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Bishop Fisher Education Features

Special Mass welcomes eighth graders to Cathedral


An invitation was made. Gratitude was given. A welcome was felt.

Eighth graders filled St. Joseph Cathedral on Sept. 19 for a special Mass just for them, sponsored by the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools.

Bishop Michael W. Fisher tells eighth grade students about the history of St. Joseph Cathedral during a special Mass for the students on Sept. 19. (Photo by Nicole Dzimira)

“This is our mother church and it is your church,” said Bishop Michael W. Fisher in welcoming the students from 25 elementary schools. “I thank all of your teachers and your administrators at your schools for bringing you to this celebration as we begin a new school year.”

Bishop Fisher has spent the previous two weeks visiting area elementary and high schools to welcome back the students.

During his homily, the bishop explained the significance of the art that adorns the downtown cathedral, built in 1851. He pointed out that stained glass was used to tell stories of religious significance to those who could not read.

“In early times when people didn’t read and write. They put stained glass windows in their churches to teach us about our faith. So that even if a person couldn’t read, they could learn their faith through images and pictures.”

Behind the altar is a three-paneled triptych depicting the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

 “One of the things that I always like to point out,” the bishop said, pointing higher above the altar. “If you look up to the rose window there. There is a little bird. See that bird up there? What kind of bird is that?” Many thought it was a dove. “Look a little closer.”

One young student had the correct answer.

“It’s a pelican. Now why do you think we have a pelican up there? Anybody know the story of why we have a pelican?” the bishop asked.  

A mother pelican is said to peck itself and feed its own blood to its children when other food is unavailable.

“Now who does that remind us of? Jesus. So, it’s an ancient symbol of Jesus.”

In Scripture, Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount where he delivered the Beatitudes. Bishop Fisher compared them to a lesson plan.

“I like to think of this Gospel today as Jesus’ lesson plan for us through the Beatitudes. And they come from his greatest sermon, his Sermon on the Mount,” Bishop Fisher said. “Hopefully as we learn, as we develop, as we also grow in our call to holiness and our relationship with God that we’re taking on these attitudes of the Beatitudes. I think you have two words there, right? Be attitude. Be this. This is the attitude we want to have. And another word for the beatitude sometimes is happy. How am I to be happy in this world? And to be happy is to take on that attitude of Jesus in our life. And hopefully that’s how we continue every day as we learn about the beauty of God’s creation in all our different subjects that we’re learning. Hopefully we experience the happiness in that attitude of God in the friends that we have and that we interact with. Hopefully we’re happier where we have this attitude of happiness and goodness in the way that we treat one another. And that we take that home into our families as we grow, as we grow together. So, we give thanks for these wonderful Beatitudes.”

The bishop closed his homily by wishing everyone a good school year.

Father Sean Paul Fleming, director of the Office of Worship and rector of St. Joseph Cathedral, invited the students to bring their families to visit the cathedral. “You’re welcome anytime you like,” he said.

Dan Drechsel, dean of students and assistant principal at St. Gregory the Great School in Williamsville, brought his students to Mass to tie into the school’s teaching on discipleship.

“It was a beautiful day,” he said. “The bishop was fantastic. The liturgy was amazing. It’s great to see the kids throughout the diocese come together. It was truly a special and beautiful day to witness.”

Principal Nicole Richard of Nativity of Mary School in Harris Hill, thought the Mass was a great way to start off the year.

“I think the students really have a sense of togetherness with their future classmates in high school. I think that really puts that into perspective for them. It gets them to really start looking forward to high school,” she said.


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