Bishop visits St. Francis Xavier School in St. Joseph

During Bishop Johnston’s recent visit to St. Francis Xavier School in St. Joseph, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students were inducted into the CROSS society for completing 100 hours of service in a year. Back row: Fr. Ron Will, C.PP.S., and Bishop Johnston. Top row, left to right: Kate Sanders, Daniel Love, Claire Kammerer, Tessa Pinkelman, William Atkinson, Darin Pollard, Principal. Front row: Lily Barnett, Miguel Machado, Annemarie Ausmus, Libby Weddle, Alyssa White and Cadence Crews (not pictured: Emmilie McNeely) (Sara Kraft/Key photo)

By Sara Kraft

“I’m still kind of new, and I heard about your school and how great the students are so I wanted to check it out for myself,” Bishop Johnston told St. Francis Xavier School students in St. Joseph. He began the morning with an all-school Mass, followed by visits to each of the classrooms.

“Jesus transforms each of us into saints. That’s why our Catholic schools are so important,” said Bishop Johnston. “We help you be smart and successful, but also wise and good. Wise and good are ultimately what make you happy.”

Additionally, Bishop Johnston was present for the induction of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students into the Catholics Reaching Out Serving Society (CROSS). In order to be inducted, middle school students must complete one hundred hours of service in a twelve month period. CROSS is open to grades 6-8. Some students complete all their hours over the summer, and others wait until August to begin. It typically takes each student 6-8 months to reach 100 hours of volunteering. CROSS was started at St. Francis Xavier School as a Middle School level program to support service to the church, school and St. Joseph community. Since it was started five years ago, CROSS has had 98 students inducted.

Students inducted this year for the first time are: William Atkinson, Alyssa White, Cadence Crews, Miguel Machado, Katherine Sanders, Lily Barnett and Emmilie McNeely. Annemarie Borchers-Ausmus, Claire Kammerer, Daniel Love, Tessa Pinkelman and Libby Weddle have also earned the honor in past semesters.

“I am grateful for you eighth graders and all of you students growing in Jesus slowly but surely through the Eucharist, studies, and prayer. Ultimately, it is about loving, knowing and serving Jesus,” explained Bishop Johnston.

Both students and faculty have been pleased with the program.

“Students are more kind and generous with their time. It has opened their eyes to see what can be done in the greater community of St. Joe,” explained St. Francis Xavier School Principal Darin Pollard. Graduates who have participated in the CROSS have more volunteerism especially Bishop LeBlond High School students. They look for opportunities to serve, including in St. Francis Xavier School. Last year, high school juniors previously inducted into CROSS specifically wanted to help educate about the Corporal Works of Mercy, so they organized a baby bottle drive at St. Francis Xavier School.

“I have always loved volunteering. I have always done volunteering without being recognized. It felt really good,” explained 7th grader Reagan Hanway. In order to be included in CROSS, students must volunteer one hundred hours, but Reagan volunteered 526 hours. This included 3 quarters of safety patrol, which directs the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up traffic on and around school grounds, helping children at the Noyes Home with their homework, and through the St. Joseph Youth Alliance.

“Helping people makes my heart full and I feel like that’s what God is calling me to do. I want to do something with children when I grow up,” explained Reagan. “I never get bored because I am always volunteering or dancing.”

Seventh grader Anna Hurst also helps at the Noyes Home, volunteers through the St. Joseph Youth Alliance, Hillcrest, and Second Harvest food bank. “I look for anyplace that needs help,” she stated. She donated 300 hours this year.

St. Francis Xavier School provides opportunities such as safety patrol for students, but also encourages them to volunteer in the greater community. “It brings them the wonderful gift of grace from God,” stated Mrs. Joanne Bateman, who has administrated the program for 4 years. “Some students work at the Open Door Food Kitchen. They tell me it is so much fun to do this. They are encouraged by their parents to do it and to keep doing it.”

To reach 200 plus hours as some students do, “You really have to look and seek those opportunities,” explained Mrs. Bateman.

“Our current 6-8th graders that have been fully immersed have really grown in faith and they understand their role in the community. I’m really proud of them,” stated Mrs. Bateman.

“CROSS started them thinking outside of themselves. They see who their neighbor is. Our neighbor is everyone. It teaches love of God and love of neighbor. It shows them the true meaning of community which is beautiful,” explained Mrs. Bateman.

“It makes us as proud as parents,” added Principal Pollard.

Principal Pollard was quick to point out how excited the students and staff were for Bishop Johnston’s visit. “Kids have been looking forward to this special visit. This week, we offered special prayers for Bishop Johnston, priests, and an increase to vocations,” explained Principal Pollard.

The third graders in particular were very interested in Bishop Johnston’s life.

Bishop Johnston explained he is the oldest of four children who all live in Tennessee. He went to St. Joseph Catholic School and then the University of Tennessee. Starting in about fifth grade, he started thinking about becoming a priest. It wasn’t until college that he really started thinking about it. The idea never did go away, so he quit his job building skyscrapers and went to the seminary.

One third grader questioned, “Have you met the Pope?” Bishop Johnston explained he had been very blessed to meet Pope John Paul II (now St. John Paul II), Pope Benedict, and most recently Pope Francis.

The third graders also questioned if he had any best friends. “My best friends are my family, and I have some other really good friends that are priests,” Bishop Johnston responded.

“Do you go to church every day?” asked another student.

“The Mass is the most important thing that happens each day in the universe. It’s where we meet Jesus,” explained Bishop Johnston. If he’s not celebrating Mass at a school or parish, “I celebrate Mass in my own Chapel where I live. The Mass is Jesus. I want to encounter and meet Jesus every day.”

Bishop Johnston plans to visit all diocesan Catholic schools by Fall 2017 at least once since becoming bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph in November 2015. Bishop Johnston was quick to credit our Catholic Schools.

“We excel in great academic formation. The most important thing is to help our kids grow in relationship with God and to teach them to be wise and good. We want to partner with parents to help our children form a Christian worldview and understand their life as part of God’s plan,” he explained.

“I want our children to know our bishop, not just as a picture,” stated Bishop Johnston. “I want to support the mission of Catholic schools and encourage our students and all who serve in them.”


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November 25, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph