PHOTO GALLERY: Archbishop Lucas presides at all-school Mass
Eighth-graders are leaders in Catholic schools' 'laboratories of discipleship'
By Susan Szalewski
By the time students reach eighth grade in a Catholic school, Jesus begins to rub off on them.
As they get closer to graduation from grade school, they've gotten to know the Lord. They've had chances to talk with Him, spend time with Him and learn from Him, Archbishop George J. Lucas said in his homily at the annual Eighth-Grade Mass for students in Omaha area Catholic schools.
The Mass is a tradition during Catholic Schools Week in the archdiocese. Students pack St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, even filling folding chairs set up for the overflow crowd.
The eighth-graders form "probably the largest congregation, the largest group of people that fill our cathedral all year long," the archbishop said. He said he looks forward to the special Mass each year, when he speaks to that particular age group.
"You're beginning to grow into the person that you really desire to be, that God desires you to be," he told the eighth-graders.
Catholic schools, Archbishop Lucas said, are "kind of laboratories for discipleship, and it's in the community of our Catholic school where you get to try and see what if feels like to have an influence on other people."
The eighth-graders have an influence on younger students at school, on one another, on friends and family, he said.
The archbishop asked the students to take seriously Jesus' command to go out. "Don't just keep faith and goodness to yourself."
"Sometimes people don't notice it and they don't care. That was the experience of the first disciples," he said. "But very often, I think, we find that when we're generous, when we're patient, when we look for the good in others, when we're willing to forgive, something really good happens for them and for all of us together."