On Tuesday, April 30, students from 21 Catholic schools in the diocese gathered at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral to celebrate a Mass for Catholic School 8th Graders. Joined by 12 brother priests, Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama presided over this inaugural event, which included Mass, class photos with the Bishop and a pizza lunch.
Kimberly Browning, assistant superintendent of Instructional Services and coordinator for the Mass, said, “This experience will be the first time our eighth graders will attend Mass as a whole group. This is a special time as our school and parish communities can pray together as they move on to their next journey of attending high school.”
Students played a large part in leading the Mass. Students from Cathedral School in Raleigh served as greeters, altar servers and readers. Students from The Franciscan School in Raleigh presented the offertory gifts.
In his homily, Bishop Zarama highlighted the importance of this time in students’ lives.
“Now you are the seniors, you are the oldest. You have the respect in your schools, and you like people to see that you are seniors. But next year, things will change,” he said.
He spoke about transitions and how students may have many questions. Why do they have to go to school when they would rather sleep or play video games? Why do they have to start the process of being the youngest all over again in high school?
Bishop said that things that are mysteries now, will make sense one day.
“[God] invites you to discover, through your studies and through your schools, little by little, something new, and you can say, ‘Wow, it’s amazing what God created,’” he said.
He also thanked each student for his or her presence at the Mass.
“What is important is the gift of each one of you …You know why this church looks more beautiful today than ever? Because of your presence. You are the living stones that the Gospel talked about. You are the reason why we have this church,” he said.
Ellie Noland, a student at St. Catherine of Siena in Wake Forest said, “Something that really stood out to me in the bishop’s homily was when he talked about how God might not reveal things you don’t understand yet, but you just have to trust him and later in life he will reveal it to you. That made me feel safe and secure. And it showed me that God does care about me and that he will be watching over me no matter what.”
Luke Andress, a student from Blessed Sacrament in Burlington, enjoyed celebrating with students from throughout the diocese.
“I have never met anyone in any of the other classes, in the other schools, but I really liked seeing kids my age get into the Mass and enjoy it,” he said.
Ellie agrees. “It was really cool to be with so many other people about to go to high school and who are going through the same things,” she said.
After Mass, Bishop Zarama took photos with classes from each of the 21 schools. After photos, approximately 775 students enjoyed a pizza lunch, catching up with old friends, and meeting new ones on the cathedral grounds.
Browning was overwhelmed after she witnessed the comradery and fellowship amongst the students.
She said, “God’s blessings were abundantly demonstrated at our first 8th Grade Catholic School Mass. The joy of coming together, with Bishop Zarama, as a school community truly provided a message to all of us of a world of hope, respect and love. The Diocese of Raleigh Catholic Schools truly provide our students with a foundation for life!”