Our diocese is blessed with four wonderful and very faith-filled Catholic high schools. At least once a year, I visit each school, celebrate Mass for the community and then meet with the senior class. This is an opportunity for me to present to them three commercials: 1) do not miss out on this opportunity as seniors to exercise healthy leadership, especially as a class; 2) help me to provide a supportive environment in the school to encourage students to consider a life as a priest or a consecrated man or woman; and 3) spend a great deal of time and energy reflecting on God’s call to marriage (which most will celebrate), consider it when you are dating someone, and learn about natural family planning here in school.
Then the floor is open to any questions; it is vital to take any and all questions, as this demonstrates an openness and encourages them to actually pose a question. This is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my ministry. The questions usually include why the bishop wears a “pink” skull cap, to which my response is always that it is “magenta” and has simply been a traditional aspect of the bishop’s garb. Favorite colors, food, sports and music also are invariably sought.
Often, the questions will enter the realm of human sexuality regarding abortion, same-sex attraction and co-habitation. To each, my response is the teaching of the Church. I always try to explain why this is the teaching, and how that teaching best respects human dignity as God has created and redeemed us.
Sometimes, they will ask me about political matters and my views of current events, or even of candidates. I am always very careful not to make endorsements of anyone, but usually simply speak about principles.
Then there are the questions about my vocation story, my family, my experiences of God, my prayer life and the joys and difficulties of my ministry. On the latter, my response is usually that the greatest difficulties are trying to deal with disputes in our parishes or in the diocese, and the greatest joy is being with them!
Recently, one of the Masses included the grandparents as a way to honor them. It struck me that many of them are probably contributing to the cost of the education of their grandkids at Catholic school. I know how expensive that tuition is, but what a great legacy to leave our kids and grandkids! In fact, I encourage all of you to consider making a financial contribution to your local Catholic grade or high school, perhaps especially to assist some needy family.
These visits to our Catholic schools give me great hope for the future. I know these young people are all sinners just like the rest of us, but they are also called to be saints, just like the rest of us. It is good for me to be a small part of the challenge to them to respond to God’s call. The one thing that really strikes me, however, is that they seem to get younger every year!