Bishop joins 600 students to celebrate Catholic Schools Week

Bishop Johnston celebrated Mass at Bishop LeBlond High School on January 31 for over 600 students from Bishop LeBlond High School, St. Francis Xavier School, St. James School, Cathedral School, St. Gregory Barbarigo School in Maryville, and Bishop Hogan School in Chillicothe as part of Catholic Schools Week. (Sara Kraft photo)

By Sara Kraft

ST. JOSEPH — “It’s a great and beautiful sight to see all of you in one place,” Bishop Johnston told over 600 Catholic School students in the Bishop LeBlond High School gym on January 31, the feast of St. John Bosco. “All of you are the reason for our Catholic schools.”

For over 10 years, Bishop LeBlond High School has hosted a Mass for all area Catholic Schools during Catholic Schools Week. Teachers, students and parents come from Catholic schools all across the northern region of the diocese to celebrate the Mass. Participating schools included Bishop LeBlond High School, St. Francis Xavier, Cathedral and St. James Schools in St. Joseph and St. Gregory Barbarigo School in Maryville and Bishop Hogan School in Chillicothe. This year was extra special because Bishop Johnston celebrated the Mass. Additionally, eight area priests, including Father Matthew Rotert, Father Bill Walter, C.PP.S., Father Joe Miller, C.PP.S., Father Evan Harkins, Father Luis Felipe Suarez, Father Joshua Barlett, Father Benjamin Kneib, and Father Ryan Koster, Bishop LeBlond High School Chaplain and Theology teacher, concelebrated the Mass.

“In baptism, we are brought into the church into God’s family. While we belong to a particular family and parish, in the end we are all in the same family – God’s family,” stated Father Evan Harkins, pastor of St. James Parish. “It’s always a beautiful visible symbol of that when we are able to get together and fill the gym at Bishop LeBlond High School. Plus, it’s always good to get together with our bishop.”

Bishop Johnston explained it was fitting to gather on the feast of St. John Bosco, who died 120 years ago. “In the life of the church, he is a fairly recent saint,” stated Bishop Johnston. Bishop Johnston explained that St. John Bosco lived his life serving youth in Italy. During his lifetime, many youth were taken advantage of, especially boys who lived in the poorer section of town. St. John Bosco wanted to help them through education. But first, he had to win them over. St. John Bosco entertained them with magic tricks he learned from his friends. After he befriended them, St. John Bosco helped form their lives in Christ. He also helped the boys get jobs and gave them a path to the future. “St. John Bosco treated the boys with patience and kindness and is a model for Catholic school teachers and priests,” explained Bishop Johnston.

“Our Catholic schools exist to not only provide students with an excellent education, but also exist for formation – formation of the heart,” stated Bishop Johnston. Playdough is squishy when first taken out of the can, but when it is left out, the playdough gets hard and cannot form. “Our hearts are like playdough. Your hearts are being formed now for the rest of your life. Jesus wants to shape your hearts and form your hearts. He wants to shape them into hearts that are wise, and hearts that are good,” stated Bishop Johnston.

“All of our courses are about thinking of the things of God – even science and math,” explained Bishop Johnston. “Ultimately, the one shaping us is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the reason for our schools. He is the center.”

Parents, students, and teachers were moved by the Mass.

This all-region Mass “gives them a visualization that we can come together and worship as a community,” said Mrs. Jessica McFarland, Middle School teacher at St. Francis Xavier School. “The students play against each other in sports and this unites us.”

“Having all of the priests here was powerful,” stated Bishop LeBlond junior Lionso Canchola. “Bishop Johnston gave a really good homily. He used a really good analogy of playdough.”

“Hearing the choir sing was really beautiful,” stated Ellie Barnett, Bishop Hogan eighth grader. “It was cool to hear their voices all mixed together.”

Following Mass, middle school students participated in a trivia contest. The trivia contest was created last year by the campus ministry of Bishop LeBlond High School, who designed the questions based on the four theology classes Bishop LeBlond High School teaches. The campus ministry team hopes to provide a healthy, faith-based competition for the grade schools that gives them a taste of what the theology education at LeBlond is like. This year, St. Francis Xavier School took the first place trophy.

“Catholic Schools are more important than they have ever been. As our culture has changed and become more secular, we need Catholic schools more than ever to help our parents form children in goodness, truth, purity, and everything wholesome and to help them grow up to be good Christian boys and girls. Our schools are treasures we cannot take for granted. If we didn’t have them, we would be striving to get them,” explained Bishop Johnston.

“This Mass was beautiful because it brought all of our Catholic schools together from the far Northland to our Catholic schools here in St. Joseph which serves all the families in this area. When we come together like this, it deepens our communities and our love for one another,” stated Bishop Johnston.

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Thursday
February 22, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph