By Kay Cozad
FORT WAYNE — It was with great joy and rejoicing that over 200 residents, family members, staff and administrative personnel, including the new administrator, David Deffenbaugh, of Saint Anne Home and Retirement Community in Fort Wayne, gathered in the chapel there to celebrate the solemnity of Easter on April 20. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass along with chaplain Father Jack Overmyer and several retired priests of the diocese, including Fathers Paul Bueter, Paul Miller, Adam Schmitt, Robert Traub, Ken Sarrazine and Larry Tippmann.
As the residents settled in the chapel a musical prelude to Mass was beautifully orchestrated by the violin playing Venderley family, including Sherry, whose mother lived and died at Saint Anne Home and whose mother-in-law currently resides there, along with her grown children, Tim, Anne and Melanie.
Bishop Rhoades opened Mass with words of joy, telling the congregation that included those residents who were unable to be in the chapel but were participating from their rooms, that he was happy to be celebrating Mass with them at this “great institution of the diocese.”
In his homily Bishop Rhoades invited the congregation to imagine how the disciples and women who followed Jesus felt when they first saw the resurrected Lord. “Imagine the amazing emotions they felt when they saw Jesus and heard His words, ‘Peace be with you.’” He told the standing-room-only crowd that the empty tomb was only the first step in believing and that it was the appearance of the Risen Lord that “confirmed their faith in all that Jesus had said and done while He was with them in His public ministry.”
Bishop Rhoades continued, “The Church is based on the extraordinary experience of the witnesses of the Risen Jesus. Our lives as Christians are based on our faith in the resurrection of Jesus because His resurrection opens for us the way to a new life. It is a great truth that we are given a share in the new life of the Risen Christ.”
And this begins at baptism, he said. “Baptism was our birth into new life in Christ. We become united to the Risen Jesus in our souls and become adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. According to the Apostle Paul, through Baptism we enter into communion with Christ’s death, are buried with Him and rise with Him,” the bishop said.
Bishop Rhoades spoke of Jesus’ promise of eternal life. “His resurrection is the principle and source of our future resurrection. … We firmly believe and hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives forever, so after death, we who are faithful to Him in life will live forever with Him in heaven. We hope in the resurrection, that we and our loved ones will rise like Christ, with Christ and in Christ. This is because by His death and resurrection, Jesus has opened heaven to us. And so we rejoice today. We sing the joyful Easter Alleluia!”
Following the homily, the congregation joined the bishop and priests in a renewal of the promises of Baptism as well as the sprinkling rite during which the bishop blessed the congregation with holy water.
At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Rhoades expressed his gratitude to all those who served at Saint Anne Home, from the pastoral care and nursing staff to the administrators. He thanked the musicians for their gift of music at the Mass and reminded the congregation of the upcoming canonizations of two modern day popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, on April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday. He concluded, “Please continue to pray for me and I will pray for you. I pray the Lord will fill all of your hearts with His joy and peace.
Following Mass Bishop Rhoades greeted the residents, family members and staff as they processed to lunch.
Saint Anne resident Clara Hassing and daughter Kathy Beeler were renewed by the Easter Mass. Beeler said, “I think it was uplifting. It’s a beautiful day to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection.”
Brenda Dosen and her mother Dorothy Lowery expressed great wonder at the Mass saying, “It brought me to tears.”
The Ybarra family couldn’t agree more. They said, “It was exciting … It was awesome for him (Bishop Rhoades) to take time to come here. There are a lot of old parishioners here. It’s nice that he’s here with them.”
New director of Saint Anne Home, David Deffenbaugh was honored to have Bishop Rhoades celebrate Easter Mass at the home. “I think it’s wonderful that on this day that’s so special that he’s giving his time to the staff and the residents here. It’s a blessing and an honor to have him celebrate Mass with our community. We’re appreciative of his love and support,” he said.
“Coming to a nursing home is important,” noted Bishop Rhoades who has celebrated Easter Sunday at a variety of special places over the years. “There are so many elderly — people who have been faithful for so many years and this adds a little joy to their Easter celebration. …It’s great to see the joy on their faces,” he said.