Celebrating the long-standing tradition of Catholic school education and praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in efforts to strengthen and grow Catholic schools, nearly 400 students, alumni and members of the Diocese of Saginaw’s Catholic school family came together for the Back to School Mass on Oct. 9 with Bishop Gruss.
“The Mass was an outstanding sign of support for and belief in our Catholic schools,” said Cormac Lynn, superintendent of Catholic schools. “It was great to see former, current and future students present at the Mass.”
In his homily message, Bishop Gruss spoke about the significant role our Catholic schools have had in our parishes and communities for more than a century.
“It is my hope and dream that any student in our diocese who wants a Catholic education should be able to have one,” Bishop Gruss said. “I am convinced our Catholic schools remain the optimal setting for educating and forming disciples of Jesus Christ.”
More than 150 years after the first Catholic school opened its doors in our diocese, it was inspiring to see, in the Cathedral pews, a sea of colors in tribute to our schools: bright red for Sacred Heart Academy, navy and gold for St. Elizabeth, green for St. Brigid of Kildare. Each of our 12 schools throughout the Diocese was represented. The liturgy began with a procession of students carrying banners bearing their school name and logo, along with an alumni banner.
Priests from across the Diocese joined Bishop Gruss in concelebrating the Mass: Father Stephen Blaxton of Holy Family Parish, Marlette/Peck/Sandusky; Father Jose Maria Cabrera, All Saints Parish of Bay City; Father Pete Gaspeny, Holy Spirit Parish of Shields; Father Steve Gavit, St. Dominic Parish of Saginaw; Father Richard Jozwiak, senior priest; Father Andy LaFramboise, St. Elizabeth Parish, Reese and St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Parish, Vassar and Father Kevin Wojciechowski, Holy Name of Mary Parish, Harbor Beach. Deacon Matthew Gembrowski, seminarian, Deacon Larry Gayton, St. Joseph Parish of Saginaw and Deacon Gary Patelski, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish of Saginaw, also joined in the liturgy.
Catholic school students served in various ministries as well, proclaiming Scriptures, altar serving, singing in the choir, greeting Mass-goers and ushering. Following Mass, all were invited to a reception with Bishop Gruss in the Cathedral’s lower level, where they enjoyed apple cider and donuts while viewing photos from Catholic schools over the past century.
Communion with the Church and with each other
“It was a beautiful Mass! Celebrating liturgy with our students, parents, grandparents and alumni was special because it was the past and present of our Catholic schools,” said Gabbie Marguery, principal of St. Elizabeth Catholic School in Reese. “Having 68 percent of our pre-K to eighth grade students attend showed the commitment that our school families have to the Catholic education of their children.”
The opportunity to celebrate with Catholic schools was particularly impactful, Gabbie said.
“It was even more special to share it with all the other schools in our Diocese of Saginaw, because we are all spread out ... yet we are bound by our faith and our commitment to bringing Jesus Christ to our students and celebrating the Eucharist showed our communion with each other,” she said.
Catholic education reaches beyond the classroom
In his homily, Bishop Gruss reminded those gathered that strengthening our Catholic schools is one of his top priorities.
“Our Church, our culture, and our world need living models of faith today, disciples who are formed with the mind and heart of Christ, who are educated and well-rounded in our Catholic faith tradition.”
Jesus is at the heart of a Catholic school education, because the Christian virtues in which students are formed enable them to live a life in Christ and build the kingdom of God.
“Students are taught the importance of a life of faith and how it must impact their decisions, their choices, and their service to the church and wider community,” Bishop Gruss said. “This begins at home in the family, is further developed through a Catholic school environment, and then outwardly expressed through the lived experience of each student. It is in this way these young people – these ‘tomorrow’s leaders’ – can impact positive and moral change in our society.”
The Back to School Mass is a sign of the dedication, prayerful support and enthusiasm surrounding our Catholic schools as the Diocese continues to pursue the Our Catholic Schools: Centered in Christ, Committed to Excellence initiative.
“Not only was the church full, but the presence of the Holy Spirit could truly be felt—and heard!” said Mary Beth Looby, a St. Mary High School alum. “I was proud and happy to be there as a Catholic school alum, [Diocesan School] Council member and especially grandmother of Catholic school students. I’m looking forward to what the future holds for our Catholic school initiatives, led by Bishop Gruss. God bless him for setting us on this course.”