Elementary Schools Information Guide
Eighth-graders see and learn
about Mass as never before
"My job as a bishop and as a priest is to remind you of your No. 1 goal in life," Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, told eighth-graders from about three dozen schools from all corners of the Diocese of Oakland gathered at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. "That's to get to heaven."
On Sept. 19 and 20, Bishop Barber celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit for the students, in groups of about 500 each day. The Department of Catholic Schools coordinate the events, which featured the Mass with choir, organ and trumpet, which the students were told was most likely different from what they were accustomed to in their parishes.
Their participation in the Mass was invited and encouraged, with worship aids clearly defining their parts.
The students were welcomed by Superintendent Kathleen Radecke, who offered them a tour of the cathedral from the pews. She drew their attention to the cathedral's architectural elements, as well as its meaning.
"It's our church, our spiritual haven, where we unify as one diocese," she said. She repeatedly referred to the cathedral as "your cathedral."
She told them when she first saw the cathedral, with its glass, concrete and wood, she wondered, "Where is the color?"
"The color in our cathedral is you. It's me. Look around," she said, noting the "diversity of us, the people of God," and not just the varied colors of the school uniforms.
Before Mass, Bishop Barber welcomed the students and, piece by piece, described the vestments he wears for Mass. He showed them the symbols of his office — the ring he wears on his right hand; the cross he wears on his chest; the miter he wears on his head; and the crosier he carries.
The crosier, he told them, is a ceremonial representation of the shepherd's staff. With the bottom end, the shepherd can defend his sheep against wolves or other predators; with the crook the shepherd can snatch a wayward sheep and bring it back to the flock.
The sheep are safe when they stay with the flock; stray and they are subject to wolves, he said.
"As long as you stay part of the flock, you're safe," he said.
He told the students when he comes to Mass in their parish and they're not there, "I'm going to McDonald's or Starbucks or wherever you are," he said, "I'll bring you back."
In his homily, the bishop reminded the students that as leaders of their schools, the younger students will emulate them.
But his main lesson for them was looking forward.
"It comes and it goes fast," he said. "Set your sights on your true goal."
He encouraged them to love God with your whole heart and soul, and love your neighbor.
He offered some examples of items that might help them along the journey: a rosary, a holy card, a scapular, a statue of Mary and a cross.
He told the students he was giving a cross, with a dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, to each of them as a reminder of their visit and "so you remember where your life is going."
"Jesus has loved you first," he said. "Try to respond to his love every day."
The students line up to receive Communion or a blessing during the Mass of the Holy Spirit.
After Mass, the students ate lunch on the Cathedral Plaza. Each student took home a cross as a remembrance of the day.
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