BILOXI – Faculty, staff and administrators from every Catholic school in the diocese gathered at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral Aug. 4 as Bishop Roger Morin celebrated a special Mass marking the opening of the new school year.
In his homily, Bishop Morin said the readings for that particular feast day, the Feast of St. John Vianney, were particularly appropriate for teachers, staff and administrators as they prepared to welcome students for a new year.
The bishop reiterated St. Paul’s words to the Colossians: “Put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Put on love, that is, the bond of perfection and let the word of Christ dwell in you and let the peace of Christ control your hearts.”
Alluding to Psalm 13, the bishop said, “We hear, ‘From the rising of the sun to its setting, let the name of the Lord be praised.’ Therein is found another definition of your important ministry and apostolate in our local church.”
Turning to Matthew’s gospel, the bishop said, ‘What has been hidden from the wise and the learned has been revealed to the childlike,” adding, “And Jesus says, ‘Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for yourselves, for my
yoke is easy and my burden light.’
“We find that there is almost a contradiction in terms there, a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light” Bishop Morin said. “But it is conditioned upon this meekness and humility of heart. Then you will find rest for yourselves.
“So, in the first reading from Colossians, St. Paul tells us that Jesus has called us, as God’s chosen ones, to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient and to let charity, that is love, reign over all the virtues and let the peace of Christ control your hearts. Those are words that take reflection for assimilation, not just words that roll off our tongues and through our lips,” the bishop said.
“Let love reign over all the virtues and let the peace of Christ control your hearts. And Jesus said that you don’t have to be wise, learned or clever – my translation - to answer his call and be obedient to the command: ‘Love one another.’ Jesus said we will do this easily if we follow his example and we seek to be meek and humble of heart. Then love will reign over all the virtues and the peace of Christ will control your hearts. For Jesus says, in meekness and humility, we find it easy to live our lives as Christians.”
One way to achieve this meekness and humility, the bishop said, it to remember the words of the Novena to the Sacred
Heart: Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.
“It really is a lifetime process, in terms of our heart being like unto the heart of Jesus, in terms of a life in ministry lived in meekness and humility,” the bishop said.
“In these words we are reminded that, as we strive to achieve higher levels of perfection in the Christian life through meekness and humility, we are in pursuit of manifesting the loving heart of Jesus in all that we do. This commitment is not a yoke or a burden, but is a way to have a life of ease, peace of mind, where love reigns in your heart and over your daily life. Jesus says, ‘Learn from me and you will find rest for yourself.’
“As we begin another school year, there’s always something exciting in a new segment of time that is given, since every single day, every hour – life – is a gift from God,” Bishop Morin said.
“As we look ahead to the months of this school year, we stand at this juncture and we become somewhat chronologically philosophical about what is going to happen. Some of you will do some things that you’ve been doing for a number of years for the last time. Some of you will have an opportunity to do more or less the same things again, and some of you will have the opportunity to do new things. In the gift of time, some things come to an end. Some people are granted the opportunity to achieve higher levels of perfection in the Christian life and some to make new beginnings. That is the gift of this coming year, whether you’re in one of any of those three categories – doing it for the last time and riding off into the sunset, with a happy heart we hope, having a chance to gain more experience and to further grow in the Christian life by ministering in Catholic education, or beginning to aspire to achievement of meekness and humility. All of you have all of these opportunities this year.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Morin gave a special blessing to school principals.
Two diocesan schools will begin the year with new principals. Sherri McAllister, who once was principal of St. Alphonsus Elementary School in Ocean Springs and of St. Paul Elementary in Pass Christian, is the new principal at St. Vincent de Paul Elementary and Tiffany Lindmark is the new principal at Our Lady Academy in Bay St. Louis. Lindmark taught science at OLA for the past four years.
Concelebrating priests included Msgr. John McGrath, Father Henry McInerney, Father Mike Snyder, Father Dennis Carver, Father Mike O’Connor, Father Bernie Papania and Father Ryan McCoy. Deacons of the altar were Deacon Gayden Harper and Deacon Bartosz Kunat, who will be ordained to the priesthood in December.