Bishop visits Bishop LeBlond High School

Bishop Johnston visited classes at Bishop LeBlond High School in St. Joseph, Missouri on August 30 following an all-school Mass. (Key Photo/Sara Kraft)

By Sara Kraft

It’s not every day a bishop comes to Bishop LeBlond High School in St. Joseph.

On August 30, Bishop James Johnston, Jr. visited with the faculty, staff and 170 students of the only Catholic high school in Northwest Missouri. His third visit since coming to the diocese, Bishop most recently visited last spring to consecrate Bishop LeBlond High School under the patronage of St. Joseph.

During his visit, Bishop Johnston first celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit for a successful school year. It’s traditional to begin the school year with a Mass of the Holy Spirit as a way of invoking the guidance and apostolic zeal of the Holy Spirit for the students and the school. During his homily, Bishop Johnston also shared a bit about his own life.

Bishop Johnston remarked that in a few weeks, he will be attending his 40th high school class reunion for the class of 1977. “I never could have imagined I would be bishop 40 years ago,” he explained. “It’s fascinating what God does in a person’s life.”

In 1983, the future Bishop Johnston was working in Houston for an electric utility company. Due to Hurricane Alicia, he was sent out in the field to help with recovery, so Houston is near and dear to his heart. Following the hurricane, one of his job responsibilities was to recruit employees for the utility company. He would ask students, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?”

“Often that would tell me a bit about the person,” said Bishop Johnston. “Do they have a plan or vision for their future?”

“It’s good for us to reflect on our lives. Ask yourself – where do I want to be at the end of the year?” Instead of just thinking about our ambitions, such as making the honor role, he encouraged students and faculty to also reflect on their relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Ask yourself–where do I want to be in my relationship with my parents, my siblings and my friends? Do I want to be a better Christian? What does that look like?” questioned Bishop Johnston.

High school’s purpose in our lives is to form Christ in us. “Is Christ being drawn on the canvas of our lives?” challenged Bishop Johnston. “Where do you want to be at the end of the year? What has to happen for that to happen in your life?”

Bishop Johnston reminded that the Holy Spirit is an advocate or helper and students should allow the Holy Spirit to draw the image of Christ in you. This will allow God to influence the Bishop LeBlond community, families, and the greater St. Joseph community.

“In the course of this school year, the desire of us is to have Christ formed in us. That’s the goal of all Catholic high schools,” Bishop Johnston explained. Faculty and staff don’t just want to form smart and successful people, but wise and good as well. “Smart and successful doesn’t always lead to happiness,” he said.

Following Mass, Bishop Johnston visited the LeBlond High School classrooms.

As he visited, he reminded the students, “I will be praying for you. Catholic high school is about formation – forming our hearts, minds, and souls. That’s why we exist as a Catholic high school. Catholic high schools are among the most important ministries we have, forming young people for life.”

LeBlond High School proudly showcased their Catholic identity to Bishop Johnston.

“We have our chapel with the Blessed Sacrament, daily mass, all-school masses, Eucharistic Adoration, rosaries, novenas, prayers before/after school and before classes. It’s truly ingrained in everything we do. We hold our students to a high standard as Christian witnesses in the world. We challenge them academically and spiritually, not letting them settle for anything less than they are capable of,” explained High School Chaplain and Theology teacher Father Ryan Koster.

Bishop LeBlond High School infuses the sacraments into the school day. Masses are celebrated before school three days a week. Adoration is offered for seven hours on First Fridays, and students can sign up for a ten minute slot during their religion classes so at least 56 students attend adoration each month. Additionally, Bishop LeBlond High School has a Campus Ministry team that helps coordinate spiritual activities for the school, retreats for every class at Benedictine College through their retreat ministry, and sports teams gather on game days at least once per week to pray the rosary or attend daily Mass. Confessions are offered weekly during the lunch periods by the priests in the deanery.

“Prayer, by definition, is lifting your heart and mind to God. By infusing everything we do here with our Catholic identity, we’re teaching the students that every moment in life is an opportunity for prayer and that it’s not something simply done on Sundays or other fixed times. Also, by exposing them to the fundamental prayers of the Church (Mass, rosary, and adoration), we’re giving them the building blocks for their own lives of prayer moving forward from LeBlond,” stated Father Koster.

Students were inspired by different aspects of Bishop Johnston’s visit.

“Bishop Johnston’s homily made me think about how I can change my life through Christ and how I can improve life at school,” explained junior Megan Sobetski.

“Bishop Johnston made me think about the future and to have a plan for my life as well as following God’s plan at the same time,” stated junior Mary Trapp. “It was important for Bishop Johnston to visit because kids in high school can relate to him. He’s super nice and it’s important that we see how our faith is working.”

“Bishop Johnston is up there in the church, and it’s a humbling experience when he comes to visit. Just his demeanor is so kind!” explained junior John-Michael Hriso. “It makes an impact on how the students view him. It is always important to pass on his wisdom to a Catholic school because of the knowledge he has.”



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September 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph