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Andrean welcomes bishop to celebrate a Mass of ‘firsts’

092420Bishop Andrean Mass Meyer

Matthew Meyer (center), Andrean High School senior, prepares to receive Holy Comm from Bishop Robert J. McClory (right) during an all-school Mass at Father Eckert Stadium on Sept. 14 at AHS in Merrillville. The bishop congratulated 59ers students for choosing a Catholic education and showed them a ring presented to the school's namesake founder and first bishop of Gary, the late Bishop Andrew G. Grutka. Bishop McClory said Pope Paul VI gifted the ring to Bishop Grutka in recognition for his efforts to foster equality among the races in Northwest Indiana.  (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

BY MARLENE A. ZLOZA

Northwest Indiana Catholic

 

       MERRILLVILLE – Bishop Robert J. McClory didn’t have to look far for the perfect symbol of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross when he visited Andrean High School on Sept. 14 to celebrate Founder’s Day with the first all-school Mass of the 2020-21 school year in the football stadium.

       “I see a spectacular crucifix out in front of this school, (telling you) when you drive by that this is a Catholic institution,” said the bishop. “But what does it mean to have a crucifix as a dominant image of our faith?”

       While the crucifix is a symbol of Jesus’ execution, explained Bishop McClory, “Today is the feast of the exultation, the triumph of the cross, which is a sign of Jesus’ strength and a sign of his humility. The cross has a power, and we respond to its meaning.”

       Students, faculty and staff members gathered in the bleachers – wearing masks and socially distancing – to attend the school’s first-ever outdoor Mass, held on the 61st anniversary of the day the doors first opened at 5959 Broadway.

       Pointing out that he chose to wear one of Bishop Andrew G. Grutka’s rings, Bishop McClory lauded the Diocese of Gary’s first prelate for his “bold and fearless vision” in creating a third Catholic high school to make sure youth in the southern half of the diocese would be served.

       “He was at the forefront of bringing racial justice to Northwest Indiana,” he said, “and I pray that his vision, not only for Andrean, but for a just society where the color of our skin does not determine our future, comes to fruition.”

       “Let us honor our past and those who preceded us … honor our present … and let us look boldly and fearlessly to our future,” the bishop said. “It was on this day 61 years ago that Andrean High School was established. We respond to this gift with repentant hearts.”

       Andrean principal Jaycob Knazur said the Mass is just another component of a unique plan for a unique school year. “We wanted to do everything we possibly could to retain normalcy” despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 global pandemic. “Our gym only holds 250 (with social distancing) and we have 389 students, including 109 freshmen, our biggest class, so we did some brainstorming and decided the best way to have everyone together, our only and best option, was the stadium. We’ve already had football games here, so we knew it could be done.”

       Father Jeff Burton, concelebrant and associate pastor at St. Paul, Valparaiso, called it “great for the bishop and the entire student body to be able to get together. Our first Mass of the school year was just with freshmen, but this reminds me of the NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference) where we celebrated Mass on a football field.”

       Andrean is also one of a handful of area schools offering all in-person classes this fall, another conscious choice. “Andrean is a family and the students should be educated and formed together,” Knazur said. If a student needs to be home following a COVID-19 diagnosis or other illnesses, he added, arrangements can be made for remote learning.

       “With everyone here, teachers can give individual attention to students who they know and can understand, and we are small enough and close enough to make that happen,” Knazur said.

       The school did have one student test positive for COVID-19 on the third day of the year, “which we addressed, quarantining less than 10 other students through contact tracing, and they are all back in school now,” Knazur explained.

       “The biggest surprise,” he added, has been how even through this challenging time, “how much the students and faculty can adapt” and with their faith continue to display “pride, enthusiasm and desire.”

       Freshman Eileen Shea, of Crown Point, admitted being apprehensive about starting at a new school, especially during a pandemic, but found “everyone so welcoming that I felt comfortable right away. I’m glad it’s like a huge family. I’m trying to keep track of everything going on, and the teachers are all there to help you out.

       “I’ve never been to Mass with the bishop, and it’s cool that he came. I was interested in what he had to say,” Shea added.

       Schererville senior Patrick Rycerz didn’t have to worry about freshman jitters, and said pandemic protocols haven’t prevented the school year from getting off to “a pretty good” start. “I really appreciate the effort everyone made to bring us back to school. It helps us grow in our faith as a class and as a school, and faith is one of our pillars,” he noted, along with learning, leadership and service.

       “The cross for us is a pathway to our salvation, a place where we can put our faith … put our hope,” said Bishop McClory at the benediction. (Christ’s) death opened up the pathway to God, and his resurrection is the end of the story. These things can guide us (as we pursue) an authentic, truly Christian life.”

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