Elementary Schools Information Guide
Eighth-graders from more than 30 schools in the Diocese of Oakland filled the Cathedral of Christ the Light for their annual visit, which included a speaker and Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ.
Valentin Carrillo/ Special to the Catholic voice
Eighth-graders gather at the cathedral
In what has become an annual tradition at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, eighth-graders from most of the schools in the Diocese of Oakland gathered for a day of prayer, reflection and recognition of their leadership.
Accompanied by teachers, principals and pastors, the students heard speaker Paul J. Kim and later attended Mass in the Cathedral of Christ the Light, celebrated by Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ.
Some of the students, such as Nayeli Sanchez and Juliana Orellana of St. Paul School in San Pablo, volunteered to participate in the Mass as altar servers. They both hoped to make new friends at the event, particularly as they head off to different high schools next year.
But they both knew what they'd call the bishop when they saw him: "Your Excellency," they said in unison.
The students were welcomed by Sister Barbara Bray, SNJM, superintendent, who said they came from all four corners of the diocese but have "some very important things in common," including daily prayer and weekly or monthly Mass.
"We share together one faith in Jesus, one community, one deep set of beliefs that will guide our lives and enrich our lives forever," she said. She told the students that she prayed that "your light will continue to shine forth in your school and throughout our diocese."
Leadership is a continuing theme of the day: During the Mass later in the day, Bishop Barber blessed religious medals depicting St. Michael the Archangel. Each student received one.
"This is one of my favorite annual events," the bishop wrote later on his blog.
Before the 12:10 p.m. Mass, which he celebrated, the bishop vested at the altar, describing each part of the vestments worn by the bishop.
He also demonstrated the crozier. "The bishop is a shepherd," he told them. "The curved end is the good end. If your sheep wander," he said, demonstrating how to move it to bring back the stray, the shepherd "gets them back to the flock."
"I'm here to protect you," he said, "to gently nudge people who might be straying back to the Church."
Ten priests who accompanied their schools' students concelebrated the Mass. "I want you to remember this Mass," the bishop told the students. He wanted to show them the beauty of liturgy, including the soaring music. "I asked for a trumpet today."
"You can look out in nature and see the hand of God in nature," the bishop told the students, using three examples. Among the illustrations the bishop used was a photo of a golden retriever. "A dog forgives us right away," he said. "Can't we do better than a dog?"
The second example was a pelican. "If it cannot find any fish and it has chicks to feed, the pelican will use its beak to pierce its own chest. The blood will come out to feed the chicks."
The pelican, he said, "is a sign of the passion of Christ, who feeds us with His blood."
The third was the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly.
"This is what happens to us," he told the students. "This earthly body changes into a glorified body that will last forever."
Earlier in the morning, the students heard speaker Paul J. Kim. Kim, who described himself as a Korean-American who grew up in Southern California, he told the students that, as a teenager, he first went to Church for two reasons: "girls and doughnuts."
Some laughter ensued.
He spoke of being invited to a youth retreat and finding 3,000 young people vividly praising God. "Why are people my age excited about Jesus?"
He listened to speakers who talked about doubts and peer pressure. "They were talking to me about things that were relevant to me," he said.
Thus began his own journey to owning his faith. He had advice for those who say they are Catholic but not religious; "It's like being a Girl Scout and not having cookies to sell."
"Look at the crucifix," Kim told the students. It was more than an architectural element. "This is personal," he said, gesturing toward the crucifix in the cathedral. "It's a love letter."
"You don't have to change to go to God," he told them. "It's going to God that changes you."
The students found the message spoke to them.
"He was really enthralling and inspiring," said J.P. Hermogeno of Holy Rosary School in Antioch.
"He's funny," said Devin Adurviso of St. Joachim School in Hayward. "He connected with us with humor." His classmate Christopher Rendon-Ibarra agreed. "He touched my heart," he said.
After Mass, the bishop stood on the steps of the cathedral, and took photographs with each school. In each photo is a life-size cardboard cutout of Pope Francis.
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