Third Sunday of the Year – A
It is very appropriate that we celebrate this 50thanniversary Mass of Bishop Dwenger High School here in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. In the crypt, beneath this altar, Bishop Joseph Dwenger, the second bishop of our diocese, is buried. The crypt is also the final resting place of Bishop Luers, Bishop Rademacher, Bishop Alerding, and Bishop D’Arcy. Let us especially remember Bishop D’Arcy in our prayers today – next week will be the first anniversary of his death. Bishop D’Arcy was a strong advocate for our diocesan high schools and did so much to support Bishop Dwenger High School.
Back in 1956, our sixth bishop, Bishop Leo Pursley saw the need for two new Catholic high schools in Fort Wayne. Central Catholic High School was crowded with over 1400 students. He organized fund-raising campaigns. 23 parishes in the Fort Wayne deanery participated. I think today of the wonderful generosity of the Catholics of Fort Wayne and their great support of Catholic education. Because of this generosity and support, Bishop Luers High School was built and opened in 1958 and Bishop Dwenger High School was built and opened in 1963. Bishop Pursley formally dedicated Bishop Dwenger High School 50 years ago this April, on April 10th, 1964. He named the school after Bishop Joseph Dwenger because of Bishop Dwenger’s great interest in Catholic education. Shortly after he became bishop in 1872, Bishop Dwenger set about to establish a Catholic school in every parish of the diocese. He was a great pioneer of Catholic education in our diocese.
Bishop Dwenger High School began with its early years staffed by very dedicated diocesan priests, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, and lay teachers. At this Mass, we remember in our prayers the dedicated administrators, teachers, and staff who have served at Bishop Dwenger the past 50 years, as well as the high school’s many benefactors and alumni. We can be proud of the half-century history of Bishop Dwenger High School, its excellence in academics and its many strong extracurricular programs. Most of all, I am proud of Bishop Dwenger’s strong Catholic identity and mission, the reason the school exists, to form citizens of two worlds, to educate our young people in the faith, to help them to grow in holiness, to be “saints” not only in name, but in reality.
Bishop Dwenger High School exists to help our young people to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, to hear the Lord’s call and to follow Him. Our Catholic schools are to be schools of discipleship. In our Gospel today, we heard the account of Jesus calling the first disciples at the Sea of Galilee. It is a remarkable scene to contemplate. Normally, Jewish rabbis were chosen by interested students. It’s the other way around in today’s Gospel. Jesus takes the initiative and calls and chooses his disciples. And even more amazing is that the four fishermen without deliberation or hesitation left their nets and followed him. Peter, Andrew, James, and John left behind their profession, their livelihood, to follow Jesus. James and John also bid farewell to their beloved father, Zebedee, in order to follow Jesus. They really made a radical decision, one that changed their lives forever. Surely God’s grace was at work in their hearts.
Jesus promised to make them fishers of men. For three years, Jesus formed these fishermen into disciples and apostles. He prepared them to be fishers of men, to continue His mission on earth and to begin His Church. Saint Eusebius wrote the following about Jesus calling the disciples: “Reflect on the nature and grandeur of the one Almighty God who could associate himself with the poor of the lowly fisherman’s class. To use them to carry out God’s mission baffles all rationality.” Jesus chose unsophisticated and common people to teach all nations. Saint Eusebius says: “When he had thus called them as his followers, he breathed into them his divine power, and filled them with strength and courage” to be fishers of men.
The call of Jesus can change the lives of ordinary people in radical and wonderful ways. Jesus called us when we were baptized, but afterwards also. If we fall from our Baptism, He calls us to repent. He calls us to grow in holiness, to grow closer to Him throughout our life. He calls us to deeper friendship with Him through prayer. Just as Jesus taught those first disciples, He teaches us today through His holy Word. As He gave them the Eucharist at the Last Supper, He nourishes us with His Body and Blood at every Mass.
Bishop Dwenger High School has the mission of forming saints. Saints are faithful and devoted disciples of Jesus. At Bishop Dwenger, our young people are helped to grow in holiness, to deeper friendship with Christ. They hear the Word of God and are nourished by the sacraments. They study the faith. It is important to realize that, first and foremost, discipleship means friendship. Jesus calls us His friends. We are not only students of the Master who study and try to obey His teachings. We are friends of the Master who loves us and gave His life for us. For fifty years, Bishop Dwenger has educated students of the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ, and also have been guided to be grow in His friendship.
Being a disciple of Jesus also involves sharing in His mission. Like the Apostles, we have been called to continue Jesus’ mission of love and mercy in the world. He has called us to teach His Gospel to all the world. He has called us to serve Him in our neighbor. He has called us to reach out to the poor and needy, to the sick and suffering. In our own families, He calls us to live the Gospel faithfully, to pass on the teachings of the faith to our children, to make our homes sanctuaries of life and love. And He calls us to bring the leaven of the Gospel to our places of work by our Christian example in the workplace, by our honesty and integrity, by our respect for co-workers, by our dedication to our responsibilities and our generosity to others. Bishop Dwenger educates our students not only to follow Jesus, but also to work in His vineyard, in the world, before and after they graduate, sharing in His mission of salvation. One way we can articulate this is to say that our Catholic schools form students as disciples and also as apostles.
Discipleship. This is who we are. This is our identity. This is what gives meaning to our lives. This is what gives us joy and peace in the midst of life’s struggles. We belong to Christ, as Saint Paul teaches in today’s second reading. Belonging means we give our heart in a total way. We can be tempted to hold back. Peter, Andrew, James, and John did not hold back. What is proposed by Jesus is that we follow Him wholeheartedly.
We are disciples of Jesus. He is at our side with His grace and love. To live in His presence, to be with Him each day, and to continue His mission, this is what it means to be a Catholic Christian! And this is what Bishop Dwenger High School is all about: educating disciples and forming saints! May the Lord continue to bless the Bishop Dwenger community today and for many years to come! May this school of discipleship continue to flourish and graduate many holy disciples of the Lord!