by Cori Hilsgen
St. John’s Prep recently hosted more than 2,200 students, kindergarten to 12th grade, at the Abbey Church for a Mass celebrating Catholic education during National Catholic Schools Week.
St. Cloud Diocese Bishop Donald Kettler, Abbot John Klassen and area priests celebrated the Mass that was held at noon Jan. 28.
Many visiting students also participated in tours of the St. John’s University campus and church.
Catholic school students from All Saints Academy in St. Joseph and St. Cloud, St. Francis Xavier in Sartell, Cathedral High School, as well as students from Melrose, Freeport, Meire Grove, Greenwald, Albany and Foley attended the Mass.
ASA principal Karl Terhaar said it was wonderful to see so many Catholic schools come together to celebrate Mass.
“It’s a wonderful celebration of the Mass with the Bishop and Abbot,” Terhaar said. “The Abbey was filled with the vibrancy of young people.”
“The Mass was a wonderful opportunity to come together with many local Catholic schools to celebrate one of the great things we have in common, our faith,” said ASA fourth-grade teacher Theresa Fleege.
“Sitting in the front row with the fifth-grade students and their kindergarten buddies, Bishop Kettler asked us to look around at all the students who attended,” said ASA fifth-grade teacher Tess Koltes. “It’s amazing to see the wonder and awe in the students’ eyes of all the people present. The Abbey church was filled to the brim with our future church leaders – our youth.”
“It’s wonderful to see so many Catholic schools come together to celebrate Mass,” said ASA third-grade teacher Robin Kremer. “Just before Mass began, the student I was sitting next to looked all around the church in amazement. She told me she had never been in such a big church with so many people and priests.”
ASA second-grade students shared some of their thoughts about the Mass.
“The magnificent space was so full,” Anthony Brown said.
“There was not room for any other people to sit,” Annie Funk said.
“It was a great Mass,” Austin Baird said.
“It was amazing to see so many kids from Catholic schools,” Lily Schmitz said.
“Bishop Kettler was awesome,” Ethan Brown said.
St. Francis Xavier Principal Kathy Kockler talked about their day spent on the SJU campus.
“The day was filled with wonder and awe as our students enjoyed a CLIMB Theatre presentation that focused on being a good friend, taking a tour of the Abbey Church and celebrating Mass with over 2,200 other Catholics from around the area,” Kockler said. “Often you could see eyes scanning the church in wonder and amazement.”
St. Francis Xavier fifth-grade teacher Jacque Windschitl said she was moved knowing she was able to celebrate Catholic Schools Week with her peers and students from other schools.
St. Francis Xavier kindergarten teacher Sherri Schmit said she hopes this is the beginning of a new tradition where they can gather as a full Catholic community to celebrate together.
“There are 12 supporting structures on the inside of the Abbey Church, which represent the 12 disciples,” said St. Francis Xavier sixth-grader Ty Lund.
“I was astonished by the sheer number of youth coming together to celebrate the day with their great smiles and zeal,” said St. Francis Xavier music teacher Carolyn Yaggie Heinen.
The Mass included special music created especially for the event. SJP junior Marisa Gaetz, daughter of Rose and Rick Gaetz of St. Joseph, participated in the music by playing the drums during the celebration.
“Being a part of the music program at the Catholic Schools Week Mass was a great experience,” Gaetz said. “It was amazing to see the amount of people who came to celebrate and to support Catholic schools. Playing music at the Mass allowed me to contribute to the ceremony that helped to unite the Catholic schools in our area.”
SJP Director of Communications and Events Jill Pauly said SJP students enjoyed hosting the event.
“The Mass was a joyful celebration for our students, visiting students, parents, guests, teachers and staff,” Pauly said. “Our students did an excellent job acting as hosts to all of our visitors. They served as hosts, tour guides, musicians and singers. They especially enjoyed spending time with young people from across our region.”