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Liturgy Enriches School

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It’s no wonder Catholic schools offer Mass to their students, for in it is found the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Catholic faith. With Mass as the center of Catholic worship, Church tradition also offers a myriad of devotions and methods of prayer.

St. Columban Catholic School in Loveland has a particular spiritual life program that explores the richness of that tradition with students. Students gather each week for communal liturgy, which is often Mass, but sometimes it’s adoration, communal rosary, stations of the cross, Taizè prayer or Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.

A trio collaboratively leads the program: Director of Music, Mary Bellman; Coordinator of Religious Education, Terri Kerley; and Director of Faith Formation, Scott Mussari.

“[Students] really like things where they can be more engaged than just sitting in the pews,” Bellman said. “For Taizè prayer we decorate the church with candles and icons and they like sitting around those. We notice a change

in that students participate very well in their singing and responses. A lot of that is because we work hard at making them realize this is their responsibility as members of the assembly.”

“We don’t treat them as children saying, ‘You can only do so much,’” Kerley said. “We tell them, ‘You are children, and this is an appropriate way to pray.’”

Mussari added that these practices are more than an educational curiosity—they are a spiritual food that feeds the students. “There is a benefit to having our students be familiar with these different and various liturgies of our Church,” Mussari said. “There’s a whole spectrum of all these ways that we can pray. The more we can familiarize them and get them to appreciate and practice those; it is a benefit that will enhance their entire spiritual life when they leave St. Columban school.”

As the three customize liturgies to the students’ lives, the students’ participation benefits the parish as well.The program seeks to involve students in serving, lectoring, becoming extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and participating in the choir or bell choir.

“It’s really geared to them and what they’re experiencing in their life,” said Kerley. “Sometimes we’ll even gather when things happen in the world. [After a school shooting] we all went to church and just prayed together.”

“We have some parishioners who, when we have Mass with the kids, will choose to come to that Mass because they just like the energy in the church,” Bellman said. “There are a couple daily Mass goers who choose to come.”

“This actually started back when Father Terry Smith was our pastor in the 1990s, and it was his vision to expose our school children to the wide variety of the ways that Catholics pray,” Bellman said. “That is what we do on Thursdays. We expose them to all kinds of devotional and liturgical prayer.”

“We were very lucky when Father Larry Tensi came as our pastor in 2003,” she added. “He was very on board with what we were doing. I came here in 1992 and a lot of this was already in place.”

Bellman said Father Chris Worland, who became pastor of St. Columban and St. Margaret of York on July 1 as part of Beacons of Light, wants to continue these efforts.

“I think we’ll probably wait and see right now,” Mussari said. “Then down the road, as part of our family, we’ll see at what level we can incorporate all this or share ideas with our new family members at St. Margaret of York.”

This article appeared in the August 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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