Diocesan students joyfully assemble to reinforce faith

Early in the annual Catholic Schools Week itinerary students experienced spiritual solidarity through the gathering for Holy Mass hosted at diocesan high schools. There, the young faithful’s goals for the days ahead were infused with the promises of God’s accompaniment.
Students from north Lake County Catholic schools filled the Bishop Noll Institute fieldhouse in Hammond on Jan. 31. Bishop Robert J. McClory presided and BNI chaplain Father Jeffrey Burton concelebrated as they witnessed a responsive gathering where student choirs and bands supported the participation of grade and high schoolers.
During his homily, Bishop McClory dove into Scripture, walking among the students who sat in chairs on the covered Warriors basketball court. He spoke of the joy of the Lord, and he offered his understanding of how personal and academic struggles, as well as the daily news, could dampen their happiness, but reminded them that God remains in the midst of all conditions.
“St. Paul says, ‘The Lord is near.’ And so, because of that, we're told to have no anxiety at all, but in everything – instead of being anxious and concerned – by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God,” he said. “We don’t just say, ‘Hey God, here’s my laundry list of things that I want you to do,’ but we (pray) in thanksgiving.”
BNI freshman Catherine Ralphson said joining peers from other schools was inspiring. As a former St. John the Baptist of Whiting student, she was already acclimated to multi-school liturgies during Catholic Schools Week.
“This gathering was really joyful,” said Ralphson. “We have a lot of students who just love to celebrate together, especially through music.
Ralphson continued, “Sometimes life can get crazy with so many things going on, so I think it’s really great to just take a second to breathe … and to pray.”
The BNI Mass celebrated on the Memorial of St. John Bosco featured a rendering of the priest on the Mass programs. Bishop McClory mentioned the “amazing saint, and great saint for Catholic education.”
St. John Bosco of Hammond fourth-grader Charlotte Kallen appreciated how the bishop did a “shout out” for SJB, saying she “likes the school a lot.”
Preparing to head back to their educational home, schoolmate Anthony Bravo joined Kallen speaking about the school that bears the name of the patron of the youth.
“It’s great to once in a while meet with everyone. It makes me feel really nice to see everyone like me – (those) who’ve been to Catholic schools – to come together,” said Bravo, a seventh-grader.
At a Marquette Catholic High School gathering of LaPorte and Porter county diocesan schools, Bishop McClory told students that a holistic Catholic education can help give direction to life.
“The beauty of Catholic school is everything that is offered to you. Not just academic subjects but a better way to live. Not just head knowledge but heart knowledge. Not just talking about God but living a faith with God. Putting faith in action,” said Bishop McClory to the hundreds of students gathered in the Scholl Center on Jan. 29.
When Bishop McClory asked the students what their favorite subject or activity was in school, Abram Rausch, a St. Patrick of Chesterton fourth grader, was quick to respond when called upon. “Religion because it’s fun to learn about and gym because of all the fun activities.”
Rausch said a Catholic education is not only forming him now but also for the future. “In religion class, I’ve learned to treat others as you want to be treated. I’ve also learned how to be a Catholic and someday raise my children to be Catholic.”
Tyler Hynek, a Marquette senior, shared how Catholic Schools Week brings the school together for a week of fun celebrating Catholic education.
“We get to come together as one big family starting the week off with a really nice Mass in which all the Catholic Schools in the area come to celebrate the Lord. It’s a feeling of love and positivity everywhere,” Hynek explained.
Hynek said he went to public school through junior high and told of the changes he has experienced with a Catholic education. “It’s allowed me to develop closer relationships with people and I’ve strengthened my belief and relationship with Christ.”
In her first year at Notre Dame School of Michigan City, Mallory Cronin, a pre-kindergarten teaching assistant, said she recognizes the family-like atmosphere at Catholic schools. “It’s very much a home environment. All the kids are so friendly. It’s very heartwarming. It’s a beautiful thing to see.”
Cronin said her son Jackson, a Notre Dame first-grader, is doing well at the school. “He thrives on the structure. He loves going to church every day, and the small environment at Notre Dame has been a real blessing for him.”
Students, teachers and administrators gathered in the Andrean High School gymnasium for a Mass for area Catholic schools on Jan. 30. Those whose charge it is to foster growth in students’ faith lives appreciated presider Bishop McClory’s presence and comforting words about students being able to turn to God frequently.
Part of the ECHO program of the McGrath Institute for Church Life based at the University of Notre Dame, Andrean campus minister Liv Sensenbrenner said when students are able to congregate together they can see a bit more of the scope of the Church’s commission in the world.
“I think it’s important for students to see that the Church is bigger than just when Andrean goes to Mass,” Sensenbrenner said. “To have the other grade schools come and to have the bishop come, having a different presider, I think it slowly gets them to understand that it’s not just them. They’re not the only ones who are doing this, that our Church is universal.”
Sophomore Michael Larson reflected on the bishop’s sermon, delivered before students in the AHS gymnasium. “Obviously, it’s a great thing to have a good relationship with God because anytime you’re in trouble you can just pray and then think (it through) and conference with God,” the 15-year-old said.
As Larson and hundreds of other diocesan students continued into the 2024 Catholic Schools Week, which is themed, “United in Faith and Community,” he said he appreciates the atmosphere at school.
“Every teacher I’ve known so far has been incredible; they really want you to do well. The smaller class sizes really help with that,” Larson explained. “The family environment helps because as you’re walking in the halls you see people that you know. It helps you feel better.”


Caption: Bishop Robert J. McClory randomly picks students to answer questions as part of his homily during the Catholic Schools Week All City Mass in Marquette High School’s Scholl Center on Jan. 29. (Bob Wellinski photo)