We need the ‘light of faith,’ Bishop Vann tells eighth-graders at annual Mass

Story and Photos by

Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

June 15, 2012

Eighth grade students from Notre Dame School in Wichita Falls, recite the Our Father during the annual Mass.

Two Catholic school moms shared a bittersweet moment May 16 as they waited for the annual Eighth Grade Mass to begin inside Good Shepherd Church in Colleyville. Mary Ann Williams and Michelle McDonald were looking forward to the upcoming graduation of their children from Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Denton. At the same time, the milestone signals big changes next fall.

Enrolled in the school since kindergarten, Alex Williams will continue his studies in a public high school. Kate McDonald, will begin her freshman year at Faustina Academy in Irving. Both mothers agree Immaculate Conception prepared their youngsters academically and spiritually for the next chapter in their lives.

“I think my son is coming away with a really strong foundation that will help him stay true to himself and his faith,” Williams said.

A schoolteacher herself, McDonald chose a Catholic learning environment for her five children because of the way religion is integrated into the curriculum.

“The sacrifices you make are worth it,” she insists. “It’s a choice I’d make all over again because I see the fruit.”

Hosted by the diocesan Catholic Schools Office, the pre-graduation event brought together 443 eighth-graders with parents, pastors, and teachers to celebrate their achievement and pray for continued success in high school.

Bishop Kevin Vann concelebrated the Mass with several priests from parishes with Catholic schools. Using Good Shepherd’s sunshine-filled sanctuary to illustrate his point, the bishop encouraged his young listeners to be “the light of Christ to others” as they go out into the world.

“To see the path marked out in front of us in this life, you need light — especially the light of faith,” he said in his homily. “As you finish the eighth grade, we all hope and pray the Catholic education you received will be that light in your life that guides you in high school and beyond.”

Students from multiple schools bring the gifts to the altar, including baskets containing their class "mini me" projects.

He asked the students to remember their parents and others in the community who sacrificed to provide a Catholic education. The light of Christ will allow them to understand, more clearly, the love of their parents and the fullness of the Catholic faith.

“Know you don’t walk that path by yourself,” the bishop assured. “We all walk it together. Whatever challenges you may find, the light of Christ will show you the way. Above all, it will show how much God loves you.”

The eighth-graders also heard from diocesan Schools Superintendent Don Miller who told the youngsters confidence comes from a daily encounter with the teachings, presence, and light of Jesus Christ. Up to this point in their lives, opportunities for most of those encounters have come through parents, the classroom, and parish.

“Sometime before the end of the school year, thank the people who have helped you become who you are,” Miller said. “These people have shared their experience, wisdom, and faith. They have been the light of Christ for you.”

He then offered the audience the same advice given to him by a pastor at his own eighth grade graduation 55 years ago.

“What you are is God’s gift to you. What you become, is your gift back to God,” he explained. “It is our hope that you will become the light of Christ for others.” To prepare for the special liturgy each eighth-grader colored a cutout figure of themselves and listed special traits and talents they will use to serve others. The class “mini me” projects were carried up in baskets during the offertory.

“It’s a reflection of what they are dedicating to God,” explained Chad Riley, principal of Holy Rosary School in Arlington.

Members of St. Andrew School’s band perform at the Eighth Grade Mass.

The principal hopes his eighth-graders leave Holy Rosary with an understanding that Catholic education is a gift to be shared. “Their education and formation is not just for themselves. It’s a gift from God,” Riley continued. “Ultimately, it’s for the service of other people.”

David Hernandez and Kevin Le from St. Rita School were two of the 14 students who performed with the all-school band during the Mass. Hernandez, a clarinet player, and Le, a guitarist, plan to join the Viking band at Nolan Catholic High School in August.

Uniforms, rules, and religion classes have readied them for the next phase in their education.

“My time at St. Rita definitely made my faith stronger,” Le explained. His classmate agrees.

“The big difference is that we have religion in school,” adds Hernandez, a former public school student. “And there’s more discipline.”

Two Catholic school moms shared a bittersweet moment May 16 as they waited for the annual Eighth Grade Mass to begin inside Good Shepherd Church in Colleyville. Mary Ann Williams and Michelle McDonald were looking forward to the upcoming graduation of their children from Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Denton. At the same time, the milestone signals big changes next fall.

Published (until 1/1/2115)
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