By KATIE LEFEBVRE
DENISON – Bishop Walker Nickless’ first stop during Catholic Schools Week 2015 was celebrating Mass for St. Rose of Lima School and Danbury Catholic School students, staff and administrators on Jan. 26 at St. Rose of Lima Church.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here at St. Rose of Lima Parish to celebrate the beginning of Catholic Schools Week,” said the bishop. “During Catholic Schools Week, I am happy because I get to get out of my office in Sioux City and be with real people like all of you.”
Concelebrants for the Mass were Father Tim Boekelman, parochial vicar at St. Rose; Father Merle Kollasch, retired priest; and Father Dan Greving, pastor at St. Mary’s in Danbury.
Grateful for Catholic schools
“As you heard, today is the Feast of St. Timothy and St. Titus,” said the bishop during the homily. “They were bishops just like me, but they lived a long time ago.”
Bishop Nickless explained to the students what he wears and what he does in his diocese. He called two students forward to talk about Timothy and Titus.
“My job is to get you to heaven,” he said. “That’s a hard job. That’s why I need help. I have great help in my priests. Even all the priests we have, that’s not enough. I need all the people involved in Catholic education – religious education or in the Catholic school you go to. My helpers are your teachers, principals and administrators.”
All of these people, the bishop said, want to help get the students to heaven. He had the congregation give a round of applause for the teachers and principals.
“We are so grateful for our Catholic schools and everyone who make it possible, especially your parents,” said Bishop Nickless.
His homework for the students was for them to go home, hug their parents and thank them for sending them to a Catholic school.
Dan Ryan, Ed.D., superintendent of Catholic schools, was also present for the Mass. He talked to the students about why Catholic schools exist.
“We have Catholic schools so we can help our students understand what God’s mission is for them,” he said. “To understand what God wants for each one of us, we need to do certain things – pray, go to Mass, listen and listen for the Holy Spirit. If we don’t do those things, we may not be able to hear what he wants us to do. God does have a plan.”
Ryan’s hope for the students is that they will “stop and think” about what God is calling them to do.
“Many of our children would never get a chance to see our bishop, so it’s wonderful that he comes to us so they can meet him,” said Patty Lansink, principal at St. Rose of Lima School. “He does such a nice job of connecting with the children, and tying his homily in with Catholic Schools Week.”
Danbury Catholic principal Kristy Liechti said having the priests and bishop present for Mass was a visible sign of vocations for the students.
After Mass with the bishop and lunch together (sitting by birthday months), the students participated in a retreat. The retreat has been going on for about 11 years. It goes back and forth between St. Rose of Lima School and Danbury Catholic School.
“The bishop isn’t always involved. It depends on his schedule, but we have Mass every year,” said Liechti. “We are Danbury Catholic and St. Rose and we have a lot of Catholic school kids. Having the retreat is invaluable for the diversity that is being taught – children of the same faith interacting. It is phenomenal.”
The students were put in groups, each with students from both schools, to participate in center activities. They rotated through a scavenger hunt, Bible Jeopardy and an art center making crosses as thank you gifts for parents.
Lansink thought the retreat was good “for students to get out of their comfort zones and meet other friends from different schools.”
Heidy Vazquez, a fourth grader at St. Rose, liked the art project of making a cross for their parents and having pizza at the end of the day.
Danbury Catholic second grader Brandon Ortner “really had fun” at the retreat day. He especially liked the pizza, recess and liked meeting eight new students “all in one day.”
St. Rose second grader Anthony Arambula liked when the bishop talked about the things he wears and when he told them about Jesus. He also enjoyed making crosses for the parents.
Alex Rhode, fifth grader at Danbury Catholic, had a fun day with the pizza, the scavenger hunt and recess.
Throughout Catholic Schools Week, the schools of the Diocese of Sioux City celebrated with all-school Masses and many other activities. Bishop Nickless also visited Kuemper Catholic School in Carroll and Pocahontas Catholic School.