Area Catholic high school seniors welcomed to Mass at cathedral
Following up on a Mass hosted for eighth-graders at Catholic schools within the Diocese of Buffalo earlier this month, St. Joseph Cathedral played host to another special Mass for students Sept. 27, this time for area Catholic high school seniors.
Hundreds from 10 high schools within the diocese were in attendance.
“I think it’s really cool how all the seniors of every Catholic school can get together and have Mass together,” said Mike Vealey, a 12th-grader at St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster. “All the different deacons for the schools, or the priests of the separate schools; it’s a cool union of other schools that we might not see that much besides sports or stuff like that.”
Bishop Michael W. Fisher, who presided over the Mass, acknowledged the exciting time in life it is for high school seniors, as they consider the next step in their lives, whether it’s college, job or perhaps a vocation within the Church. He reminded the young congregation during his homily that the Mass fell on the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, a champion of the poor, and urged them to keep his mission in mind, in whatever path they choose.
“Part of our embracing our vocation, our occupation in life, is also making sure that we’re stepping outside of ourselves, in that we’re providing for the needs of others, to look at the other as our brother and sister,” the bishop told them.
The students also received an education about the cathedral itself. Bishop Fisher pointed to some of the detail within the stained-glass windows, including one section depicting Jesus as a boy receiving guidance in carpentry by his earthly father, St. Joseph. He also pointed to the markers in the cathedral floor where, beneath, Bishop John Timon is buried. Bishop Stephen Ryan, the second bishop of Buffalo, is buried next to him).
Bishop Fisher pointed to a crucifix embedded in the ceiling, and awed many in the pews when he noted that it measures six feet, though it looks much smaller when viewed from the ground.
He also drew a response of surprise, and laughs, when he pointed to the bird featured at the center of the round glass high above the altar.
After asking the students what kind of bird they thought it was, he informed them, “it’s actually a pelican.”
Upon the students’ reactions, Bishop Fisher explained the significance of the pelican. It’s what the mother bird will do to feed its children when necessary, he told them, that reveals its symbolism.
“When they are starving and there’s no food, the pelican mother will peck at its breast, and draw blood, to feed its children with that,” he said. “And that, again, represents what Jesus did for us, right? He gave His very body, His blood, His soul and His divinity, so that we could be nourished with the bread and the blood, the body and blood of Christ.”
Upon the conclusion of Mass, classes were invited to approach the bishop for group photographs and selfies. Most of the classes took advantage of the opportunity.
And for some students, it’s a first memory of being inside the cathedral. Ciara Dunne, a 12th-grader at St. Mary’s in Lancaster, pointed out she had never been inside until that day and was “shocked” at some of the information learned, including the scale of some of the décor.
When asked about how the added element of religious education impacts her studies in core subjects, Dunne stated that she’s involved in a program known as Retreat Peer Ministry.
“It’s an upper level religion class. We go and teach the younger kids about religion,” she said. “I think our school is really good with that aspect.”