Bancroft St. John’s School celebrates closing Mass
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
“Thank you for all the efforts that you have put together to celebrate this Mass today,” he said. “Today we come to give thanks to God for all that he has done for us. We want to thank him in a special way for what he has done at St. John School. There is no better way to do that than the Eucharist at Mass.”
The Mass was held on April 20 in St. John the Baptist Church celebrated by Bishop Nickless and concelebrated by Father John Thomas, pastor at St. John the Baptist Church. Philip Doocy assisted as the deacon for the Mass.
“Bishop Nickless, on behalf of the students, the staff and the people of St. John’s Parish, I welcome you this morning to celebrate this Mass of Thanksgiving with us,” said Father Thomas.
Jackie Rahe, lead teacher at St. John’s, said that the closing Mass was a way “to show the support the diocese has given us and to give the students the experience of celebrating the Eucharist with the bishop.”
“It allowed the students, staff and community to reflect on the ways the school has affected people's lives since the school opened,” she said. “There is time to divulge in memories and celebrate the rest of the time together.”
During the homily, the bishop called upon a few students to answer questions and tell him what they like about St. John’s.
“Why is the bishop here today? What is going to happen at the end of the school year?” asked Bishop Nickless.
“The school is going to close,” said Ryan Lavrenz, a fourth grader.
“The bishop wants to come and say, ‘thank you,’ to all of you who have worked so hard to make St. John’s School the best it could be,” said Bishop Nickless. “The bishop gets a chance to say, ‘thank you,’ to the adults - your teachers, your principal, Father Thomas and Deacon Phil – for all the good things you have done.”
Trusting the Lord
“We come to say, ‘thank you,’ to the Lord and to mark an end of a school community that has been here since 1900,” said the bishop. “Hundreds of students have benefited from a Catholic education here these last 112 years. We thank God for all that he has done even though there is a bit of sadness in our hearts.”
The community in Bancroft, he said, is smaller than in the past and there are fewer resources.
“We have to be good stewards of all that God has given us,” said Bishop Nickless. “We need to make the right decisions. As a bishop, I never want to close a school or a parish.”
In his six years as bishop, this was the second school he has closed.
“We did the best we could for as long as we could,” said the bishop. “We have to trust in the Lord. When Jesus takes something away, he always makes room for something more. We don’t know what the future looks like, but we have to trust Jesus. If there is one thing you have learned here at St. John’s School, it must be how much Jesus loves you.”
He said to trust as they go into the future and to have hope.
At the conclusion of Mass, Dan Ryan, superintendent of Catholic schools, shared his own memories of St. John’s and what the school means to him. He acknowledged the work of Jackie Rahe, Father John Thomas, employees, the school board and many others for their work at St. John’s.
“When you come to St. John’s and see the same students and see the teachers’ interactions with the students and their commitment, there is a strong sense of family,” said Ryan. “I think when you are a smaller school like this and the students are all together at recess and in the lunch room, you really see that in a special way.”
Following Mass, a lunch was held in the school with the students and parishioners. They had a chance to visit with Bishop Nickless.
Tommy Kollasch, sixth grader, will be in the last graduating class from St. John’s. He said he has enjoyed “the nice teachers who will help you with anything if you need it and the great friends who always respect you and care for you.”
He said he feels honored to be in the last graduating class because it is a great school.
“I am happy and honored that he (the bishop) came to be with us because our school is closing,” said Kollasch. “Otherwise he wouldn’t be able to come for the kids in the school.”
He was one of the students the bishop called upon during the homily and Kollasch answered questions about what a bishop wears.
First grader, Avery Berte, has liked taking music and gym classes and going to Mass at St. John’s.
“I am pretty sad, but it is kind of cool that I’ll get to meet new friends,” said Berte, who will be going to Seton Grade School in Algona next year.
Jonathan Gibbs, a fourth grader at St. John’s, carried the book in the procession and read the first reading at Mass. He was also called forward to answer questions from the bishop about the readings.
He said some of his favorite things about going to St. John’s are the nice teachers, good subjects and having “the right amount of time to finish your work.”
“I feel really sad,” said Gibbs about the school closing. “Ever since I moved to Iowa when I was 7, I was always going here. I grew up going here. I really like St. John’s.”
He also liked having Bishop Nickless there for the closing Mass.
Before the last day of school on May 18, there will be an all-school field trip to the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend. There will also be an ice cream social that the school and public will be able to attend in May.
On the last day of school, there will be a Mass, followed by an award celebration. Students will receive report cards and awards along with teacher recognition and other people that will be recognized for their service at the school.
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