By Sara Kraft
“Saints are not just a bunch of dead people,” explained Bishop Johnston to Bishop LeBlond High School students, faculty and staff. Bishop Johnston consecrated Bishop LeBlond High School, the only Catholic High School in Northwest Missouri, under the patronage of St. Joseph on March 20, the transferred feast day of St. Joseph. Since the March 19 feast day fell on a Sunday, the feast day was transferred to Monday this year. An image of St. Joseph, on permanent loan from St. Mary Parish in St. Joseph, was blessed by Bishop Johnston during the consecration. The image will be given a place of honor in the school’s foyer where all visiting the school will see it.
Bishop Johnston encouraged LeBlond students to develop a deep relationship with St. Joseph. St. Joseph has a special place in the church; therefore, he should have a special place in every Christian’s life as a friend, an intercessor, and a protector. “I hope he is an ever present person in the school,” added Bishop Johnston, “that leads them to Jesus and a deeper love for Mary.”
Bishop LeBlond High School is the only Catholic High School in Northwest Missouri and has 186 students. Named for longtime Bishop Charles LeBlond of the diocese of St. Joseph, the school was founded as an all-girls school in 1960 by the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica of Atchison, Kansas. In 1970, Bishop LeBlond High School became co-educational.
The consecration is a meaningful event in the mission of LeBlond Catholic High School. “I feel it is great because our whole city is dedicated to him (St. Joseph),” explained Matthew Bobela, Vice President of Campus Ministry at LeBlond High School. His most perfect example will “encourage us to live out our faith in a very active way and inspire others to live out their faith.”
Father Ryan Koster, Chaplain of Bishop LeBlond High School and head of the Theology Department, has worked to instill a love of the Catholic faith and a devotion to the city’s patron since becoming chaplain two years ago. In addition to beginning his classes this semester with a Memorare to St. Joseph, Fr. Koster also instituted a traveling statue of St. Joseph that visited all the classrooms on campus during the month of March. Father Koster has also revived the Campus Ministry team consisting of students from every grade which helps instill the Catholic faith.
“During one of our meetings, Campus Ministry talked about different things we could do during the month of March which is dedicated to St. Joseph,” explained Father Koster. “The idea popped into my head about consecrating the school under his patronage. I then met with Bishop Johnston about what steps needed to be taken to accomplish this, and he enthusiastically said that he wanted to be able to do it personally. He was able to make room in his very busy schedule to accommodate this on St. Joseph’s (transferred) feast day and we are very grateful for the generosity of his time.”
Students and faculty were very impressed with the consecration and the inspiration of St. Joseph. “I just like seeing our school all together involved in their faith in a different way than all-school Mass,” explained Isabel Seiter, President of Campus Ministry at Bishop LeBlond High School. “It was cool to see.”
“St. Joseph is the worldly guardian of Jesus. St. Joseph also protects our school as we go through our spiritual growth,” stated sophomore John-Michael Hriso. “He kind of fathers over us.”
“The hope is that we, as a spiritual community at the high school, can have a more focused and outward devotion to St. Joseph,” explained Father Koster. “He is a great example of silent humility and selflessness. He was entrusted as the guardian of our Lord in his youth and the guardian of our Lady. In order to grow spiritually, we need to have a focus. Having a strong devotion to St. Joseph, or any saint for that matter, allows us the ability to focus our devotion ultimately on our Lord and because of the trust our Lord placed in St. Joseph during His most vulnerable years, we can imitate that trust in St. Joseph as well, laying our cares and petitions at his feet and asking him to intercede on our behalf.”
“I hope that St. Joseph will enlighten our students with the same virtues and devotion to his adoptive son which he demonstrated,” stated Justin Grove, Bishop LeBlond faculty member. “I hope that he guides us, steers us, and if necessary chastises us to become what we can and should be as human beings and as servants of Christ. I also hope that having him as a guardian to whom the school can constantly turn to will create a habit and normalcy to devotion within the school body as a whole.”
Following the consecration, Bishop Johnston declared the Feast of St. Joseph an annual holiday not just for Bishop LeBlond High School, but also all Catholic Schools in the city of St. Joseph. Additionally, he dismissed the students for the day following the consecration. He thanked area St. Joseph priests Father Christian Malewski, Father Evan Harkins, Father Bill Walter, C.PP.S., Father Ron Will, C.PP.S., and Father Chuck Tobin for attending the consecration.
“St. Joseph is a model of stability and fidelity in the midst of chaos. He is a great spiritual father who reflects the goodness of God the Father,” explained Bishop Johnston. “I was eager to be here. And I love St. Joseph too.”