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02/11/2005
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Bishop urges students to think of life issues in light of faith
By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter

0211OHaraMass.jpg
Marty Denzer/Key photo
Bishop Raymond J. Boland holds up a replica of a check representing the amount collected for tsunami relief by the Archbishop O'Hara High School community.
KANSAS CITY - The chief aim of Catholic education is to help students grow in their faith, Bishop Raymond J. Boland told over 500 Archbishop O'Hara High School students and faculty members at an all-school Mass at St. John Francis Regis Church on Feb. 3, to celebrate Catholic Schools Week.

In his homily, the bishop highlighted several issues that were receiving media attention that day: the hospitalization of Pope John Paul II (the state of the church), social security and the elections in Iraq (the state of the union).

It was important that the students realize "that you are a part of both your country and your faith. You will have a part in it in the future also," he said

God, who created us, put a responsibility on each of us, Bishop Boland said. "Cardinal John Newman, a 19th century Catholic apologist, said each person was expected to make the world better during their lifetime. Ask yourselves, 'What am I doing to contribute?' I hope you are both deepening your faith and forming opinions. But don't reach a point where you let either of them lie dormant. Nurture your faith and opinions. Be your faith.

"Think about it. How would you deal with the problems of the church, the nation, social security and Iraq? Each of you has something to give. Each life is like part of a jigsaw puzzle. Without each piece fitting in, the whole will never be completed."

He urged the students to participate more fully in the Eucharistic celebration. "If you eat too much food, you become a glutton. Too much drink makes you despicable in the eyes of many. But the more you eat and drink of the body and blood of Christ, the more opportunities you have to be a little more like Christ."

At the end of the Mass Judy Warren, diocesan Superintendent of Schools, and two students presented Bishop Boland with the annual report card of the diocesan schools.

The report card highlighted the students, faculty, schools, academics and contributions of the first semester of the 2004-2005 academic year.

Bishop Boland was to celebrate a similar all-school Mass at St. Therese School on Feb. 4, as part of their Catholic Schools Week events. He also planned to tour the parish's new education center since he was out of the country at the time of its dedication last year.

Catholic schools have served the northwest Missouri region for 167 years. Today there are 52 schools, from early childhood centers to secondary institutions, with a total enrollment of 13,174 students. There are 810 faculty members, 52 percent of whom have advanced degrees. Over 40 percent of the teachers have over 15 years of service in the diocese.

Warren commended the schools for their 86, 937 hours of community service in the past year. She also commended the 73 percent of parents who volunteer in the schools.

Academically, 98 percent of graduates from the seven Catholic high schools in the diocese go on to college.

The total cost of Catholic education this past year was $62,408,069, Warren said. The savings to the public school districts in the diocese was about $101,991,953, she added.

At the end of the O'Hara Mass, students presented the bishop a mock-up of a check in the amount of $2,274.33 the school community had collected for tsunami relief. The funds had already gone to Catholic Relief Services to help in the effort in Asia and India.

As the high school students left the church, many were discussing President Bush's State of the Union Address, broadcast the night before. Two seniors, Andy Julo, 18, and Brittany Cole, 17, had been briefly interviewed by The Kansas City Star after the broadcast. But the two young people had a lot more to say.

Julo said, "The address was pretty general. What was said sounded good, but there's a lot more to it. Take social security. It sounds great. Older and younger people taking hold of their lives with a little help from the government. But we need to know a whole lot more about it. I'm glad Bush said we still have options. One thing that needs to be a priority is that everyone can get some sort of retirement."

Cole was concerned about the privatization of the fund. "I know the government takes money out of my paycheck and it goes into a pool. I'm supposed to get some of it back someday when I retire. Privatizing social security is like putting my money in the stock market. The president said some of the money would be protected, but not all of it. That's scary.

"Social Security should be based on need, like Medicaid," she said.

Cole was not satisfied with what was said about Iraq and the war on terror.

"My five word assessment: Work needs to be done. I don't understand how he can say this country is in good shape when so much is wrong. There's homelessness and poverty," she said.

Julo thought that except for the issue of social security, nothing that mattered to the general public was discussed, especially education and human dignity.

Education is the ticket out of poverty, he said. "Freedom is a good goal, but without education, people will fall right back into the same problems they have now."

Cole said she felt somewhat reassured by President Bush's statement that nothing was set in stone.

"He said there were a lot of ideas on the table, and people coming together to talk about them. It was hopeful," she said.

Julo agreed. "It was positive, and that's good. I especially liked it when he said that dignity for everybody is a goal to strive for. That will help make our country better."

END


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