Administrators and clergy gather with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki following the North Shore Catholic Schools Week Mass on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at Dominican High School. (Photo courtesy of Beth Manley)

Students from all five North Shore Catholic schools gathered in the William Crowley gymnasium at Dominican High School on Tuesday, Jan. 30, to worship God and celebrate the gift of Catholic education. The North Shore Catholic Schools Week Mass gathered the students, faculty and staff of St. Robert, Holy Family, St. Monica, St. Eugene and Dominican High School, along with two bishops, three priests and one deacon, together in an annual celebration of the blessing of Catholic schools.

“Gathering more than 1,400 people together for this Mass is such a beautiful testament to the future of our Catholic faith. It’s my favorite way to celebrate and honor the importance of Catholic Schools Week,” said Leanne Giese, President of Dominican High School.

The behind-the-scenes work required is no small feat. Many weeks of planning on the part of Dominican High School went into making the event happen.

“Nearly everybody in our building had some part in making sure this went well, whether we were part of planning, setting up, preparing ministers, being with students during Mass, welcoming and directing guests, or cleaning up. If you add in the people who did their part at each of our invited schools, there were so many people moving in the same direction on this common goal. It really is reflective of how the Church works best — we all use our individual gifts to help build up the kingdom together,” said Emily Naczek, Dominican Campus Minister.

Students from the elementary schools who had roles in the Mass arrived early to practice reading at the microphone, find out where they would walk up the gifts, get dressed for altar serving and rehearse in the combined choir. All five schools had students actively participating, enhancing the feeling that we truly are one big Catholic school family. There was excitement and nervousness in the air as the younger students saw the gym full of chairs and realized just how many people would be in attendance.

After everyone was ushered in and settled, the combined choir of elementary and high school students led the congregation in song as Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki; Bishop Jeffrey R. Haines; Fr. Tonny Kizza, Associate Pastor of St. Monica and St. Eugene as well as the chaplain at Dominican High School; and Fr. Enrique Hernandez, Pastor of St. Robert and Holy Family, processed in with student altar servers.

Fr. Kizza said, “It was a great moment to be in the presence of God. Catholic schools are an assurance of the Catholic Church and faith in the world. I see that without the opportunity for the young persons to know the faith, the Church is at stake.”

Archbishop Listecki took a moment to publicly thank the students who helped out, particularly Blessed Igwike, a sixth grader from St. Eugene who proclaimed the first reading exceptionally well. Also in attendance were Ed Foy, the Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and Sinsinawa Dominican Sr. Joeann Dailey.

“The Catholic schools of the North Shore of Milwaukee are outstanding communities of faith and academic excellence. The Catholic Schools Week Mass was a wonderful celebration of this shared mission and the exceptional work that is being done by the leaders, teachers and staff at these five schools. Seeing Catholic school students from kindergarten to senior year praying together is a great sign that our faith is alive in our Catholic schools at each stage of a young person’s education,” said Foy.

Dominican senior Emily Drifka offered the Veritas reflection. “It was really fun to share my reflection with everyone and participate in such a big event to celebrate Catholic Schools Week,” she said. Dominican’s Veritas preaching team is a group of students who attend the annual Dominican-sponsored preaching conference, where they are immersed in the Dominican charism of preaching as they learn, pray, reflect and discern how they can share the Good News of the Gospel within the community.

“Every Catholic Schools Week, I look forward to celebrating Mass at Dominican High School with the five North Shore Catholic school communities. The experience of praying with students from kindergarten to 12th grade is powerful. It reminds me of the awesome gift that Catholic schools are to our Church and to the greater community. I always leave the Mass with a profound sense of gratitude,” said Rebecca Jones, the Executive Director of St. Eugene and St. Monica schools.

Catholic Schools Week began 50 years ago in 1974 as a way to highlight the value and impact Catholic schools have on students, families and communities.