Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki distributes Communion during the North Shore Catholic Schools Week Mass on Thursday, Feb. 2, at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay. Students from five schools in the North Shore area were in attendance at the Mass. (Photo by Chris Plamann)

Whether it’s five schools within a few miles of each other on Milwaukee’s North Shore or a priest who has come to Wisconsin from Uganda, Catholics worldwide are bonded together as one Body of Christ.

The North Shore Catholic Schools Week Mass, which is a relatively new tradition since 2020, is a perfect example.

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki celebrated Mass in Whitefish Bay’s Dominican High School in the newly renovated William Crowley Gymnasium with students from Dominican and grade school students from Holy Family, St. Monica, St. Eugene and St. Robert.

“We’re all brought together by the person of Jesus Christ as one,” Archbishop Listecki said.

To illustrate that, he turned to Dominican’s chaplain — Fr. Tonny Kizza — and asked Fr. Kizza where he was from (Uganda) and if they were brothers (Fr. Kizza said yes).

The gathering of the five schools is a small symbol of the point the archbishop was trying to make.

“It’s beautiful to see so many Catholic school students, faculty and staff in one place. It’s such a community feel and a community builder for the area,” said Sue Nelson, an Associate Superintendent for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Office for Schools. “I would say that when students see they’re part of something bigger — and especially for the little ones, this is much bigger — I just think it’s such a message for them to see they have that shared faith tradition and shared experience with so many people than just those in their small school community.”

On the occasion of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Dominican senior Matthew Senn (a 2021 Vatican II Award Winner for Youth) gave the Veritas Reflection and discussed the theme of gifts.

Every year, Dominican Youth Movement USA holds the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan. Student groups from Dominican high schools from all over the country come to spend a week together immersed in the Dominican charism of preaching, as they learn how to live out the four pillars — prayer, study, community and preaching — of Dominican life as leaders in their schools the following year.

At Dominican, students who attend the conference come back and form the school’s Veritas Team. This team serves as leaders in Campus Ministry, and one of their roles is to offer a reflection after Communion at one Mass throughout the school year.

Senn noted how Mary and Joseph were given a gift and must have been taken aback.

“Mary and Joseph were given an immense gift from God,” Senn said. “They were tasked with caring for and nurturing this gift. This gift was the Savior of the world. Can you even imagine how daunting this task was? A mere carpenter and his wife would be responsible for the son of God. Mary and Joseph were probably filled with fear and uncertainty.”

He noted that he and his fellow students been given gifts and talents, and are called upon to make a difference. However, it can still be difficult to use those gifts.

“Despite all their doubts and apprehension, they placed their trust in God. Eventually, this gift went on to change the world. In this same way, we must be willing to share our gifts, regardless of our doubts or fear.”

Later in the Mass, Archbishop Listecki singled out Senn for praise and said, “Nice job on the reflection. (If I had known that) we could have saved 15 minutes on the homily.”

Dominican President Leanne Giese said Archbishop Listecki had celebrated Dominican’s Immaculate Conception Mass every December for several years, so she approached him with the idea of being the celebrant for the North Shore Mass that was being planned. She said he responded enthusiastically to the invitation.

For her and other school leaders in the North Shore, having this Mass annually during Catholic Schools Week enhances the sense of community.

“It’s the ability for all of these students to see within the North Shore of Milwaukee this many families believe in Catholic education,” Giese said. “We’re all here together, we’re all a family and we really believe in Catholic education. We all have to be in this together”