12,000 attend inaugural all-school Mass of the Holy Spirit

| September 22, 2016 | 1 Comment
From left, fourth-graders Gabby Noren and Isabel Scalia of Epiphany School in Coon Rapids cheer during music played by local band Sonar at the Mass of the Holy Spirit Sept. 22 at CHS Field in St. Paul. Catholic elementary students in grades four through eight came for the Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Bishop Andrew Cozzens. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

From left, fourth-graders Gabby Noren and Isabel Scalia of Epiphany School in Coon Rapids cheer during music played by local band Sonar at the Mass of the Holy Spirit Sept. 22 at CHS Field in St. Paul. Catholic elementary students in grades four through eight came for the Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Bishop Andrew Cozzens. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

An estimated 12,000 students, teachers and staff of Catholic schools filled CHS Field in St. Paul Sept. 22 for the first all-school Mass of the Holy Spirit in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda, Bishop Andrew Cozzens and more than 60 priests celebrated the Mass for fourth- through eighth-grade students from the archdiocese’s 79 Catholic grade schools after a performance from the local band Sonar.

In his homily, Archbishop Hebda told the crowd filling the stadium seats and spread across the field — where the St. Paul Saints baseball team plays — that the Holy Spirit is what makes Catholic schools great. And, in turn, students must ask the Holy Spirit to help them reach greatness.

“I am so happy that we have that opportunity at the beginning of this school year to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” Archbishop Hebda said. “Certainly, on all of you — our wonderful students, certainly on our teachers, certainly on those students who weren’t able to be here this morning, certainly on all those wonderful parishioners who support our Catholic schools. But we understand that we need the Holy Spirit if we are going to be great. And all that we need to do is to ask for the Holy Spirit. That’s how great is our God’s love, that all we have to do is to ask.”

Referencing the Gospel reading, Archbishop Hebda noted how the apostles were changed once they received the Holy Spirit.

“My hope, that of Bishop Cozzens, that of all of these priests and deacons, that of all of your parents, and parishioners, is that as we ask for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit this day that we become men and women who are bold and brave in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ,” the archbishop said, “that we’re able to share the good news that we have a God who loves us without end, a God who forgives us when we sin, a God who gives us second chances, third chances, a God who calls us to greatness.”

Telling students they have the benefit of a good Catholic education, Archbishop Hebda said he hopes they’ll be great sons and daughters of God who’ll go on to be great parents, husbands and wives, doctors, lawyers, teachers, even second-basemen.

“We don’t know what it is that God has in store for you, but that you’re going to be able to do it with greatness because you know Jesus Christ, and you have received the Holy Spirit that he desires to place in our hearts.”

The archbishop added that the students’ singing and praying at Mass was proof that Catholic schools are places where people not only learn about Jesus, but also encounter Jesus.

Students from Highland Catholic School, Holy Spirit Catholic School and Nativity of Our Lord Catholic School, all in St. Paul, read the prayers of the faithful, while students from Chesterton Academy in Edina assisted priests during Communion.

The Catholic Schools Center of Excellence, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, sponsored the Mass.

CSCOE President Gail Dorn said the event took nine months of planning, 220 buses, and a lot of security and communication with the schools.

“We’re just so happy that we’re able to have this community of faith and be able to celebrate with one another,” said Dorn, adding that they’d like to make the Mass of the Holy Spirit an annual event. “It was a holy day. And it was a healing for our students and for our schools. It’s very powerful to worship together. I think it was very nourishing for our students to strengthen them in their faith and their belief, not just in our holy Eucharist and celebration of our faith, but also the community of our schools and our belief that they should be stronger and better.”

Bishop Cozzens, the archdiocese’s vicar of education and a CSCOE board member, said after the Mass that it was a great opportunity to get all the students together to help them see that they’re part of something bigger.

“What a gift to celebrate Mass together, because all these young people have Mass in their schools, and for them to come together and experience that they’re part of this Church that’s so much bigger, but we all can pray together.”

Father Kevin Clinton, pastor of St. Wenceslaus in New Prague, said it’s important for students of the parish school of 200 in kindergarten through eighth grade to look beyond their small community.

“I think the kids will remember this very much. This is unprecedented that all these kids can see how many other children are in the Catholic school system,” he said. … “Some of these schools maybe have 100 or 150 kids. They don’t think in terms of thousands. But that is the case, so it’s good that they see the big picture of what they’re involved with.”

Masses of the Holy Spirit date back to the Jesuits in the 16th century. Noting that the Church celebrates the start of important events, such as papal conclaves, with a Mass of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Cozzens said the day highlighted the “treasure” of a Catholic education.

“So the school year is a really important thing … so we’re asking for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to come down upon our young people, because as the archbishop said, on our own we can be good, but with the Holy Spirit we can be great.”

Thankful the weather cooperated for the event, Bishop Cozzens said he most enjoyed seeing students’ joy and love for Jesus as they came forward to receive Communion.

The all-school Mass was a visible sign for teachers, too, that they’re part of something bigger.

Kathy McRae, a seventh-grade religion and English teacher at Nativity of Our Lord, has taught for 29 years and said joining the archdiocese’s Catholic schools for Mass was “an incredible experience.”

Kate Cornell, a fourth-grader at Our Lady of Grace in Edina, said seeing the archbishop for the first time was “very cool.” She liked Sonar, which provided music before, during and after Mass.

Nativity eighth-grader Chip Knap, who will be confirmed this year, said the archbishop’s message was especially meaningful.

“It was the best Mass I’ve ever been at,” he said. “I really liked the energy of it.”

Father Clinton noted that the entire event highlighted the significance of Catholic schools.

“There are wonderful things happening in the education and formation of these children — very dedicated teachers and a formation of the whole person,” he said, “so I think this is a good thing to emphasize this important ministry of the archdiocese.”


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  • Jane

    Sooooooo wonderful to see this event for our young people of the future Catholic Church in America! So great! God Bless all of the young people and all of the wonderful people who got this arranged and put together for them!