COLORADO SPRINGS. It was St. Thomas Aquinas who said, “The Blessed Eucharist is the perfect Sacrament of the Lord’s Passion, since it contains Christ Himself and his Passion.” Members of the St. Mary’s High School family regularly take part in that perfect Sacrament with Mass being central to the school’s Catholic identity.
During the course of a school year, a variety of Masses are observed by the St. Mary’s students and faculty. The first day of each school year begins with an All-School Mass. Following that, All-School Masses are held about once a month. Sometimes these are special celebrations, such as the upcoming Grandparents Mass held in conjunction with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, while others are held together with the students at Divine Redeemer School.
A couple of times each month, students from one grade level attend Mass together with Father Brian Roeseler, the school’s campus minister and co-sponsor of the student Campus Ministry program. Father Roeseler said these class Masses provide special opportunities for the classmates to bond.
“While I believe it is very important to have All-School Masses, when we have the opportunity to celebrate Mass with just one grade, I think it does help them bond,” he said. “Each class has different dynamics and in a small school those are not lost. Instead, we can highlight them and help each class grow in their own identity.”
Father Roeseler has been the campus minister for St. Mary’s High School for five-and-a-half years. He said that celebrating the sacraments with the youth is one of his favorite parts of working at St. Mary’s.
Father Roeseler said he especially enjoys working with the students when they have questions or wish to discuss their faith or the challenges they face in their lives.
“The students are the best at SMHS,” Father Roeseler said. “I see that, when the students challenge their faith or wish to know more about it, they grow not only in their faith but in how they show the outward signs of Christ to others.”
Father Roeseler said he is grateful that his role of chaplain is not that of an academic teacher. Instead, he is able to get to know the students without the judgement that is inherent in grading.
“I am grateful that I do not have the responsibility of grading or evaluating the students because that changes one’s relationship with them,” he said. “I love being available to talk and listen to them, and offer the Eucharist at Mass and Christ’s forgiveness in Reconciliation. As chaplain at St. Mary’s, I have been edified by the great faith our students demonstrate.”
Father Joe Dygert’s role on the St. Mary’s campus is very different from that of Father Roeseler’s campus ministry role. Father Dygert is now in his second year as sophomore theology teacher for St. Mary’s. Since he is on campus every day, Father Dygert offers a daily Mass each weekday at 7:05 a.m. with the exception of Wednesday.
This year Father Dygert also held Mass outside in September. The idea came about last year during one of his theology classes, when his students expressed interest in doing Mass on a mountain after seeing a video of a similar Mass.
“I showed students a video of a friend of mine, Father John Nepil, celebrating Mass on a mountain when I taught them about the Eucharist last year,” Dygert said.
It was not a new concept for Father Dygert. He has done a solitary retreat in the mountains during which he said Mass, He also celebrated Mass with a backpacking group at Yosemite National Park. But it was something new for St. Mary’s students.
After considering locations, Father Dygert settled on Stanley Canyon on the U.S. Air Force Academy. Father Dygert was joined by six or so families, including parents, St. Mary’s students, alumni, and younger siblings. Since experiencing Mass outdoors, some students have asked to do it again next year, which Father Dygert said he would love to be able to do.
“Celebrating Mass in the mountains when I’m hiking reminds me of the glory of God, the natural glory of the mountains opens my heart to the supernatural glory of the Eucharistic sacrifice,” Father Dygert said.
(Amy G. Partain is communications associate for St. Mary’s High School.)