By KATHY SCHUMUGGE
COLUMBIA — The Mass of the Holy Spirit, held this year at St. Joseph Church, is one way the Cardinal Newman community is bringing its Catholic heritage to life through the power of the Holy Spirit. This year the Mass coincided with the feast of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, who like the youth of today, was called to be a lone voice in the desert, bringing people to Christ through word and deed.
“As we kick off a new school year, we asked the Holy Spirit to permeate our minds and hearts to discern God’s holy will and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us and make our faith alive,” said Bishop Robert J. Baker, who presided over the school year’s opening liturgy.
Before the penitential rite, the seniors gave a necklace with the Christian symbol of a fish to the new seventh-graders in the “Passing Down the Cross Ceremony.” They passed on the joyful cross of being a Christian symbol for the world as students of Cardinal Newman. Nikki McCarrell, an algebra teacher, believes this symbolic gesture gives the new seventh-grade students a feeling of having mentors. “They get a true sense of belonging as the seniors welcome them to their school in this concrete way,” she said.
Recognizing the faculty’s important duty in developing young men and women in the Catholic tradition, the school also had their “Faculty Commissioning Ceremony.” The members of the faculty pray and ask God for help in fulfilling their responsibilities as teachers and staff. Also, the high school juniors who volunteered to be eucharistic ministers were commissioned by the bishop and given a small memento for their willingness to serve.
Principal Jim McIntyre was grateful to Msgr. Charles Rowland, pastor of St. Joseph, for allowing the event to take place in the church. By leaving their campus and coming to the church, McIntyre believes the students get a sense of being apart of an even larger Catholic community. Fred Perry, who teaches French, said, “The first Mass of the year unites the school, lining us together.”
After mentioning that St. John the Baptist was also the patron saint of the Diocese of Charleston in his homily, Bishop Baker, with the help of a few students, built a strong case for John the Baptist as a worthy role model for Christians, a man Christ singled out as special, “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John …. (Luke 7:28). When the bishop asked the students what qualities of St. John they admired, Thomas Scott, a senior at Cardinal Newman, said he admired him for his “asceticism” (living a simple life of self-denial and self-discipline) and his ability to “bear his burdens for Christ.” Siell Thibodeaux, another senior, felt the saint was great because “he gave up everything for God.” “He had faith and courage,” said the teen.
Once all the saintly qualities were listed, the bishop pointed out how these virtues are needed today. He said that St. John has paved the way to Christ with his life. According to Bishop Baker, living a “simple life” like St. John prevents “things” from becoming more important than people and makes one more disposed to love with fewer obstacles in the way.
But the greatest challenge for the young and old alike, commemorated on this feast day of the John Baptist is turning one’s life completely over to God, explained the bishop. “In your life you may not have to put your head on a platter, but if you follow Christ, you will have to put your life on the cross.” Such a commitment certainly requires the Holy Spirit.