By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
ST. JOSEPH — Of course, they didn’t fill up the place. Bill Grace Gym at Bishop LeBlond High School is huge.
But the 900-plus Catholic school students, faculty, administration and staff gathered in one place from four St. Joseph schools certainly made an impressive sight.
“This is what I call an All-School Mass,” said Precious Blood Father Timothy Guthridge, the high school chaplain, as he began to celebrate one Mass Feb. 2 for all Catholic schools.
With concelebrants Father Joseph Totton, pastor of St. James Parish, and Precious Blood Fathers Ron Will and William Walter, pastor and senior priest in resident respectively at St. Francis Xavier Parish, Father Guthridge led the liturgy that has become a Catholic Education Week tradition in St. Joseph.
Yes, the three grade schools — St. Francis Xavier, St. James and Co-Cathedral — may be rivals and competitors in many other ways, including sports. But when they come to Bishop LeBlond, first for the Mass then in later years as students, they become one.
They filled the entire lower level bleachers, as well as the upper level bleachers on the east side of the huge gym, dedicated in 2004.
Students themselves filled a variety of liturgical roles. The Bishop LeBlond choir led the singing. The bell choir from Co-Cathedral provided music for reflection. Students from all four schools served as acolytes, lectors and petition prayer leaders.
They entered the gym buzzing with energy, but when the announcement of welcome was made just before Mass began, all 900-plus fell as silent as, well, church mice and gym rats, and remained just as attentive, quiet and well behaved as that throughout the entire Mass, from kindergartener to senior in high school.
In his homily, Father Guthridge noted that the day on the church’s calendar was the Feast of the Presentation, 40 days after Christmas when the newborn baby Jesus was taken to the temple.
“According to old Mosaic law, if the first child was male, that male was to be consecrated to the Lord,” Father Guthridge told the students. “Most of you have been baptized. You have been consecrated to the Lord.”
When we are baptized, “we are more of the Lord than we are of ourselves,” Father Guthridge said.
“In this country, we love to be individuals, being independent, being in charge,” he said. “But this feast day reminds us that we are a people of God, and that we are God’s.”
But that brings a special challenge that Catholic education helps us fulfill, Father Guthridge said.
“The challenge for us is how do we live as a people consecrated to God,” he said.
“One of the great gifts of Catholic education is that we learn who we are as a people of God,” the priest said. “We want to be people who are fully and completely alive, fully and completely human.”
We turn to God to reach those goals, Father Guthridge said.
“We do that through the sacraments. We do that through prayer. We do that through Scripture,” he said.
“This formation is a lifelong process,” Father Guthridge said.
“We pray to the Spirit for the things that are passed on to us in the Catholic school system — that all of you can be a light to the world, that all of you can transform the world into God’s eternal kingdom.”