By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published February 7, 2008
While winter temperatures remained low in Kennesaw, spirits were high at St. Catherine of Siena Church on Wednesday, Jan. 30, as hundreds of students packed the church for the annual Catholic Schools Week eighth-grade Mass.
Students, teachers and parents from archdiocesan and independent Catholic schools came together to celebrate the theme, “Catholic Schools Light the Way,” and to show they value the opportunity for children to attend Catholic schools.
Nashville Dominican Sister Mary Jacinta, principal of St. Catherine of Siena, said it was important to celebrate the week and the theme. She believes in society “there is a disconnect between our intellect and our morality” while Catholic schools strive to integrate faith, character and moral development with academic success.
“Catholics schools educate the whole person,” she said. “They lead to the truth of Christ.”
The 29 eighth-graders at St. Catherine of Siena School are the first class to graduate from the school, which opened in 2002, a historic reason the parish was chosen to host the annual Mass.
Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue celebrated the Mass, with 12 other priests as concelebrants and two deacons assisting at the altar. The clergy processed into the church to the sound of “We Are the Light of the World,” a song meant to encourage the young students to shine their light and give glory to God.
The Gospel reading from Mark built on the theme of the week, as it told the parable of the seeds being sown on different types of land.
“And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit,” the Gospel said. “It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty and a hundredfold.”
Archbishop Donoghue approached the podium to address the students and expand on the message of the day’s reading.
“My dear friends in Christ, it is very special to be at this Mass,” he said.
He spoke of how proud he was of the students and encouraged them to “follow the light that has been given to us,” the light of Jesus Christ. The retired archbishop also talked about the greatness of Catholic schools and how these schools are known for their excellent and complete education.
“You are the light of the world,” Archbishop Donoghue told the students toward the end of his homily, echoing the words of Jesus.
Several students then presented the assembly with intercessions, asking for blessings on clergy in Atlanta and abroad, world leaders, and the faculty, staff and students of Catholic schools.
Once again, during the offertory, the music amplified the theme of the celebration as the congregation sang “Here I Am, Lord.”
Following the consecration and distribution of the Eucharist, Diane Starkovich, the superintendent of schools, addressed the student community.
“I see before me many bright lights,” she said.
Starkovich went on to thank the staff at St. Catherine of Siena Church for hosting the event, and also thanked the three archdiocesan high schools in the Atlanta area, St. Pius X, Blessed Trinity and Our Lady of Mercy, which had student and faculty representatives present at the Mass.
Starkovich smiled as she extended an open invitation to the students to return to the schools once they graduate this spring. “We invite your bright lights back to our schools anytime.”
With that the recessional song began and the archbishop and the clergy processed out of the church, followed by the students.
A lunch was held for the students and faculty after the Mass so students from the various schools, who may end up in high school together, had the opportunity to create or strengthen friendships with other eighth-graders.
“It is so nice that we can all get together like this,” said Julia Anderson from Queen of Angels School, Roswell.
Her classmate, Carolina Rodriguez, agreed. “It is important to get together with people of the same faith.”