Diocesan schools celebrate Advent season
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
Diocesan grade schools and high schools are participating in several
activities, projects and special services during Advent to prepare for
At Spalding High School in Granville, students are putting together care
packages of personal hygiene items to send to troops overseas. They are also
collecting coats for people in need.
"Basically, it is always a time of giving," said Brad Thiel,
principal at Spalding. "We would like to give to the people that need it
because we have it. It helps us remember that it is the reason for the season.
Along with Remsen St. Mary's and Le Mars Gehlen, Spalding students are
collecting canned goods. There is a competition between the three schools to see
who can collect the most cans. Each school will donate the cans to a place of
their choice once the competition is over.
Remsen St. Mary's High School students are participating in other events and
projects for Advent as well. Each Friday there are Advent liturgies taking
place. According to Mary Arens, spiritual life director at St. Mary's, it is a
teen liturgy that is informal with everyone gathering on the floor in the gym.
The Christian Leadership Team prepares the Mass.
"The students are bringing in a different item each week (to the Mass).
Last week it was a burlap sack," said Arens. "We call up different
people, and they give their interpretation of it - what did this symbolize on
Joseph and Mary's travel to Bethlehem? Every week we have a different item. This
week we have a jute rope."
On Dec. 22, there will be a candle lighting service in the gym that will
include kindergarten through 12th grade students.
"We are going to focus on the incarnation - God becoming man," said
Arens. "We are going to have symbols emphasizing that. We are going to go
from the crib to the cross."
According to Arens, at St. Mary's they want to stress the incarnation and why
God came to earth.
"We really focus on that here," said Arens. "I want our
students to recognize what Christ did for us."
Another activity the students are participating in at St. Mary's is
sponsoring three Hispanic families from the Sioux City Diocese for Christmas.
Sister Shirley Waldschmitt, OSF, originally from Remsen and now in Sioux City,
gave Arens the names of the families. Each Friday, the students have an
out-of-uniform day to raise money to buy presents for the families.
"We will present them with their Christmas on Dec. 22," said Arens.
Students will also be serving at the soup kitchen in Sioux City that day. They
serve the meal and decorate the tables.
On Christmas Eve morning, to wrap up Advent, students take soup and homemade
bread to shut-ins in Remsen.
"They take them prayer cards, our thoughts and the homemade bread and
soup," said Arens. "That is how we close our Advent season."
Remsen St. Catherine-St. Mary's Grade School students in grades three through
eight celebrated a communal penance service on Dec. 6 with a theme involving the
symbols of bread and stone.
During the examination of conscience students reflected on the text from
"You are Bread or Stone." Students could choose bread that gives life
or they could choose stone which is hard, cold and takes from the positive
aspects of one's life.
Four priests were present for reconciliation including Father Tim Johnson,
pastor at St. Mary's in Remsen; Father Eugene Murray, pastor at Holy Name in
Marcus and St. Catherine in Oyens; Father Dan Greving, pastor at St. Joseph in
Struble and Msgr. Ruba.
After the service, students returned to school and were treated to a slice of
bread and butter as a visual reminder to choose bread; bread is good to eat and
it gives nourishment for life.
Other Advent activities going on at the grade school include meeting for
prayer on Monday and Friday mornings and celebrating St. Nick Day by receiving
bags of treats.
St. Lucy Day was also celebrated with the students receiving donuts in the
morning. Eighth grade girls also dressed up as St. Lucy with candles in their
At Seton Grade School in Algona there are several events and activities being
held during Advent that were planned by a committee of teachers and
administrators. A morning meditation is prayed over the PA each day and read by
middle and upper grade students.
"We do student Advent activities in order to supplement what we are
teaching, as a way of helping them internalize the concepts which are presented
to them in class," said Sister Mary Hermann, curriculum coordinator at
Seton Grade School.
Jesse Tree activities are being done in each classroom with a large tree in
the hall where everyone passes on their way to lunch. A Toys for Tots collection
is also being done.
Students are also participating in the St. Cecelia Parish giving tree and
adoption of needy families.
Faculty are participating in faculty Advent partners. A student partner
activity, older students paired with younger ones, is taking place as well.
"We include faculty and staff for our own faith development, and also to
send the message to students that this is how real adult Catholics live out
their faith," said Sister Mary.
They are also planning to celebrate a Christmas Mass with Bishop Garrigan
High School that will include kindergarten through 12th grade.
Students at Kuemper High School in Carroll are adopting 16 families,
households through Catholic Charities for Christmas. According to Beth Bruner, a
religion teacher at Kuemper, this is a project that is done every Advent. The
homerooms take care of purchasing gifts and then deliver the items.
There was an Advent reconciliation service held as well.
"I think the emphasis on preparation is important," said Bruner.
"It keeps us focused on the purpose of the season."
Bruner noted that a new activity this year is that the high school students
have partner homerooms in the grade school. The students are doing Advent
activities with their partners.
There will be an Advent candle lighting on Dec. 22. Bruner pointed out that
this is a tradition at Kuemper and that it corresponds with the winter solstice.
During the hour-long ceremony, the nativity is blessed and a student from each
grade enters the dark gym with a votive candle.
"It is representing the waiting and the coming of Christ," said
Bruner. "It is a beautiful, solemn ceremony. It is a beautiful way to send
our students off."
At Danbury Catholic, students are preparing throughout the Advent season by
talking about and experiencing different characteristics - character,
compassion, values and love. The first three in that list are part of the theme
for Catholic Schools Week.
"They are doing acts of love - acts which show good Christian character
and values," said Kristy Liechti, principal at Danbury Catholic.
"Students are able to earn pieces of straw."
The pieces of straw are gathered weekly at an Advent ceremony. The students
bring forth the straw to help line the crib of Jesus and prepare for his coming
on Dec. 25. On Dec. 22, to culminate this activity, they will have an Advent
candle lighting ceremony, mentioned Liechti.
During Advent, they are also trying to give a good Christmas to people who
are less fortunate, noted Liechti. As they have done in the past, they have
adopted families per classroom to buy Christmas presents for.
"I think it is important for all children, first of all, to be aware
that there are four weeks prior to Christ's birth that help us prepare for that
special day and that special coming," said Liechti. "To have visuals,
actual activities for children to partake in over exemplifies what we need to be
doing as a Christian, Catholic community to prepare the way."