A St. Agnes student shares the Sign of Peace with a School Sister of Notre Dame during a Mass celebrating the school’s 100th anniversary. (Photos by Larry Hanson)

At a Mass celebrating the school’s 100th anniversary in March, Archbishop Jerome Listecki made a point to tell the students at St. Agnes School, Butler, that he has a connection to their patron.

As does every archbishop in the Church.

The pallium worn by archbishops — a woolen vestment conferred by the pope and consisting of a narrow circular band placed around the shoulders — is made of wool from sheep that are shorn on the feast of St. Agnes (Jan. 21) by a religious order in Rome.

“She’s a wonderful patron, and really, not much older than you guys,” Archbishop Listecki said. “She was about 13 when she gave her life for Christ. They wanted to take her and have her worship other gods other than the God she knew, the God that was presented through Jesus Christ. She refused to do that, and for that, they took her life.”

For the past 1,900 years, the Church has celebrated her commitment, her devotion and her sense of love, the archbishop said.

“All of you really should be very proud that your patron is someone of such a young, young age who stood for Jesus,” Archbishop Listecki said. “It’s a reminder that whatever difficulties we have, we stand for Jesus.”

Those traits that St. Agnes displayed are emblematic of the traits shown by those who have helped the school flourish and thrive for 100 years.

Archbishop Listecki noted the sacrifice of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (several of whom were in attendance at the Mass), parents, lay teachers and the parish community, allowing the school to remain vibrant and educate students in this small community just northwest of Milwaukee, nestled alongside Brookfield, Menomonee Falls and Wauwatosa.

“The world needs Christ’s love so much,” Archbishop Listecki said. “There’s so many people who don’t have that sense of the love of God. One of the great things about your Catholic education is it tells you forever in terms of your faith, you’re never alone. God is always with you.”

Continuing his comments, Archbishop Listecki made a point to praise Principal Rachel Kolbeck, noting she is carrying on the Catholic educational tradition that came before her.

“She didn’t want this moment to pass by without giving thanks to God for what we’ve received,” Archbishop Listecki said.

The first teachers at St. Agnes School, which started in a hotel before moving to two rooms in the back of the newly dedicated church building, were Agnes Clarke and Jessie Hayes. Hayes traveled from Pewaukee by horse and buggy, and had the reputation of being a very firm disciplinarian.

Archbishop Listecki began his comments for the Mass by noting none of the original students were around anymore.

“The end of what we’re about is what they’re experiencing,” Archbishop Listecki said. “Always before them is the understanding of Jesus and our relationship with the Lord, and now they know the fullness of it. It was here in this community that formed and fashioned them. You become part of that history.”