Input from students on how DSHA celebrates Advent has been well received. One of the events the school had this year was a St. Nick Market. (Courtesy of Divine Savior Holy Angels High School)

For high schoolers, the peace, hope and joy offered by Advent can be squashed by the workload of final papers and looming exams.

Divine Savior Holy Angels High School student leaders had some new ideas for Advent this year that helped make the season more faithful for their 700-plus classmates.

Students of the Campus Ministry Council wanted to help all the young women experience Advent as a more prayerful time. A large variety of options sprinkled throughout Advent were meant to offer “little moments of peace, little moments of hope” for students to find God in all their busyness, Director of Campus Ministry Stephanie Monson said.

Some of their requests — and the results — surprised Monson:

  • “They said they did not want us to send daily prayers into their email,” she said. Instead, council members asked that different 15-minute bible study reflections be available daily in the school chapel. This change, which was well received, was meant to encourage students to set time aside in a specific location and do nothing but pray — away from online distractions.
  • Another change prompted by student suggestions that bore good fruit: Confessions were offered directly after an Advent assembly that included an Examination of Conscience. In the past, it was offered during a Friday free period. “They were right. It really, really worked,” Monson said. “We had four priests, and they were busy the entire time. One had to leave 30 minutes later.”
  • A third example was a tweak to the applied wellness hour that typically offers physical, spiritual or social activities. Council members asked for something hands-on, so materials were provided daily for a craft to help them focus on Advent in the moment.

The most important outcome for organizers was how many students freely took part in individual options as well as all-school events. When students actively choose to practice their faith for themselves in high school, they will choose it for themselves in the future, Monson said.

Specifics for the Advent worship, service and outreach offered at DSHA grew from seeds planted last summer. That’s when Monson began meeting with the school’s student-led Campus Ministry Council for the 2022-23 school year.

“Each year, it’s a little bit different because students plan it,” Monson said. The council helps give students ownership of their faith by giving them a voice in what happens. Events included Masses and other prayer opportunities, clothing and food drives, community fine art performances, a St. Nick market and more.

Seniors Nora McCormick and Claire Mooney have been members of the Campus Ministry Council for several years.

“I just want to make my faith my own, and I love that I’m able to help everyone do that,” said McCormick, a member of Christ King Parish in Wauwatosa. She especially enjoyed helping with the Examination of Conscience at the Advent assembly and a candle memorial held later in Advent. “I really like them because there is such a variety in what you can do.” She has a renewed appreciation for the many ways there are to observe Advent.

Mooney, a member of St. Monica in Whitefish Bay, likes being a resource for other students who have questions about campus ministry.

In Advent, she especially enjoyed the chance to help with the two very different Masses celebrating Mary — the Dec. 8 Immaculate Conception Mass celebrated at DSHA by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and the Dec. 12 Mass for the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

It seems likely the lessons of Advent will bear even more fruit when services and activities are finalized for Lent this year.