Catholic Free Press

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  • Aug
  • 31

St. Bernadette’s keeps Christ in the center

Posted By August 31, 2012 | 12:20 pm | Lead Story #1

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By Tanya Connor

NORTHBOROUGH – Eighth-graders at St. Bernadette Elementary School were called forward Wednesday – in more ways than one.
At 1:30 p.m. Mass on the first day of school, Father Stephen M. Gemme, school headmaster and pastor of St. Bernadette Parish, called the oldest students the leaders. He had them come up and stand in front of the congregation.
“The burden upon you is this … everybody in the school is looking to you,” he told them. “What example do you set for these young people … your teachers … each other?”
He debated about who to “pick on,” then chose a few of the eighth-graders to say something profound.
Katherine Szkoda said it was her first year there, so far it had been good and people had been kind. She called for people to continue being kind, saying that’s what God wants.
A classmate said they are taught to be like Christ at St. Bernadette’s.
Father Gemme said he was biased, but he thinks theirs is the best school, and that comes from keeping Christ in the center.
He had started his homily focusing on Christ. He asked students who the man in red was in the Last Supper stained glass window  behind the altar. They responded in unison: “Jesus.”
Father Gemme told how Jesus said, “This is my Body; this is my Blood,” and “every time we celebrate Mass, that’s what we do.” The celebration takes place not just on a table, but an altar, he said, pointing out the crucifix.
“Jesus gives his life for us on the cross, and then on Easter Sunday he rises from the dead,” he said.
Father Gemme asked students what they did on vacation and chose a few from the congregation to answer.
“But now you’re back in school,” he said. “Praise God you’re back in uniform.” He got them to admit school is different from vacation, and connected their presence at St. Bernadette’s with the first reading, in which Paul called on Christians to work. (2 Thes 3:6-10, 16-18)
“This is a learning parish, a learning school,” the pastor said. He tested the students’ knowledge: Who was just nominated for president? What state was he governor of? What state does the vice presidential candidate come from?
Father Gemme got gasps from his youthful audience by telling them when he was their age there were no cell phones, and that sometimes the information one gets from the internet is wrong. So, he said, it is important for them to learn.
He told listeners that each of them, no matter what their faith tradition, is called to be holy, a man or woman of prayer.
In conclusion, he asked if they pray for their parents and teachers and asked their prayers for himself.