Eighth-graders encouraged to listen to voice of Christ at annual diocesan Mass

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

May 16, 2013

Diocesan Administrator Monsignor Stephen Berg accepts the gifts presented by eighth-graders from different schools at the annual Eighth Grade Diocesan Mass.

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Holy Trinity isn’t just a school to Christen Volding. It sometimes feels like a second home.

The youngster arrives at the Grapevine campus earlier than the rest of the student body and stays late. Occasionally, she’ll spend a few weekend hours inside the school’s office catching up on homework or finishing a project.

That’s the life of a Catholic school eighth-grader when your mom is the principal.

“I’m going to miss my classmates when I go to Colleyville Heritage High School, but I know I can always come back because my mom’s here,” explained Christen, the daughter of Holy Trinity Principal Andrea Volding. “My Catholic education was a great experience. Faith was instilled into everything we did, and the teachers prepared me to take AP (advanced placement) courses for next year.”

Christen Volding was one of 432 students who participated in the annual Eighth Grade Diocesan Mass celebrated May 8 at St. Andrew Church in Southwest Fort Worth. The special liturgy is planned each year to mark the achievements and diligence of the diocese’s eighth-graders as they prepare for graduation and high school. Currently, 17 diocesan schools have eighth grade classes. A procession of school banners into the church helped start the celebration.

During his homily, Diocesan Administrator Monsignor Stephen Berg, who concelebrated the Mass with St. Andrew pastor Father Tom Stabile, TOR, and other priests in the diocese, challenged the young teens to remember the lessons of faith learned during their years in Catholic school.

“In order to be a Catholic or a Christian, there are things in society you will have to say ‘no’ to,” he warned, explaining that some arguments may sound convincing and seductive.

The one voice they must listen for, he advised, belongs to Jesus Christ — the foundation of faith.

“It’s not always going to be easy to separate that voice from others. But it’s necessary if you want to look back at the end of your life and know, even if you didn’t do everything right, you listened to the voice of truth.”

The monsignor admonished the students to never give up on hope and truth.

“Never giving up means being open, listening, and being aware that we must say ‘no’ to evil in the world and things that are not of God,” he explained. “Be open to hearing the word that says ‘yes.’ That is the word of Jesus Christ.”

Participation is a key element of the eighth grade Mass and representatives from each school served as ushers, altar servers, and lectors. Ann Baugh and Mary Margaret Meyers directed the all-school choir and band which led the congregation in singing “Envia Tu Espiritu,” “Here I Am Lord,” and “Go Make a Difference.”

Prior to the Mass the eighth-graders submitted drawings inspired by the Year of Faith. The winning entry used on the cover of the eighth grade Mass worship aid was created by Casey Cassidy a student at St. John the Apostle.

Catholic School Superintendent Don Miller used the opportunity of the eighth grade Mass to offer graduating students some sound advice. During a brief address before the final blessing, he reminded them that hope is central to Catholic faith and is much more that wishful thinking. “It’s a confident belief in the loving presence of Jesus in our lives,” he explained.

A student’s home, parish, and Catholic school help demonstrate that love.

“Those places played an enormous role in getting you where you are today,” added Miller, who asked the youngsters to thank their parents, teachers, and pastors for giving them a good start in life. “They have not only shared their faith, but also their wisdom and experience.”

Those gifts come with responsibility. Recalling words spoken at his own eighth grade graduation Mass 55 years ago, the superintendent said, “Who you are now is God’s gift to you. What you become is your gift to God.”

“That’s the challenge as you move on to the next stage in life,” he added. “You’ll start sharing your gifts, wisdom, experience, and faith with others. This is what God expects of us.”

Andrea Volding felt a sense of accomplishment as she sat with her daughter, Christen and 36 other eighth-graders from Holy Trinity School at the Mass. Catholic education involves sacrifice and struggle, even if the parent is the school’s principal.

“I told my children when they were young, that every year of Catholic education is a gift,” she said. “We never knew if we would make it financially.”

Ten years later, Volding looks at her daughter and can appreciate the difference a Catholic school makes.

“I’m so pleased with the person she’s become,” beams the mother and principal. “It’s worth it.”

Christen Volding was one of 432 students who participated in the annual Eighth Grade Diocesan Mass celebrated May 8 at St. Andrew Church in Southwest Fort Worth. The special liturgy is planned each year to mark the achievements and diligence of the diocese’s eighth-graders as they prepare for graduation and high school. Currently, 17 diocesan schools have eighth grade classes. A procession of school banners into the church helped start the celebration.

Published (until 5/16/2063)