The St. Paul Catholic School Consortium Mass, held earlier this month, ended with a May crowning of Mary.
But, first, in his homily, Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, Mass. talked about the Annunciation, and how Our Blessed Mother said “yes” to the Angel Gabriel.
Walking part way down into the center aisle at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, filled with 600 Catholic elementary school students, the bishop talked about the importance of keeping vows and promises, and about how this one “yes” changed the course of history.
The bishop spoke about the Gospel reading the students had just heard, from St. Luke, about how the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and asked if she would be the mother of Our Savior.
“It’s fitting it should be about Mary,” Bishop McManus said about the Gospel, read in a parish church dedicated to Our Lady.
He then talked about how married couples say “yes” to each other, and to God, and how priests say “yes” when they are ordained.
“Yes, is such a powerful word” in that it can change people’s lives, he added.
He spoke about the “central figure” in the Gospel passage, who is Our Blessed Mother, and how the Angel Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid, despite the fact she was, at the time, not married.
“Not only does Mary’s ‘yes’ change her life, but Mary’s ‘yes’ changed the history of the whole world,” explained the Bishop.
What goes after a date?” he asked the children seated in the pews.
A.D. One of them answered.
Bishop McManus explained that this means “Anno Domini,” the year of Our Lord, and also that B.C. means “Before Christ.”
All of this, said the bishop, is because of Mary’s “yes.”
Then he told the children gathered at the Mass about the selflessness of the saint of the day, Saint Damian of Molokai. This saint was born in Belgium in 1840.
Answering God’s call, and saying “yes,” St. Damian went to an island in Hawaii named Molokai. The only people who lived there were lepers.
“Leprosy is a horrific disease,” Bishop McManus noted. “It’s highly contagious.”
Bishop McManus told the students that 800 people with leprosy lived on the island of Molokai, and St. Damian spent years ministering to them.
One day, while shaving, he knocked over a container of scalding water, which landed on his feet. St. Damian realized this caused no pain, and, then, also realized he had contracted leprosy, as the inability to feel pain is one of the signs.
He asked the students to pray for what God wants them to do with their lives, said the bishop.
“God has a special mission for everyone in this church,” he added. “The key to being happy in life is to find out what that mission is.”
Toward the end of the Mass, Shelby Pelletier, a senior at St. Bernard Central Catholic High School spoke to the younger students.
“I can honestly say I would not have had it any other way,” she said of her Catholic education.
Pelletier spoke about how attending St. Bernard allowed her the privilege of working and interacting with a special needs teenager outside of class. Also, she noted, there were many programs and activities within the school.
And she talked about the strong friendships that were forged during her years at St. Bernard.
“Everyone in the school knows everyone’s name,” she noted, explaining that she shared lunch with students that had a variety of different interests.
“Catholic schools have molded me into the mature adult I’ve become today,” she said. “God is always with me and he will help me feel at home wherever I am.”
After Mass students left the church. Some boarded bright yellow school buses, which brought them that back to Fitchburg and Leominster.
The St. Paul Catholic School Consortium, formed in 2006, is comprised of six North County Catholic elementary schools. It is designed to strengthen the schools academically and economically.
Heather Wailes was standing outside Our Lady of the Holy Rosary after Mass. Her daughter, in fifth grade, attends St. Anna Elementary in Leominster.
Although initially unsure about the consortium model, she now supports it, and she said she liked the fact so many people had gathered in one spot last Tuesday.
“It gives more strength,” she said of the consortium. “It makes you feel part of a larger community. We’re not so isolated.”
Printed with permission of The Catholic Free Press, newspaper for the Diocese of Worcester, Mass.