Lenten practices help high school students experience the season
Living Stations of the Cross, special meals, eucharistic adoration, prayer and penance services – these and other activities are bringing the Lenten season to life for students at Catholic high schools around the archdiocese.
"During Lent, the church gives us opportunities, like fasting and abstaining from meat, to enhance our Lenten experience, but we try to provide additional opportunities for students to draw closer to the Lord," said Father Patrick Harrison, chaplain at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha.
The Catholic Voice spoke with Father Harrison and representatives of four other high schools in Columbus, Humphrey, Lindsay and Bellevue to learn about special activities taking place during Lent. Each highlighted several activities, including some unique opportunities.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS
Living Stations of the Cross are a Lenten highlight at each of the schools.
"Our seniors take that on, and the kids really love it," said Father Matthew Capadano, chaplain and teacher at Scotus Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Columbus.
Using a script, student narrators are encouraged to pray about the scenes and, with Father Capadano’s approval, add their own reflections to the narrative.
One of this year’s narrators is Abbie Perault, a member of St. Isidore Parish in Columbus.
"It’s cool how students get to do this and actually think about what they want to say," Perault said. "I think it makes the story more relatable and helps the student body pay attention and understand the feelings of Jesus and Mary."
At St. Francis High School in Humphrey and Holy Family High School in Lindsay, students experience a Passover, or Seder meal during Holy Week, said Father Wayne Pavela, chaplain at both schools.
Following the Jewish rituals, students share matzah (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs (represented by parsley) as the Israelites did. They follow that with a main meal of roast beef (in place of the traditional lamb).
Completing the meal, students again share the matzah along with grape juice, to "open their eyes to the roots of our Catholic Eucharist," Father Pavela said.
Dustin Ternus, a junior and member of St. Francis Parish in Humphrey, said the meal helps him understand and appreciate the Eucharist. "It helps me see the sacrifice that Jesus offered, and when I go to Mass and see the Eucharist, it helps me truly believe that that’s Christ."
Students at both schools also received key tags imprinted with the words "Moving Toward the Cross," and a verse from Luke’s Gospel describing how Jesus "set his face to go to Jerusalem."
"The key tags remind students of the importance of embracing the cross and following the Lord," Father Pavela said.
Students at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha participated in an optional "hunger banquet" during lunch March 15, said Father Harrison.
Offered as a Lenten sacrifice and highlighting the unequal distribution of resources around the world, students drew straws to see which meal they would be served – a feast, an ordinary lunch or a meal of bread and water.
Modeled on an activity developed by Oxfam International, an organization fighting hunger and poverty worldwide, the hunger banquet also is an opportunity to encourage students to contribute to Catholic Relief Service’s Rice Bowl collection.
At Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School in Bellevue, students are invited to a weekly Friday lunchtime "examen," or period of reflection in the school’s chapel, said John Schultz, principal.
Using a series of recorded programs, students are guided through an examination of their day and their lives as they go through Lent and a spiritual reflection on who they are as Catholics, he said.
And on March 13, an all-school assembly helped students understand Jesus’ passion and death and the mystery of his resurrection through a presentation about the Shroud of Turin, the purported burial cloth of Jesus.
The featured speaker, Jim Bertrand, a teacher at Lincoln Pius X High School, has studied the shroud and seen it first-hand, Schultz said.
"We’re hoping that these activities give students an opportunity to reflect upon the season of Lent and how they might deepen their faith through examination and some of the rituals that we go through as Catholics to help them understand who they are as a person in faith."
Father Wayne Pavela, chaplain of St. Francis High School in Humphrey and Holy Family High School in Lindsay, leads a morning prayer service at the high school in Humphrey.