Fearlessly facing faith
September 28, 2016
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When the majority of high schoolers fear judgment from their peers in terms of embracing Catholicism, Cathedral Catholic High School Principal Mr. Kevin Calkins admits that developing a devout faith means constant spiritual progress and work.
“I remember going into Wellness Day, which was my first experience at Cathedral, thinking to myself, ‘How are they going to get 1700 people in this gym and have some kind of reverent, prayerful experience?’” Mr. Calkins said. “My experience went completely different.”
Despite belonging to a faith-based school community, many students identify themselves as Catholic, but not religious, as mentioned by Rev. Gregory Boyle, the founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles-based gang intervention and rehabilitation center.
Even at CCHS, where the core values of the school revolve around the Catholic teachings and morality, a large portion of students do not identify as having a faith life.
According to the Pew Research Center, a new survey of more than 35,000 U.S. adults shows the number of people who say they believe in God and actively pray and attend religious services have declined modestly in recent years.
Moreover, approximately 60 percent of those former believers who leave the Catholic Church do so before the age of 24, which is about 22 million Americans losing their Catholic faith in their high school or college years, Pew Research Center reports.
In Mr. Calkins’ case, college stood as the most vital time in his growing relationship with God.
“I grew up cradle Catholic and did all the sacraments,” Mr. Calkins said. “But, it really wasn’t until college that I developed a relationship with Jesus. I went through all the motions. I went to Church, but it was so superficial; there wasn’t any depth.
“I had some wonderful religious sisters, brothers, and priests in my life who really challenged me in a loving and thoughtful way.”
With many years of teaching and leadership experience, Mr. Calkins emphasizes the importance of establishing a religious community throughout the school campus by the addition of two Masses per month to the new schedule.
“When I moved to Austin, Texas, we had Mass every week as a school community,” Mr. Calkins said. “I remember, at first, the pushback that came from the community saying, ‘You can’t have it every week. It’s going to interrupt with academics.’ In a very short time, people were so grateful for the opportunity to just take time out the day and go to Mass as a school community.
“It went from getting pushed back by the community to ‘Thank you.'”
Sacrificing school instruction time for community Mass is a central focus to the school that not only impacts Mr. Calkins as an administrator, but many students as well.
CCHS student Lauren Powers ‘17 frequently attends morning Mass. Despite getting put down at times for her commitment to her faith, Powers expresses her devotion to Catholicism through daily Mass, campus ministry, and spiritual direction from religious priests on campus.
“I have been made fun of sometimes for my faith and for being innocent, but I know that my faith has always been a part of my life and I won’t let what others think of me affect my life and my love for God,” Powers said. “Going to daily Mass every morning has given me confidence to take on the day with Jesus by my side.”
Although a small number of students attend daily Mass Monday through Thursday, the chapel fills up with campus ministers from the junior and senior classes each Friday. Daily Mass attendees have the opportunity to unite under one roof to praise and glorify God before beginning the school day.
While Powers agrees few students attend daily Mass, she reflects upon the sense of hope God has brought her with liturgical celebrations.
“It reminds me everyday to put my worries at the foot of the cross and focus on God,” Powers said. “I believe that God has poured His love in me and in each and everyone of us, and when we spread his love and happiness, we are spreading God to everyone.”
Powers stands as one among many teens who believe in the importance of praise to the Creator.
John David Carney ’17 also proudly lives out God’s call in his own life, devoting each day to daily Mass even on the toughest of days.
“It’s something that for most people, you either have to be forced to go to, or you get dragged along by your friends,” Carney said. “But once you do, you become hungry and want to go again. Waking up early is difficult and Mass, up to this point in many people’s lives, is boring.
“But morning Mass, as I have come to learn, prepares the heart, mind, and soul for the day. In the beginning of the year, the colorful sun shines brightly through the stained glass across the chapel, which isn’t even a quarter full, but provides a private, one on one setting for you and God.”
However, not just morning Mass provides this desire for God. Every aspect of the day is a time to dedicate to God through prayer, all school liturgies, and adoration, Carney said.
“When we think we have an understanding of God, He blows our minds away and shows us that He’s more of what we thought He could be,” Carney said. “I align the troubles in my life with the cross of Christ. I can go to adoration, sit, and ask or pray for nothing. Sitting in adoration alone feeds the soul and simply requires your presence.”
In reference to the addition of more liturgies woven into the schedule, Carney views it as a blessing for all CCHS students to involve themselves in the Mass.
“This year’s system has Mass twice a month, which helps students to grow more comfortable in the Mass setting,” Carney said. “Many students at Cathedral aren’t Catholic and may feel awkward, bored, annoyed, or distracted at Mass. By incorporating it more, it mitigates all of those feelings and helps others partake in the celebration that makes us Catholic.”