A choir warmed up their voices as kids wearing different colored shirts walked into Waukesha Catholic Memorial High School's gym to celebrate Catholic schools in a traditional way, where learning had more to do with gospels than lesson plans.
On Monday, Jan. 30, CMH hosted more than 1,200 grade school and middle school students for the 2017 Kickoff to Catholic Schools Week Mass led by Archbishop Jerome Listecki.
The archbishop's voice was strained by an illness following a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, but his words nonetheless tried to provide strength and inspiration to the gathering as he commended students for reaching out to others who are in need.
Call for caring
Listecki acknowledged everyone can see there are problems in the world just by turning on the television.
"Many people will say what kind of policies can we enact, what can we do in order to change and shape the world," he noted, then adding that policies are not going to reshape the world as much as following the intent of the gospel.
"It is opening up your heart to be able to see you are one with your brothers and sisters," Listecki said.
One example he cited was when a group of students went to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., as part of a pro-life movement. Listecki explained when people change their hearts then they can reshape and change society.
"This goes for all the problems we face such as poverty, health care, immigration and world peace. It is only going to come from a change of heart, understanding, and dedication," he said.
Adding to tradition
CMH senior Catherine Raster, who said she loves Catholic Masses and remembers going to similar ones in grade school, appreciates the tradition of Catholic School Mass and hope it continues to reach younger students as well. Raster also attended last year's Catholic School Mass with Listecki.
"It was cool to see everyone come together and see how special the archdiocese is," Raster said.
What she hopes people take away from the Mass is how special the Catholic faith is and how everyone can come together.
Like many other older students, Raster has heard about the uncertainty and confusion in politics.
"It is important to take a step back and see what is going on in other places," Raster said.
CMH student Austin Young saw the Mass as a great opportunity for kids of all ages who share the same belief to come together.
"It is awesome to see the power in numbers," Young said, adding that he hopes people who left the Mass will turn to the gospel and just love each other.
CMH junior Jessica Lincoln, who spoke during the Mass to discuss her faith, reflected on what it means to be Catholic.
"Being Catholic is not a title we hold, although it is one I wear proudly," Lincoln said, adding that being Catholic also doesn't mean simply going to religion classes, memorizing words to prayers and attending church every Sunday. "Being Catholic is more than a title and facts or going through the motions we were taught to do for as long as we can remember."
For Lincoln, it has to do with what is in people's hearts which compels them to live their lives the way Jesus Christ taught them.
"It is our decision every day to create the world in which every single person knows he/she is loved beyond infinity by our creator and savior," she said.