Fr. Mark Niehaus distributes communion during Mass at Catholic Memorial High School on Thursday, Feb. 3. (Photo by Larry Hanson)

During his annual Catholic Schools Week Mass at Catholic Memorial High School on Thursday, Feb. 3, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki had a message of simple gratitude.

“Be people who are grateful,” Archbishop Listecki said, noting that some of the students were ready to move on to new stages in their lives, such as going to high school or college. “First of all, thank God. Thank God that you’ve been given a faith that helps you to understand and have that vision, and that sense of responsibility. Thank God that you’ve been given a faith and that you’re able here, within this community, to profess it, to understand it, to challenge it and to live it out.”

He noted those blessings were possible because there were people who loved them, namely parents, but also benefactors, teachers and staff in the schools.

“Part of your Catholic education is to understand what God wants you to do – to fulfill your destiny, to fulfill yourself as an instrument of his presence in this life,” Archbishop Listecki said.

As part of that gratitude, the archbishop noted that while they have received a wonderful gift, they also have a responsibility to fulfill what God wants from us.

“Catholic education never lets us forget our responsibility to our communities,” Archbishop Listecki said. “Whatever age or level we’re at, we can always give back. We can always do something.”

He said students can do it in their families and neighborhoods, or even the larger society, because we are filled by God’s love.

The Gospel reading (Mark 6:7-13) tells the story of when Jesus called the 12 Apostles together and sent them on a mission to proclaim the kingdom and offer salvation. Archbishop Listecki noted Jesus was sending them on a mission and didn’t want anything to distract them.

“Proclaiming his presence in and using his power to call people to understand he is in the world and, through him, salvation will be achieved,” Archbishop Listecki said. “In your Catholic education, you are receiving a mission, and that is a mission to fulfill yourself through your response to Jesus.”

In addition to the 700-plus members of the CMH student body, more than 600 students from St. Jerome in Oconomowoc, Waukesha Catholic School System, St. Anthony on the Lake and St. Leonard in Muskego attended the Mass. After the Mass, the students donned Catholic Memorial sunglasses for fun photos with the archbishop and the assembled clergy, the implication being their future is bright with a Catholic education.

Before the Mass, State Rep. Scott Allen recognized Catholic Memorial’s fall sports state champions in girls rugby, girls tennis and football, along with Dean of Students Steve Plechaty, who is retiring after 44 years at the school.

“I always look forward to coming out to this Mass at Catholic Memorial because we get to share the fact that we are witnesses for Christ in the world,” Archbishop Listecki said. “You carry that sign; you carry that identity.”