“The parish school ought to be the heart of the parish, wherein one of the most significant elements of the mission of a parish is accomplished: the education and formation of our youth in the ways of faith.”
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight addressed those words to the people of St. Brendan Parish in Mexico during an Aug. 22 Mass to celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Brendan School.
Running briefly through the history of the parish and the school, Bishop McKnight pointed out that every generation has its own set of challenges to endure and address.
“Yet, the mission of the Church always continues because of the blood, sweat and tears of the clergy and faithful,” he said. “And this sacrifice is made possible because of the joys of our Catholic faith.”
Bishop McKnight marveled at how the late Monsignor Patrick E. Gavin had been sent as a “temporary” pastor to St. Brendan Parish in 1921 and wound up remaining there for 43 years until his death in 1964.
The year Msgr. Gavin arrived, he established St. Brendan School and invited Sisters of the Most Precious Blood from O’Fallon to serve as its teachers.
There were about 40 students enrolled that that year. The number continued to rise.
A combination church-school building opened in 1924, including a parish high school that continued until 1959.
Precious Blood Sisters continued to serve at the school until 1981, when they handed the work on to lay teachers.
“And the history of St. Brendan School and Parish continues to this day,” said Bishop McKnight.
There are now about 170 students in grades pre-kindergarten through 8.
Bishop McKnight noted how the Scripture readings for that Sunday spoke providentially of the necessity of accepting in faith the difficult things in the Christian life.
He asserted that belief in the Risen Lord has carried the people of St. Brendan Parish and those who came before them through times of doubt, discouragement, difficulty, sacrifice and adversity.
“No matter the human catastrophe, no matter how desperate things seem to be, we can still choose to be a people faith, hope and charity,” the bishop said. “There is no amount of poverty, no depth of despair, no lack of understanding that forces us to give up on our belief in Jesus.”
Bishop McKnight challenged all who were present to grow in understanding of the importance of the mission of their parish, “in this place and in this time, to proclaim the Kingdom of God in word and deed.”
“Your parish community is a living, breathing center of charity and mercy, which stands as a beautiful reminder of the presence of God among all who live in your community,” he stated.
He emphasized that St. Brendan School is part of the mission of the whole parish, not just the parents who have children enrolled there.
“A parish school, based on the spirituality of stewardship and the sacrificial offering of time, talent and treasure by every member of the parish, is what sustains the parish’s mission,” he insisted.
He urged the people of the parish to continue their mission of proclaiming God’s Kingdom by forming young people in the ways of faith; by serving as a center of charity and mercy to all who are in need; and by lifting up their sacrifice of praise in fervent prayer and devotion, “especially by celebrating the Eucharist with adequate preparation, care and devotion.”
The bishop lauded Fr. Schrader, “whose great intelligence has only served his trusting faith and not eclipsed it.”
“As we observe this moment in the life of your school and parish,” the bishop exhorted, “do not forget the active providence of God clearly evident in your history, which tells of your humble beginnings.”
“Be not afraid to trust in God’s providence, especially in times of difficulty, for you have a future full of hope,” he said.