After years of hoping and months of planning, Diocese of Green Bay celebrates a diocesan-wide school Mass
Excitement, apprehension, awe and relief were just a few of the emotions felt on Oct. 14 last fall in the Diocese of Green Bay. The energy level was electric as more than 9,000 students and 1,000 adults, including teachers, priests, deacons, three bishops and some parents, filled the Resch Center on a beautiful autumn day. Having 10,000 people gather to celebrate Catholic schools for the first time in the diocese was an historic event. Not only was this the largest gathering in the diocese, it also was among the largest events ever held at Green Bay's Resch Center.
Buses began arriving at 8:30 a.m. for the 10 a.m. Mass. The last school arrived, from 100 miles away, just as the roll call of schools began. Choral groups from the diocese's five Catholic high schools performed as everyone took their seats. Priests and deacons waited in the entryway of the arena during the introduction and roll call of schools, while each school community cheered as its name was called. They couldn't help but wonder if this boisterous group would be ready for Holy Mass.
The first song was announced and everyone was ready. The liturgical music was led by students from the five high schools and a band ensemble. Instantly, a space previously reserved for concerts, hockey, basketball and football games was transformed into a holy space.
Bishop David Ricken, along with Bishop Emeritus Robert Banks, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Morneau, more than 50 priests and 15 deacons and the 10,000 students and staff, joyously celebrated Catholic schools. Bishop Ricken welcomed everyone proclaiming, "Today, the Resch Center is transformed much like a cathedral, a cathedral built in living stones. This is a beautiful sign of God's love for us." During his homily. Bishop Ricken spoke about the importance of Catholic schools in our society and closed with a special blessing for the teachers, staff and principals, who were all wearing red shirts with a logo and the statement "I make a difference."
During each of the past 20 years, the Green Bay Diocesan Association of School Administrators planned a Mass to celebrate Catholic Schools Week. But because of space limitations at churches around the diocese, schools were able to send only a representative group to the celebration. In addition, because Catholic Schools Week occurs at the end of January, some schools were unable to participate in the events.
So All May Participate
Ten years ago, conversation began among principals about a venue in which all the students in our Catholic schools could participate in a celebration. In the past five years the conversation grew toward reality, especially after the construction of the Resch Center with a capacity of approximately 10,000. Last spring the principals' organization voted to go forward with the vision of a Mass to include all students and staff in the 16-county diocese. The Principals' Association had saved some money in anticipation of an event, and each school was asked to pay $1 per student in the school to finance the rental of the facility. Other donations were requested to offset additional unexpected costs.
Planning began in May and continued with a subcommittee and members of the diocesan education department staff. Throughout the summer, we worked to coordinate Mass planning, the order of the day, sound and light logistics, as well as to organize the arrival and departure of 150 buses. Each of the high schools was invited to have students involved in the Liturgy of the Word and the music and altar server ministries. Music was sent to each school in August to familiarize students with all the songs.
Communication was an important aspect of planning. While many people were excited, we definitely encountered some skepticism. No one had all the answers because this was the first time an event of this magnitude was organized. …