the importance of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament for sustaining fruitful ministry.

    “In the Eucharist, Christ gives himself to us and we welcome him. The existence of the church would be unthinkable without the Eucharist. In this Mass with the institution of acolytes, we remember that the Eucharist carries meaning to all the different activities of the church. It offers us contact with God. The Eucharist is the most sacred presence of Christ in the church. It is truly the source and summit of all the ministries and apostolates of the church.”

    As acolytes, their responsibilities will include assisting priests and deacons in the Mass, especially by arranging the altar before consecration, purifying sacred vessels and serving as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. They will also participate in making the Eucharist present by exposing and reposing the Blessed Sacrament for adoration and bringing Communion to the sick and homebound.

    “It is a great privilege to distribute the holy Eucharist, the new manna, to the faithful,” Bishop Rhoades stated. “As you know, as acolytes, you must show the greatest reverence for the most holy Eucharist with your behavior, your attire and the way you handle the body and blood of Christ.”

    Huberto Vasquez, in the foreground, and 10 other men who together comprise the diocesan Hispanic Diaconate Formation program, line up in prayer just before Bishop Rhoades institutes them as acolytes.

    Signifying an outward and concrete sign of his new role within the liturgy, each man dressed for Mass in a white alb to indicate his servant role at the Eucharistic feast. Up until this point in their formation, including this past year while ministering as instituted lectors, the men have dressed simply as lay members of the church. Remarking on this change, new acolyte Fred Everett shared: “wearing the alb provides a more tangible, visible sense of taking your next step on the road toward diaconate.”

    Giovani Muñoz, another of the instituted acolytes, shared his excitement to take on this new role of service. “Through the ministry of lector, I was able to understand more deeply the great responsibility of proclaiming the word of God. This penetrated my mind and heart and changed my way of seeing and appreciating life from the levels of husband, father, friend and member of a community of faith. Now, this ministry of acolyte brings the Eucharist to the center of my life. The very sacrifice of Christ was sealed on the altar of the cross, therefore it means joining my own life to the sacrifice of Christ the Redeemer in every Mass, which continually increases my love and devotion for him.”

    Everett further recounted his joy and gratitude for those who have been instrumental in the formation process and spoke on how it has impacted his own faith journey. “Having a dialogue with your spiritual director, your spouse, and those in the program provides a beautiful affirmation that this is what your vocation is — that I am exactly where I should be. It actually brings your family closer because of the commitment and promise to obedience. While you don’t know where that will take you, with trust you are open to God’s will and just move forward. It is nice to have the sense that this is the path where God wants me right now.”

    José Ruvalcaba expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to deepen his commitment to the Lord through the diaconate preparation and his excitement regarding the honor of serving at the altar. “This formation, even though difficult at times, has been a great experience. I have found a great group of men that have so much love for God and for his Church. Becoming an acolyte, to be instituted with the responsibility to guard the Body and Blood of Christ; I can’t help but feel a sense of unworthiness to be given this responsibility.”

    He continued, “Often, I wonder, what am I doing here? I have so much to learn and to change in my life, that the thought of soon becoming an ordained minister in the Catholic Church is overwhelming. I’m not worth of this privilege. However, what gives me much hope is remembering that if Christ was able to use a donkey to carry him triumphantly into Jerusalem, I trust that He can use me to take Him to all who are in need of Him!”

    After the homily, each new acolyte placed his hands over a chalice in front of Bishop Rhoades, indicating both his intention to serve and the commission from the church to bring the Eucharist to the faithful. Four of the new acolytes then presented the gifts for consecration.

    Bishop Rhoades concluded the Mass by reminding the men that celebrating Mass in the Cathedral reminds us of the patroness of the diocese depicted in the stained-glass window in the sanctuary: the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The bishop encouraged the newly instituted acolytes to be devoted to Mary immaculate, the woman of the Eucharist, in their final year of preparation for ordination.

    Posted on June 13, 2017, to: