Fifth graders attend Mass with Bishop Nickless
By MICHELLE DELANEY, Globe staff reporter
Every pew in the Cathedral of the Epiphany was packed full of students either in their Sunday best or their school uniform. It’s not every day that each fifth grade class from Catholic schools in the diocese travel to Sioux City, but for the fifth year, Bishop Walker Nickless has gathered everyone for a special Mass.
For many of the students, this was their first time visiting the Cathedral. So, before the Mass began, the eager fifth graders were able to have questions about the Cathedral answered. They asked many questions about the statues in the Cathedral, the bishop’s chair and the organ. They even were graced with a special organ solo.
Before Mass began, Dan Ryan, superintendent of Catholic education, spoke to the students and faculty. He thanked everyone for making the trip to Sioux City and explained why the bishop brings everyone together like this each year.
“First, it’s very important that sometimes, we pull everyone together in the diocese to realize that we’re not just one Catholic school; we are a Catholic Church. We have the same faith; we belong to the same diocese,” explained Ryan.
He also went on to explain the second reason for this annual Mass. The Eucharist is the center of the faith. That is why Catholic schools exist, because people need an academic program that supports and reinforces the Catholic faith.
After the students had their questions answered and Ryan spoke, it was time to begin Mass.
The altar servers, who were selected from different schools, lead the procession into the cathedral.
Father Merlin Schrad, Father Richard Ball, Father Craig Collison, Father Bill Schreiber, Father Jerry Cosgrove, Father Brad Pelzel, Father Dan Greving and Deacon David Lopez concelebrated the Mass with Bishop Nickless. Throughout the Mass other fifth graders were given the opportunity to participate. Students sang, lectured and presented the gifts.
Some students even had to opportunity to come to the front of the church and talk with the bishop during his homily. While some students volunteered, others were ‘volunteered’ by their altar server schoolmates.
Bishop Nickless took the opportunity during his homily to teach the students several facts about his job and the Cathedral. In the beginning of the homily he reiterated Ryan by explaining why this Mass is so important. He also gave students more facts about the Cathedral and why it is named after the Epiphany.
He quizzed two volunteers on how the Cathedral is different from the other churches in the diocese. After a couple guesses, the students learned that it’s because of the bishop’s chair, the cathedra.
He also explained that the patroness of the Sioux City Diocese is Our Lady of Guadalupe. He pointed out her images throughout the Cathedral and brought special attention to the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that was on display in the front of the Cathedral. The image, as bishop explained is an exact replica of the image left on the tilma (cloak) of Juan Diego.
“There are five images of Our Lady of Guadalupe that have actually touched the robe of Juan Diego when Mary appeared to him,” said Bishop Nickless. “This one has traveled all over the United States and many people have seen it, love it, and pray in front of it asking Mary for help.”
Next, Bishop took time to explain some aspects of his wardrobe and job as bishop. He showed the students his staff and explained that as Bishop, he is a shepherd. His job, as he described, is to lead his flock and to bring the people who stray back to the church.
He also explained to the students why he wears his ring.
“Just as your parents wear rings when they get married, I wear a ring to show my commitment to you and to the church,” said Bishop Nickless.
As bishop, his job is to get the people of his diocese to heaven. As he explained to the students, he spends every day praying for his people and he also is in charge of teaching. That is why Catholic schools are so important, he explained.
When he asked two Kuemper students what their favorite part about going to a Catholic school was, both students replied it was being able to learn about God.
In the last segment of his homily, he explained the readings for the day and quizzed two students on what the significance of each reading is. He also asked all of the fifth graders to think and pray about what God wants them to do, and to examine if that involves being a nun or priest.
Lexi Konz, a Spalding Catholic student, said that she “really enjoyed coming to this Mass because the bishop and all of the other priests where here.” Konz was chosen to say the first reading during the Mass.
“I was really excited to come to Mass and see the bishop,” said Adam Plautz, a Danbury student. “It was pretty neat that he pulled students out and talked to them.”
After the Mass, the fifth graders then went to Trinity Heights for lunch and tours.
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