Bishop Walker takes time to visit Catholic schools in Algona
By MICHELLE DELANEY, Globe staff reporter
ALGONA - Before Mass started at St. Cecelia Church on March 29, the anticipation was palpable. There were several not so hushed whispers of “where’s the bishop?” “I don’t see him, do you?” coming from the pews filled with excited grade school students from Seton Grade School and high school students from Bishop Garrigan High School in Algona.
They didn’t have to wait for long, soon enough Bishop Walker Nickless processed down the aisle to begin the Mass. Father Peter Duc Hung, Father Edward Girres, Father Victor Ramaeker concelebrated the Mass. Deacon William Black assisted at the altar.
During his homily, Bishop Nickless took the opportunity to pull four students from the crowd to ask them a few questions. Emma Tuhl and Gabriel Trainer, both Seton Grade School students, talked with the bishop on the reasoning behind covering up the crucifix and statues in the church.
He explained that we tend to take the crucifix and statues for granted, and covering them helps make us more aware and appreciative of them.
They also talked about why they were lucky to have the opportunity to attend a Catholic school.
“It’s because we get to learn about God instead of going to a public school where we can’t even say his name,” said Trainer. “It’s important to be able to talk about God because we would have nothing without God.”
Next the bishop called two high school students to come the front of the church. Grant Reding and Nicole Behr were the lucky ones who were volunteered by their friends.
They talked about the importance of the Scripture and the magnitude of the covenants God granted his people.
“One thing I like is how we have small grades and how you know everybody. Everyone has a sense of belonging here and we do a lot of stuff as a school,” said Behr. “It’s important because there’s a great sense of community and family in a school like this.”
Finally, Bishop Nickless quizzed Reding on who Bishop Garigan was. He knew instantly he was the first bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City. Furthermore, Grant didn’t miss a beat when he was asked who the seventh bishop was, Bishop Nickless.
Dan Ryan, superintendent of schools, who accompanied Bishop Nickless on the trip to Algona spoke at the close of Mass. He discussed all of the work the students, parents, family, board members, and faculty put into keeping our Catholic schools running smoothly.
“The reason we’ve taken the time to do this is because Catholic schools are very important,” said Ryan. “They serve the mission of this parish (St. Cecelia) and all the parishes of the diocese, which is to have a strong spiritual base and a close relationship with God.”
After Mass, the bishop had the opportunity to talk to Bishop Garrigan High School seniors and juniors who are in the Christian Leadership Team.
During this time, the students were given the opportunity to ask Bishop Nickless any questions they had. They asked about his trip to Rome in which the bishop met the pope. He then showed the students the cross that the Pope gave him and explained what it was like to be one of the concelebrants for a Mass taking place in the tomb of John Paul II.
They also asked the bishop what it was like to meet Mother Teresa. Furthermore, Bishop Nickless explained what it was like during his missionary in Uganda and how a priest from Colorado became a bishop in Iowa.
Here the Bishop got to speak to students about their classes, sports, and other activities.
To wrap up the day, Bishop Nickless met with the Kindergarten through sixth grade students back at St. Cecelia.
During this time, the students asked him several questions on how he chose the path of priesthood.
“How do you know what you’re supposed to do? How do you know where you’re supposed to go?” Bishop Nickless asked. “It’s God. It’s listening, opening your heart and finding the joy in what you’ve chosen.”
Since one of the main components of school is learning and taking work home, Bishop Nickless took this opportunity to give each and every student homework. He told every student they needed to go home, give their parents a hug and thank them for making the sacrifice to send them to a Catholic school.
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