EFFINGHAM — Area Catholic schools gathered Wednesday for a Mass celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki as part of Catholic Schools Week.

Students and staff from Sacred Heart Grade School, St. Anthony Grade School and St. Anthony High School, all in Effingham; St. Michael Grade School in Sigel and St. Thomas Grade School in Newton filled St. Anthony High School gym.

During the Mass, Paprocki touched on the theme of Catholic Schools Week — “To Learn, to Serve, to Lead and to Succeed.”

“All of these qualities of learning, serving, leading and succeeding have a special aspect for us as people that follow Jesus Christ,” he said. “Because when we come to learn at a Catholic school, we want to learn primarily about Jesus and how he leads us to heaven.”

A hockey fan, Paprocki shared with those at the Mass he is also a fan of the alternative-rock band Green Day, who performed during the National Hockey League All-Star Game Saturday.

He found significance in the band’s song, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

“This song expresses both a fear and a hope,” he said. “It expresses a fear of having to walk alone the rest of your life and it also expresses a hope that you’ll find someone out there that will walk with you.”

He said the same fear and hope were expressed by St. John Paul II when he was elected pope in 1978.

“He started out by saying ‘do not be afraid’ but then he said ‘open wide the doors to Christ,’” Paprocki said. “Telling us that you will find – by opening up yourselves to the life of Christ and His church – you will find this community of people that will walk with you on your journey of faith.”

Paprocki spoke of another walk, March for Life in Washington D.C., which he participated in Friday. Paprocki said they go to pray and march for life as a witness to respect for human life from conception to natural death.

“Jesus is very much dependent on other people for doing His ministry,” he said. “Sometimes we think Jesus did everything by Himself, but He always had people helping him.”

Paprocki told the students they are called to be leaders in the church.

“All of us are called to help lead others to God’s kingdom,” he said.

He then answered the question “How Do We Succeed as Christians?”

“The way we succeed ultimately is by reaching our goal, reaching our destination, which is to be a saint and live with God forever in his kingdom of heaven,” Paprocki said.

Anna Albert, 13, of Sacred Heart, was moved by the Mass.

“It was inspiring and exciting and nice to see all the schools together,” she said. “And the kids were excited.”

Albert also found the bishop’s homily good and having the bishop lead the Mass was special, she said.

Claire Kinkelaar, a fourth grader at St. Anthony Grade School, also said it was special having Paprocki in attendance.

“The Mass was good,” she said. “Everyone was singing and they were all together.”

The St. Anthony High School choir led participants at the Mass in the songs “Supper of the Lord,” “Open My Eyes” and “Irish Blessing.”

Also participating in the Mass were were the Master of Ceremonies, Grant Wilson; the Rev. Mark Tracy of St. Anthony; the Rev. Michal Rosa of Sacred Heart; the Rev. Dean Probst of Newton St. Thomas; the Rev. Sunder Ery of Sigel St. Michael; the Rev. Suresh Sambaturu of Sigel St. Michael; the Rev. Braden Maher of Charleston; Deacon Joe Emmerich of St. Anthony and the Rev. Carl Schmidt.

Crystal Reed can be reached at crystal.reed@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 131

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