How did Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades lead at least 12,000 Catholics in the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, in the Marian consecration as part of the New Evangelization effort?
In Part 1 I covered the “what” of the consecration and its rich insights from four saints. If you remember, the consecration started with one woman in the diocese named Ida List. Ida had made the consecration several times and was leading retreats—she was on fire! She had heard that another diocese had implemented this and had called them to see what they had done. Two hundred people had made the consecration with their bishop, but without the benefit of the DVD retreat for small groups. She had felt called to talk to Bishop Rhoades and presented the idea about doing Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 days to Morning Glory retreat diocese-wide. “A week later I received a letter from Bishop Rhoades saying that he loved the idea.” He picked the date of the Feast of the Assumption, which happened to correspond with the Knights of Columbus Family Faith Festival. Ida also “loved that the eve of the date was St. Maximillian’s feast day [August 14]!”
Bishop Rhoades announced it on 5/11/14, two full months before the start date, in Today’s Catholic, the diocesan weekly. “We invited Fr. Gaitley to the priests’ Spring presbyteral meeting so that they could hear firsthand about this endeavor.” “Bishop [Rhoades] was outstanding in his encouragement…” There was something in the paper for weeks on the initiative. (Click here for the archives and start at 5/11/14-7/12/14). Bishop did a video where he shared his own story with the Marian consecration and introduced the idea of consecration that was seen by over 1000 people. When the 33 days started, Bishop did weekly podcasts where he reflected on the saint and the consecration. He shared some of his personal experiences with Blessed Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II.
Redeemer Radio, the local Catholic Radio station, ran the podcasts and discussed the book on its morning show every weekday. Father David Mary Engo, the local founder of the exploding Franciscan Brothers Minor, had reflections for each day, which went out in emails and text messages sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and were posted to the local men’s group Rekindle the Fire’s Facebook page.
So there are some of the mechanisms used by the Holy Spirit. What were the results? Ida List reported, “Nearly 11,000 books were distributed in our diocese! Not everyone who received a book made it through the retreat, however many of the books were used by couples or entire families.” Sean McBride, the diocesan Director of Communications, stated that with individual purchases, “to say 12,000 faithful participated would not be a stretch by any means.” That is a pretty incredible response! There are somewhere around 50,000 families in the diocese, which means that almost 25% of the families may have participated. Even if the actual number is 10%, this would still have a huge impact in the spiritual realm in bringing down graces. It will be interesting to see the ripple effects go out on the human plane from this event!
Bishop Rhoades held a Mass at the Cathedral on the Feast of the Assumption and rededicated the diocese to the Immaculate Conception along with the individual consecrations (click here to see local reporting). McBride reported, “I can with confidence, after speaking with two experienced photographers, say nearly 2,000 [were] in attendance for the Mass.” It was also broadcast live on the Internet.
“This is not the end…,” List stated. “Several parishes have already said that they plan to offer the retreat experience again for those who could not participate this time.” When asked about the whole experience, McBride stated, “As I chuckle, I’ve never been as exhausted, and never felt better about it! It is a mountain-top experience that I will never forget.” List’s enthusiasm is infectious, “The Holy Spirit, working through Mary, has set hearts on fire! May this fire burn ever more intensely until the whole world is ignited!”
When A Father Leads…
Now you have “the what” and “the how” of this New Evangelization event. A woman initiates an idea and a Father leads and the media helps. When a spiritual father leads a spiritual act, such as the deepening friendship with Christ through his mother, he opens the channels for incredible graces to flow. Grace always builds on nature. The Holy Spirit has more nature to build on using all of these people and media. This is the New Evangelization at its best. Our diocese owes a deep debt of gratitude to Bishop Rhoades. It will be exciting to see the ripple effects go through the diocese. Make the consecration yourself, even if you don’t have 11,999 other people to do it with! Let the graces flow through your life. So a father has led us to his mother, who is our mother as well, and as all exuberant children who have just had a rich experience would say: “Do it again!”