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St. Joan of Arc and St. Stephen the Martyr school banners are among many carried by students from the Omaha area in the procession Feb. 2 before the annual eighth-grade Mass at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha celebrating Catholic Schools Week.

Faith Bossert, left, Cassie Martin, Amy Conner and first-grade teacher associate Pam Bunda of St. Wenceslaus School in Omaha visit with Archbishop George J. Lucas after the eighth-grade Mass.

Archbishop helps celebrate CSW with eighth-grade Mass in Omaha

About 1,200 eighth-grade students from Omaha-area Catholic schools heard a call to discipleship from Archbishop George J. Lucas Feb. 2 at the annual eighth-grade Mass during Catholic Schools Week (CSW).

The message and Mass at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha hit home with Ethan Funke of St. Wenceslaus School, also in Omaha.

"I thought the Mass was very beautiful, especially how the archbishop said we should adopt the two characteristics of a disciple of Christ," Funke said.

In his homily, Archbishop Lucas used the story of Jesus’ presentation in the temple from the Gospel of Luke to express his hope that the students will be ready to meet and grow close to Christ, and to share Jesus with others – as seen in Simeon and Anna in the temple, and in Mary and Joseph.

The archbishop also encouraged students not to be satisfied with keeping their relationship with Jesus to themselves, but to share it willingly with others and to find ways to be of service as they enter high school.

"I pray for all of you that you will continue to grow in discipleship, to stay close to Jesus and allow him to be close to you," he said.

Students carrying colorful school banners led the entrance procession, including Madeline Clark of St. Bernard School in Omaha, who said she felt the responsibility of leadership as one student representing her school.

"It was kind of overwhelming," she said.

Clark said she had been to the cathedral before, but this time was unique. "Being with my peers, many people I’ll be going to high school with, this was definitely a different atmosphere. I really felt connected because it was a Mass especially for eighth-graders."

Paulette Rourke, principal of St. Cecilia School in Omaha, said the annual Mass is a memorable way for students to mark CSW.

"What makes it really special is that these kids have never gathered all together like this, and I think it makes such an impact on them when they can see their own individual schools joining others from all across the city to build community and share faith," Rourke said.

Patrick Slattery, superintendent of Catholic schools, said the archbishop’s homily summed up the real purpose of Catholic education.

"When we look out at this amazing crowd of 1,200 students, it’s a true testament to the strength of our community and Catholic education," he said. "And we’re all working toward that same end goal of building a deeper relationship with Christ."

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