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Fifth grade Mass features homework assignments

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

Hundreds of fifth graders from Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Sioux City descended upon Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City for Mass on May 1 for what has become an annual tradition.

During the homily, Bishop Walker Nickless gave the students a homework assignment.

He asked the students to go home, hug and kiss their parents and then thank them for sending them to a Catholic school.

As he preached, Bishop Nickless used it as an opportunity to share about the role of the bishop.

One of his roles is to teach the faith. The bishop said he does this with the help of the Catholic schools, priests, administrators and teachers.

“There is no better way to learn about being Catholic than to be in a Catholic school,” he said. “You are so blessed to be able to do that and your parents need to be thanked for that because they spend their hard-earned money to send you to a school that costs money – when you could go to a school that is totally free.”

All teachers and administrators stood up and received a round of applause.

The bishop told the students he looked forward to the fifth grade Mass every year because they filled up the cathedral and “you sing excellent. I appreciate you being here.”

“This is your church,” he stressed, noting it was called the cathedral because it contained the cathedra, the bishop’s chair. “No one can sit in that chair, except for the bishop.”

Bishop Nickless asked students from the Bishop Garrigan Catholic School system to stand and then explained that it was Bishop Philip Garrigan who named the church Cathedral of the Epiphany.

Garb explained

He asked the altar servers to assist him as he explained the various bishop’s garb such as miter, zucchetto, crozier, ring and pectoral cross.

Describing his zucchetto, Bishop Nickless said, priests can wear black ones and he questioned the youth about what the pope wears: a white one.

“The bishop wears a ring because he is married to you, to the church,” he said. “There is a reason why your mom and dad are put together – to help each get to heaven. My job is to help you get to heaven. We work on that together.”

Bishop Nickless asked four fifth grade students to help him reflect on the readings. The four students were Emily Kellen of Spalding Catholic, Landon Nilles of Gehlen Catholic, Angelo Winkel of Seton Grade School and Cindy Pohlen of Spalding Catholic.

He asked the students about St. Joseph, whose feast was celebrated May 1. They reflected on how in the Gospel Jesus was referred to as “the carpenter’s son.” Coming out of Nazareth, the reading noted Jesus couldn’t do miracles because of the people’s lack of faith.

“Jesus doesn’t do miracles to make someone believe. We believe and then he does the miracles. He first wants faith. Faith is so important to us,” Bishop Nickless said.

As the homily drew to a close, the bishop noted one of the reasons they chose to celebrate Mass each year with fifth graders is because it was an age when students first began to think about what they wanted to be when they grew up. With that, he first asked all of the girls to stand up who had ever thought about being a nun. And then he asked all of the boys to stand if they had ever thought about being a priest.

Reaction to Mass

Adyn Rowlet, a student at Seton Grade School in Algona, called the Mass great. He particularly liked the songs.

He described the cathedral as “cool” and liked seeing all of the students from the various schools.
Julia Mikkelsen, a student at Kuemper Catholic in Carroll, was one of the student lectors. She admitted she was very nervous to read but was honored.

“It’s a very pretty church,” she said. “I liked the Mass. It shocked me to see all of the students. I didn’t know there were that many Catholic schools.”

Clara Bormann, a student at St. Mary’s School in Humboldt, was among the students at her school to lead the music. She thought it was fun to lead the music because she is a song leader not only at her school but in her parish, St. Matthew’s in Clare.

Bormann really liked the cathedral’s stained glass windows and noted she liked being able to participate in Mass with all of the other fifth graders.

Angelo Winkel, who was one of the four students to be called up by the bishop, acknowledged he was scared to go up in front of the congregation.

He dittoed Rowlet’s description of the church.

“Cathedral is cool,” he said. “It was a nice Mass.”

Prior to the start of Mass, diocesan vocations director Father Brad Pelzel spoke to the students about their vocations.

As followers of Christ, he challenged the students to keep God’s will in their minds as they try to figure out what they are going to do with their lives.

Dan Ryan, Ed.D., diocesan superintendent of schools, extended a welcome to the students and commented on how nice it was for the school family to come together to share in the celebration of the Eucharist.

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