Marist senior organizes all schools Mass

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, April 10, 2011

On March 24, a dream became reality for Marist High School senior Joe Ward when more than 1,000 people — students, educators, priests, deacons, religious, bishops and Cardinal George — came together at Holy Name Cathedral and celebrated Mass in the spirit of service. They were all there at Ward’s invitation.

“It was an absolute dream come true,” said Ward, 18. “It literally felt that I was walking through a dream. I didn’t want to go to sleep that night because my dream came true.”

Ward’s dream began a year earlier when he organized a much smaller Mass at Marist around the “call to service” theme. That Mass was attended by then-Bishop Gustavo Garcia Siller and Cardinal George.

His inspiration came from his experience in the Peacebuilders Initiative his sophomore year at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

“I’ve always felt such a sense of pride being at home in the Catholic Church,” Ward said. He wanted to help inspire other high school students to serve others and to become closer to their Catholic faith.

The need to serve others is very important today, said Ward, who attends Christ the King Parish in Beverly.

“We have a community that is very much rooted in violence and hatred and as Christian Catholics we can turn our community around to serving others,” he said.

Following that first Mass at Marist, then-Bishop Garcia-Siller challenged Ward to put together one more Mass to bring service leadership to the greater archdiocesan high school community.

So that is what he did. With the blessing of Springfield Dominican Sister M. Paul McCaughey, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the archdiocese, Ward started working on an archdiocesan-wide gathering at the cathedral. All Catholic high schools in the archdiocese were invited to bring students.

Invitations were also extended to schools in the Joliet and Rockford dioceses after Ward enlisted the help of his two best friends — Sean Bergan and KC Bogt — in organizing the Mass. Bergan lives in the Joliet diocese and Bogt in the Rockford diocese. They are both seniors at Marmion Academy in Aurora.

Ward’s goal for the Mass in March was simple.

“I was really hoping to just promote our unity, community and Eucharist,” he said. “A lot of my friends really don’t go to church every Sunday. I hope this liturgy will get the high school students involved in the church.”

Ward handled the majority of the details for the Mass, said Marist Brother Patrick McNamara, president of Marist High School.

“It was all kid-run. I was so impressed,” he said.

The Marist senior is very committed to the calledto- serve message of the Gospel, McNamara said.

“I think Marist kids are enthusiastic but I think this is above and beyond,” the president said of Ward’s efforts on the Mass.

Ward diligently contacted school principals and presidents and making sure everyone was invited to the event at the cathedral. His persistence paid off and the event turned out well even though it was held during spring break, said McNamara, who returned for the Mass from Florida, where he was with the school’s baseball and softball teams.

McNamara said that some of the brothers from his community told him that “it was the first time they remembered the Catholic high schools coming together like that.”

“For most of our kids it was the first time they were in the cathedral,” McNamara said.

Catholic schools are used to meeting on a playing field or a debate floor but this, he added, showed “we can also meet to pray.”