Baptism at Catholic school offers teachable, faith-filled experience
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
POCAHONTAS - While the practice of holding infant baptisms during Mass has
become more popular in recent years, over the last 10 years several baptisms
have been held during school liturgies at Pocahontas Catholic Grade School.
Father Merle Kollasch, pastor at Resurrection Parish in Pocahontas and St.
Margaret's in Rolfe, pointed out that he usually tries to encourage baptisms to
be held at Mass for the parish community to witness rather than a separate
service. If the family has other children in the Catholic school, he offers the
school Mass as an option.
One of the first school baptisms held at Pocahontas Catholic was for twins -
Mallory and Megan Frerk, now third-graders at the school. In addition to infant
baptisms, there have been a few baptisms for school-age children held during
The most recent baptism to take place at the school liturgy was for Lucas
Keith Kopriva. The baptism was held on Dec. 2.
"Our son Matthew was baptized at the school and Father asked us if we
wanted to do it again," said Vicki Kopriva, the mother of the infant. Vicki
and Matt Kopriva have four sons - Zachary, 14; Jacob, 9; Matthew, 6; and
When Father Kollasch approached the Koprivas six years ago about Matthew's
baptism potentially being held at school, Vicki acknowledged that it was
something she had never heard of but she thought it would be a neat experience
because Zach was attending the school. It was something their oldest son could
share with his classmates.
For this recent baptism, the three brothers were involved in the service.
Zach delivered the first reading. Jacob gave the second reading and Matthew
brought up the gifts.
"The whole thing was a wonderful experience," said Vicki.
"Father had the kindergarten class come and stand up front so they could
see everything, so Matthew and his classmates got to be a part of it."
Kristy Liechti, principal at Pocahontas Catholic Grade School, said,
"It's a wonderful concept. What better way to start a child's life in a
Catholic school with family and friends to share their birth?"
The principal pointed out that in education, one of the best teaching tools
is modeling so enabling the students to witness this sacrament first-hand is a
"For those children who may not have younger siblings - for them to see
this and experience it - they are now part of a whole new experience. We know
that children learn best by their life experiences," said Liechti. "It
really demonstrates the true concept of family. It is not only about your
biological family but it is about your spiritual and school family."
Father Kollasch also views the baptisms held during school Masses to be
valuable teaching experiences.
"As members of the school community, the students can also see that we
have a lot more in common than eating together, studying together and doing our
lessons together. Our faith is what holds us together and is a major part of our
being here," he said. "It solidifies and strengthens the notion of
Sister Marge Staudt, religion teacher at the school, also referred to the
baptism as a teachable moment.
"We teach about baptism in religion class and that's one thing, but to
see it in their midst is quite a reinforcement," she said. "The
baptism was a delight from my vantage point. I was over to the side and to watch
the faces of everyone - the children and all the adults - there was a sense of
awe at the blessing that this sacrament is."
For Sister Marge, who has been an educator in Catholic schools for a number
of years, this is the first community she has come into contact with baptisms
held in the school setting.
She pointed out that witnessing the baptism serves as a reminder that
everyone is responsible to help in the faith formation of the child as they are
for all people.
For small Catholic schools, Father Kollasch stressed the importance of
looking for ways that keep them viable and looking ahead to the future.
In addition to school students, the principal pointed out that this special
occasion was also witnessed by others members of the cluster parishes who
attended the Mass. Liechti pointed out that the school liturgies, which are held
in the cafeteria, are open to parishioners.
"As a pastor, it is a special blessing for me to have a school Mass
every week and to see people of all ages from our cluster to join together in
prayer with the youth," said Father Kollasch.
The priest added that during the school Masses, the students sit with the
community rather than with their class.
"Father Kollasch is that kind of special person who would come up with
something to make our baptism extra special," said Vicki, who is a current
Pocahontas Catholic School Board member.