GREENVILLE — On Sunday, Jan. 29, Coadjutor Bishop Richard G. Henning made his first pastoral visit to St. Philip’s Parish and School.
The day’s events began with Holy Mass celebrated by Bishop Henning, and concelebrated by Father Michael McMahon, pastor of St. Philip’s Parish, and Father Gerald Beirne, pastor emeritus.
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In attendance were parishioners as well as many students and faculty of St. Philip’s School. The choir that sang during Mass was made up of students from the school.
In his homily, Bishop Henning discussed the purpose of the Beatitudes is to show us that “our truest life really lives beneath the surface.”
“In every human life, there is struggle and difficulty. … Even in the midst of struggle and difficulty, even in those days that are difficult, there can still be joy, and meaning and purpose.”
Humans are given the ability to look beyond the struggle and suffering of life and see the meaning and beauty inherent to God’s creation through love, the Bishop explained, adding that the reason for this is because it is through love that we imitate Christ.
“These words are really a reflection of the Lord’s own life,” Bishop Henning said. “If you pay attention to Jesus’ life and ministry, He was not a man who sought comforts. He did not look for wealth or fame. He wasn’t trying to lord it over anybody, not even within religion. … Instead, Jesus lived a life entirely given as gift for others.”
Bishop Henning connected this with the broader mission of Catholic education. Speaking specifically to the students in attendance, Bishop Henning said, “You and I, we were made in love, and by love, and for love, and Jesus shows this to us. The way that God made you, is that God made you to love and to be loved. And it’s the most important thing that you learn at St. Philip’s School.”
“We want you to grow as a full human being. We want you to learn math and science and history and your letters. Those are good and wonderful things, and part of what makes you human. But the most important thing you learn in a Catholic school is the presence and love of God, and the way in which Jesus reveals to us God’s love and how we were made and how we are called to live,” Bishop Henning said.
At the end of Mass, the congregation was addressed by Father McMahon and Keith Kline, principal of St. Philip’s School.
“On behalf of Father Dufour, Deacon Joe, Principal Kline, the entire community of St. Philip’s parish and school extends to you a very profound thank you for graciously accepting our invitation and taking the time to offer this Holy Mass and visit our school community today,” said Father McMahon.
“I know that the last couple of days have been quite a whirlwind for you, bishop, as you get acclimated to your new home in the diocese and the State of Rhode Island,” he continued. “Please be assured of this parish’s prayerful support for you as you begin your ministry here in the diocese. Please know that you are always welcome at St. Philip’s.”
Kline also extended a warm welcome to the new coadjutor bishop and invited students from the school to present gifts to Bishop Henning as well as to his parents and relatives who were in attendance.
Before the final blessing, Bishop Henning said “Some of my family have already left, and my parents will be flying back to Florida this afternoon. They know I’m in good hands in the family of faith here in the Diocese of Providence. I know it gives them a lot of comfort to know and to meet so many good folks like you.”
Mass was immediately followed by an open house for the parish school. Parents of prospective students gathered to look at the booths and listen to Principal Kline as he spoke of the school and the strengths of Catholic education more generally. Bishop Henning visited the school and was given a tour by students and Mary-Regina Bennett, vice principal.
“It’s a great privilege and honor to host Bishop Henning for his first pastoral visit to a parish and school,” said Father McMahon. “It gives us great hope.”