Extra monthly Mass offers students sense of community
November 16, 2016
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Among the many initiaitives implemented this school year, one of the biggest schedule changes was the decision to add one extra all-school Mass per month. For the second time this month, Cathedral Catholic High School will gather for Mass on Friday, celebrating Thanksgiving before break.
Some students have expressed desire for additional all-school Masses more so than other students, but every student should understand what benefits come from attending more than one all-school Mass per month.
“The more we get to know a friend and the more they get to know us, the better that friendship works,” CCHS on-campus priest Fr. Martin Latiff said. “In a similar manner, the more frequency we have in this relationship with Jesus Christ, the more that friendship will naturally blossom. The more often we have masses on campus, the more opportunities we have to interact with our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As a faith-based environment, CCHS offers students the opportunity to build personal relationships with fellow students and with Jesus, but above all, a faith-based environment offers community.
“I think the best example of community at Cathedral is visualized and exemplified during Mass,” CCHS Principal Mr. Kevin Calkins said. “It’s the one time when the entire school community comes together and we pray for one another. People are well behaved. We sing together. There’s just a real deep sense of community.”
Students need to understand that attending CCHS is not just a decision to attend a private school, but Cathedral Catholic’s faith-based environment is a large part of the identity of the community that is unparalleled by surrounding schools.
“This area in general has a lot of good schools you could go to,” CCHS religious studies teacher Ms. Nina Baumgardner said. “The public schools are exceptional, but it’s not like other communities where the public schools are scary and you send your kid to private school so that they’re safe and they have a good chance to get into college. Everything in this community is so good.
“I feel like going to Mass is really the thing that separates us from going to other schools.”
While attending Mater Dei High School, Ms. Baumgardner was required to go to Mass once a week, a schedule that decreased its mass days per month after she graduated and studied at the University of San Diego.
On the contrary, CCHS religious studies teachers Ms. Jennifer Bedison and Ms. Amanda Gustafson went to Our Lady of Peace High School, but they were only required to go to Mass once every quarter.
“I only had to go to mass four times a year at OLP,” Ms. Gustafson said. “It was awful. Nobody knew what to say, nobody knew what to do. It wasn’t community building in the slightest. It was more like ‘oh no, we have to go to Mass, what do we have to do? I don’t remember what to say.’ It was not good.”
Before coming to CCHS, Mr. Calkins attained prior knowledge of mass schedules at other schools he worked at around the country.
“The school I was at in Connecticut probably had a Mass schedule similar to how Cathedral had it last year and previously,” Mr. Calkins said. “I had Mass about once a month and maybe even had it less frequently than that. When I went to the school in Los Angeles, it was once a month as I recall. When I was in Austin, Texas, it was once a week. And I remember when we discussed it in Austin to have a weekly Mass, at first everybody bellyached.
“But in a very short time, people came to love it and look forward to it every week.”
CCHS may seem to be taking a step in the right direction when it comes to fulfilling a faith-based environment, but what exactly differentiates CCHS from other public schools? Is CCHS really just a public school in uniform?
“Personally, I went to a public school my sophomore year and I didn’t like it as much as I like Cathedral,” CCHS student Kayli Hedgecock ’17 said. “I think the atmosphere is a lot different, students are a lot more connected, and there’s a lot more unity than at a public school where it’s a lot bigger. Everyone doesn’t really know each other as well as in a Catholic school.”
Students are still left asking what else an extra mass could offer besides more dress code confusion and less time to study.
“I’ve never been at a Mass where I felt physically threatened for being there,” Ms. Baumgardner said. “I’ve never felt in danger of a bomb going off or a shooting, but there are parts of the world where that’s not true. There are parts where if you go to Mass, you are running a risk every time. Part of me feels that In order to honor the people who feel so much threat, I have no reason not to go.”
CCHS Religious studies teacher Ms. Barbara Perry considers an extra mass a “blessing” because mass time offers students much more than what they already take out of the Mass.
“We’ve been talking in my sacrament class about how liturgy works and how it’s not supposed to be a passive experience like if we’re at a movie theater just sitting there and taking it in,” Ms. Perry said. “We have a part to do, and in talking to my students about it, I was saying how liturgy is work. Looking at iPad screens is a one-way experience, but going to Mass is an interactive experience.”
Fr. Latiff explains that during mass, students should focus on their faith, hope, love, and trust of Jesus’ presence on the alter.
“We should also focus on the word of God that is preached and conveyed in the scriptures and is reflected during and after Mass and can then be applied to our lives and help us live as better Christians,” Fr. Latiff said. “We are a family that gathers to pray and worship and love Jesus Christ and each other together.”
Furthermore, Ms. Gustafson believes that by adding an extra Mass into the schedule, students will be able to learn the songs and responses better through repetition.
“That’s one problem we struggle with here,” Ms. Gustafson said. “A lot of people don’t respond, people get a little catatonic. I think it’s because they just don’t know because we do it so infrequently that they’re just not used to it. If everybody can respond and be a community and get excited about it, then I think it would make the experience a lot better.”
Ms. Gustafson goes on to say that anyone who is not of the Catholic faith should view Mass time as insight into other practices.
“For those who aren’t even Catholic, as with our Jewish students for example, it’s a really interesting thing to see,” Ms. Gustafson said. “If I had to go to a Jewish ceremony on the Sabbath day, it would be a really interesting experience. Students who aren’t of the Catholic faith can see why we’re doing what we’re doing in a Catholic school.”
Extra Masses every month gives students a broader sense of community and a deeper understanding of the Catholic faith. So how did the decision to include an extra Mass every month come about?
The idea of changing the Mass schedule was a school-wide decision that involved decisions and support from the administration, the Catholic faith department, CCHS president Mr. Stevan Laaperi, Mr. Calkins, parents, and the student board among many other people.
“In terms of how it happened, there was a lot of conversation that happened with different departments,” Mr. Calkins said. “Last year, we sent out a survey as a school to the parents asking for their feedback and in that survey’s responses, numerous parents expressed the desire that the school have more liturgies together as a community.”
For students who are looking for even more Mass time, there is a daily mass that takes place every morning in the Saint Thérèse Chapel.
“The source and summit of our faith is the Mass so we should be going to mass. It’s how we enrich our souls, so we should be feeding our souls just as much as our minds and our bodies,” Ms. Bedison said. “If you want to come to Mass more often, you should come at 7:15 a.m. everyday and celebrate Mass that way. It’s a really great way to start your day.”
Together, with the extra Mass added to the monthly mass schedule and the strength of the CCHS community combined, students will always be able to take away something from the Masses, whether that be comfort, understanding, knowledge, compassion, and that is what CCHS offers what very few surrounding schools can offer.
“I’m personally very proud of our students’ participation in the Mass,” Fr. Latiff said. “I really like the way that our students deliver messages before Mass. It really sets us into a spirit of reflection and contemplation before we start with the mass.
“I really value the way our students have been moving forward to participation during Mass.”