St. Albert Mass salutes schools' 150th anniversary

Six thousand students break into a spontaneous flash dance during a Mass on the Hill celebrating the 150th anniversary of Catholic education in St. Albert.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Six thousand students break into a spontaneous flash dance during a Mass on the Hill celebrating the 150th anniversary of Catholic education in St. Albert.

June 29, 2015
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

An outdoor Mass on the Hill celebrating the 150th anniversary of Catholic education in St. Albert highlighted the "timeless" faith that has remained constant in the midst of dramatic change.

Some 6,000 students from across the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools division sitting on the historic Mission Hill June 11 listened as Archbishop Richard Smith reflected on the various changes – both dramatic and incidental – in society that have taken place in the past 150 years.

A constant throughout, said Smith, is people's faith in Catholic education.

"The faith is one. The faith is timeless," he said, adding it always draws its life from the word of God and the celebration of the Eucharist.

LISTENING, CELEBRATING

"This is why on this extraordinary celebration, this jubilee, we have at the centre of what we're doing, the listening to the word of God and the celebrating of the presence of Jesus here in the Mass."

The First Reading of the Mass was read in English, French and Cree by a Cree elder in honour of at least three of the languages that would have been spoken in the area 150 years ago.

The reading was about St. Barnabas, as the day of the celebration also marked the feast of St. Barnabas, the martyr whose name means son of encouragement.

"Six thousand students represents 6,000 different ways in which you will in the future contribute to the life of society," the archbishop said. "But St. Barnabas lifts up for us something that must be common for each and every one of us."

St. Barnabas is remembered as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, he said, calling that the highest compliment that can be paid to anyone.

"So as you the students look forward to your future, please ask God for grace that in all that you do you will be remembered as faithful followers of Jesus, as people who know the Lord, love the Lord and follow the Lord in all that you do."

Grey Nuns impersonators delighted their audience with a Sister-Act-like performance.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Grey Nuns impersonators delighted their audience with a Sister-Act-like performance.

Addressing the assembled teachers, Smith said when he recalls the many schools he has visited, he is reminded of what he is seeing in those places of learning on this feastday – "many, many Barnabases."

Teachers are dedicating themselves day in and day out to encourage students, he said. They do it by their teachings, by taking them aside for words of comfort or encouragement, through the grading system and even with words of correction.

FAITHFUL ST. BARNABAS

St. Barnabas encouraged the people to be faithful to the Lord, said Smith.

"So in the midst of all the encouraging that you are doing so beautifully and wonderfully, never fail to encourage the students to be faithful to the Lord Jesus, to know him, love him and follow him," said Smith.

"That is the best encouragement you can ever give to our beloved students."

As Smith led a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Division, he prayed for those assembled to grow to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

He also prayed that they be people who never fail to encourage one another to grow in the faith, and who recognize and live joyfully from the fact God's grace is all sufficient and ever present.

HOLY SPIRIT AT WORK

By that grace, each and every day we will see the presence of the Holy Spirit among us at work, he said.

Grey Nuns impersonators performed a Sister Act-like number preceding the Mass, and students added to the joyous celebration with a spontaneous flash mob dance.

Serena Shaw, vice chair of the board of trustees, said it was the third time the division has had a Mass on the Hill with the students and the archbishop.

"We consider this kind of a holy place."