We are Love. We are One. We are Catholic.
June 1, 2016
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Who am I? This question stumps many people.
Defining oneself and one’s identity has been a constant struggle for most of human existence. The identity of a person is important, and people examine many aspects of life to find their identity. People typically identify themselves based on their family, social status, activities and religion.
Religion, which has a set form of values and beliefs, serves as a central part of some people’s identities. However, with the secularization of the post-modern era, many people lose the identity that comes from their faiths.
The identity of Catholics, in particular, seems to be at a different point, especially after Vatican Council II. With more ministries, the people involved and actively participating in their faith have some of the strongest beliefs.
However, at the same time, many people are leaving the Catholic faith and Catholic Church, abandoning their Catholic identity all together. With Catholic schools getting shut down and declining numbers of students enrolling in Catholic schools, a school’s Catholicity is called into question.
Cathedral Catholic High School, the Academy of Our Lady of Peace and Saint Augustine High School are often noted for their friendly competition among the three schools. The friendly competition, however, sometimes makes people forget their similar goals, which promote students’ faith and enhances their Catholic identity.
An identity serves as an essential role for an individual, causing him or her to act a specific way and to follow specific values.
“We are Catholic like we are Dons,” Director of Liturgies Mrs. Sandy Blackstone-Gardner said.
One’s Catholicity should not just be a part of his or her identity, but it should serve as his or her identity. One’s Catholicity should not be separated from other aspects of life. Catholic values and morals can still show even in secular activities.
“Everything we do should be a reflection of those values,” Mrs. Blackstone-Gardner said. “Being in a math class, playing sports, going on retreat — all of these should be a reflection of our Catholic values.”
While a student should exemplify his or her Catholic values in all parts of life, including secular activities, some specific parts and activities lead to a greater extent of spiritual growth and faith.
Mass, a form of community prayer, is a central part of faith. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, liturgy is the official divine worship of the Church. Mass is a holy and venerable action that has developed through the millennia.
The CCC states, “When we celebrate the liturgy, we are drawn into the love of God, healed, and transformed.”
For most Catholic high schools, all school liturgies rate as an essential part of the school year. SAHS students attend Mass on a weekly basis. Both OLP and CCHS have an all-school Mass once a month. CCHS seeks to have more school Mass days next year. CCHS and SAHS also have morning Mass in the chapel for people who wish to attend. And more recently, OLP introduced an optional morning Mass twice a month this year.
“We have Mass on every Wednesday,” SAHS student Anthony Frazier ‘17 said. “It makes me want to go Mass more on the weekends.”
Exposure to Mass works several ways for students. While some students do not pay attention to the Mass, and they just go through the motions, Mass still serves an an integral part of their faith.
Each liturgy is a miniature Easter, where the faithful celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Liturgy emphasizes the universality aspect of Catholics, as they join in communion with other people in the church and Christ. When a person receives Holy Communion, he or she recognizes that belief.
According to the CCC, “A sacrament is effective of itself; however, to be fruitful it must be accepted in faith.”
The sacrament of the Eucharist still is effective even when people are not fully participating in it. However, for other students that actively participate in Mass and in their faith, the sacrament offers more fruitful benefits for their spiritual growth. Depending on the student and his or her own faith life depends on how he or she receives Mass.
Offering the opportunity for Mass and requiring students to go to Mass allows students to get to that point in their faith. While it may not seem like some students are getting anything from Mass, they still benefit from the exposure of the faith and Catholic beliefs.
In addition to monthly all-school Mass, students are required to take four years of religion classes. For OLP and CCHS, freshmen and sophomores take mandatory religion classes that emphasize scripture and the early church.
“Having the opportunity to go to religion class every year should have two positive effects,” Mrs. Blackstone-Gardner said. “It touches on our intellectual side about knowing our faith and our spiritual side to help build relationships with God and others.”
However, upperclassman have more options and choices to take a variety of religion electives, which fulfill the four-year religion requirement. Campus Ministry serves as a popular opportunity for many students involved in their faith and for students who are interested in deepening their faith.
Campus Ministry, which is offered at all three schools, serves as another opportunity for students to embrace their faith. Campus Ministry, which fulfills the requirement for religion since it follows the mandatory curriculum, involves an application.
The application process requires students to actually choose their faith. Since it is their own choice, students often embrace the class and the various aspects in it. The class, which is only for upperclassmen, allows students to form a close community that cares about similar values and beliefs while serving as leaders in their faith.
“CCHS has helped my faith tremendously by the community it provides and because of things like Campus Ministry,” Campus Minister Rachel Bohan ‘16 said.
Campus Ministry creates an atmosphere where students can find people who want to grow in their faith and meet people who want to achieve the same goal.
Campus Ministry classes are different than most classes because of the community and learning process. With many hands-on activities and experienced-based learning, students are able to approach their faith in a different way.
Both CCHS and OLP have Campus Ministry for Liturgy and other liturgical events. The ministers become involved in the Mass, and learn about the various parts. They fulfill the roles of altar servers, ushers, lectors and Eucharistic ministers.
When students are able to choose their faith themselves, actively become involved in the Liturgy and understand the various parts of the Mass, they start to embrace and grow in their faith and beliefs.
All three schools offer retreats for the various grade levels. Retreats serve as an important avenue of conversion for many students. Students can also get involved with the retreat Campus Ministry programs. Retreat Campus Ministers lead other people closer in their faith, while growing spiritually as well.
As part of their faith, Christians are called to serve others. The Catholic high schools have their students live out this call through their service programs, requiring a minimum of 60 complete service hours by graduation. CCHS, however, recently announced it is replacing its mandatory service program next school year with a more comprehensive model.
Furthermore, students serve with their class at various places. CCHS also runs a Campus Ministry service program, which is intended for students who have a passion to serve.
The campus ministry programs for both OLP and CCHS are changing to include more people.
Next year, OLP is adding a Campus Ministry class for just seniors. The school is expanding its program by adding in a Campus Ministry class called Discipleship Practicum, which is responsible for setting up the retreats.
CCHS added a new Campus Ministry program called Campus Ministry outreach, which will focus on religious events and reaching out to students on campus. This year, all eligible students were placed in a Campus Ministry program. This increased inclusivity and the opportunity for interested students to pursue their faith through Campus Ministry.
While the programs and the opportunities allow students to grow in their faith, the overall community has the greatest effect on a their spirituality.
“Cathedral is an amazing school because it has a community of people, who are so compassionate and want to give back,” Bohan said. “Everyone is so filled with the love of God, and it makes it such a blessing to come to school everyday.”
Students often are motivated and inspired by other students. With strong faith leaders like Campus Ministers, other students can look up to them for their own faith.
“I think you get a stronger sense of self-confidence from being in that kind of environment,” OLP student Katie La Costa ‘17 said. “I think it is really easy to be comfortable with everyone, and it is a really cool feeling to be a part of a huge group of insane girls.”
Each school is different; however, their community provides a similar function by offering a community of supportive people. The word Catholic means universal. These three schools exemplify that word.
While friendly competition exists among the schools, they have a similar goal of providing various opportunities that foster student spiritual faith.
Ultimately, students must chose for themselves to take advantage of these opportunities and choose their faith.