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Adoration Impacts St. Francis High School
"The Church and the world have a great need for adoration because this is what will bring about God's kingdom on earth and an everlasting peace to all mankind. (Pope John Paul II). Recently Catholic Schools across the United States celebrated how a Catholic education provides Dividends for Life. Catholic schools not only strive to offer the best academic preparation, but go beyond to provide an educational and faith-filled foundation to prepare students for a Christian life. Passing on the rich traditions and strong moral values of the Catholic faith are cornerstones in the formation of healthy, well prepared students who will become the leaders of tomorrow. In 2005, following the exhortations of Pope John Paul II and the writings and examples of great saints, St. Francis High School decided to take another step in their faith journey. Recognizing that holiness is rooted in our devotion and love of the Eucharist, we decided to bring adoration into our school through the beautiful tradition of exposition, said Erick Chittle, Principal at St. Francis. Students and staff began taking time out of their day to be in the presence of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist exposed in a monstrance. At the time, there was no permanent chapel in the school so the students first experience was in a make-shift chapel. I can still remember senior Leslie Talbot coming out of her time with Jesus, Chittle recalled. I met her in the stairwell and asked her about adoration. Her face beamed with joy as she declared, that was awesome! Her soul was filled with awe after communing with Our Lord. Leslie had experienced what Saint Maria Faustina wrote in her diary, We are to let the rays of mercy from the monstrance pass through us and go out through all the world. We are to be icons of mercy, radiating love and mercy to others. There is no greater way to energize ourselves to this task than by spending time in the Presence of the Source of Love and Mercy, Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist. Still, without a dedicated space for worship and a tabernacle, exposition at the school took place only twice a year before Christmas and Easter. This remained the norm until the Saint Clare Chapel was built in 2007. It is our belief the chapel was built in large part through the prayers and heroic suffering of one of our students, Katie Heintz, Chittle declared. She, along with a group of our students, went down to the University of Steubenville for a retreat. Her experience of Jesus during exposition was profound and left her desiring the same opportunity at St. Francis. Katie was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2004 and throughout her courageous fight with the disease, she offered her suffering to bring souls to Christ. Devotions at St. Francis High School and Church indeed within the entire Traverse City community -- increased as hundreds of rosaries and hours of adoration were devoted for Katie. She continually turned these prayers over to God for His purposes. Katie passed into eternal life in August of 2005 and an abiding confidence remains that this holy young womans prayers continue. At a St. Francis High School staff meeting, teacher David Peck expressed to the faculty his understanding of the link between Katies suffering and death, the building of the new chapel and the now weekly exposition. The connection between love, suffering, and adoration was powerful. I think of Katie every week as parents, faculty, and students voluntarily spend hours growing in faith and the love of Christ as they are in the presence of our Great Redeemer, Chittle added. He feels the practice has slowly and dramatically changed the culture of the school saying, There is no doubt that Christ is the center and I have no doubt that any gains in holiness are in large part a result of this adoration and our two weekly Masses. The chapel is now used for adoration daily. That is, students and staff take time with Jesus as He is reposed in the tabernacle with exposition held for five hours on Wednesdays. Though we are still working toward implementing all of the elements called for in the Rite of Exposition, this time set apart has helped all of us grow in our faith, Chittle said. Last June as school was coming to a close, Bill Strong, the freshman morality teacher surveyed his students asking them what helped them grow in holiness. Adoration and exposition were the most frequent responses. The students crave the silence, the time away from their noisy, busy lives. One junior remarked, I love being in the quiet; I really connect with God. I feel really good when I leave. Chittle believes the students especially enjoy this devotion due to the fact that it is non-threatening. They do not have to speak or sing in front of other people; they can simply be in the presence of the Greatest Possible Good as they pray, he noted. Although often unperceived, the work that is being done on their souls is a primary reason that they return. Joining students for adoration, Chittle is struck by their humility. They know at some level they are with Jesus and their reverence shows it. As students enter and leave, I find great joy knowing that this silence, this humility, this great Sacrament of Love will impact their sanctity and the sanctity of our school more than any program that we could run, Chittle beamed. In the end it is the prayer of all at the school that taking the time to be with Jesus will stir their souls to love him more, a love which flows in their actions, anchors their lives, and will usher them into the eternal Beatitude -- that is, joy with God forever which indeed is a dividend for life.