With all of the uncertainty that came with the past year, perhaps the greatest loss was our ability to share Mass together as the body of Christ.

In honor of those who made in-person and virtual education possible and safe during an unprecedented academic year, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki made plans to celebrate with students, school staff, and the community, by offering Mass at Dominican High School in honor of Catholic Schools Week on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

Signaling the hopeful end to our year of COVID, at the last minute the archbishop was able to receive his first vaccine shot and so, instead, Bishop Jeffrey R. Haines presided over the Mass that brought together the communities of St. Monica, St. Eugene, Holy Family, St. Robert, and Dominican High School. The five schools rallied together to collect donations for the Women’s Care Center, piled high in testament to the charity the community believes in so deeply. 

During his homily, Bishop Haines said one of the things he likes most about Dominican High School is the sign by the road on Silver Spring Drive. Over the years, he said he’s seen many, but none with messages that he likes as much as Dominican’s. He read a list of his favorites, including, “We’re a school you can have faith in” and “Your future begins here.” His favorite though was, “Jesus Christ is the reason for this school.” 

He continued by saying that what makes the sign so special is that it’s not just a list of classes and times, like most are, but an encouragement, a beacon of light, “a light I call hope.” He said what takes place in the building is more than an academic exercise, more than math and English, and boxes that need to be checked to get the students to college. He said that what happens in that building is a mission, a mission to form not only minds but souls. “Catholic Schools Week,” he said, “is a reminder of that mission, a reminder that this mission is not just important, but sacred.” 

Growth and progress, he said, are measured by the embrace of the five core values of the school, truth, compassion, justice, community and partnership. He acknowledged that the mission has been so much harder to carry out during a year where we’ve been apart, and life has seemed more uncertain than ever. He expressed gratitude and pride as he spoke of how the daunting obstacles and trials during a pandemic haven’t deterred the faculty and staff, or the families and communities of the schools from the mission of their hearts.

The sacrifices, he said, will bear everlasting fruit. “They did this,” he said, “because they do not consider what they do to be just a job; it’s a vocation, a calling from God to ensure that your time here at Dominican High School is not simply to go forth from here to be a success in the world. They believe their calling is to prepare you to go forth to change this world.” 

On the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Bishop Haines spoke of the gospel reading, when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to dedicate him to the Lord. Simeon and Anna, prophets, recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Bishop Haines said that in a very real way it is a feast day for the students, too, that he and the teachers and staff act as Simeon and Anna, blessing them as the two prophets of old blessed Jesus.

“In this blessing, we want to impart upon you the continued grace of your journey here at Dominican High school, a grace that will lead you into the future, not simply for a future in a pre-COVID world that used to be, but grace for a future in a post-COVID world that might be, a world that will be better because of you.” 

Dr. Kathleen A. Cepelka, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said the Mass at Dominican was one of the most reverent, well-coordinated, and personally meaningful liturgical experiences she’s attended in recent memory.

Everything about it evidenced dignity and pride: the door greeters, the banners from each school, the simple but exquisite music, the very well prepared lectors, the Veritas speaker — I could go on and on,” Dr. Cepelka said. “I fairly floated back to the Pastoral Center. It was truly Catholic education at its best.”