On Oct. 15, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was filled with enthusiastic students and faculty members from all over the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois for the annual Mission Mass. Representatives from a great number of Catholic schools and parishes in the diocese traveled to the Cathedral to attend Mass. Some of the groups took time to look around the Cathedral and to have their pictures taken with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, who was the main celebrant.
Concelebrating with Bishop Paprocki were Msgr. David Hoefler, vicar general, and Father Angel Sierra. Deacons were Deacon Patrick O’Toole, who is director of the Office for the Missions and Deacon Terry Ellerman. The choir from St. Aloysius School in Springfield led the music at the Mission Mass and St. Mary School in Taylorville assisted with the liturgy. Patrick Hutt was the master of ceremonies.
In his homily, Bishop Paprocki spoke about different saints who are represented in both statuary and stained glass at the Cathedral — those who were great missionaries. Among those saints are St. Peter, St. Paul, St. James the Greater, St. Patrick, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Dominic. “There is one more missionary here,” he said, speaking of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, who is often called St. Theresa of the Little Flower. “She is one of the patrons of the missions,” he said, noting that she did not travel in her mission, but “prayed and offered sacrifices on behalf of the church.”
St. Theresa, Bishop Paprocki said, “showed us missionary work is available to everybody, no matter where they are in life.” “Regardless of where we are in life, we must always see ourselves on mission,” he said. “You are a missionary now.”
Before the children were dismissed from Mass, Deacon O’Toole also spoke to the people in the pews. “I have no doubt that some of you are called to mission work far from home. Do not be afraid to embrace this call from God,” he said. “The Holy Spirit will support you every step of the way. And, God willing, children from around this diocese will still raise money to help you and still come together in October to pray for you.”
Then Deacon O’Toole recognized five schools for their tremendous fundraising efforts for Missionary Childhood Association. “All of these schools have created a strong mission identity,” he said, naming off the winners, who came up to the front of the church to receive their awards. They were greeted by Bishop Paprocki and by Victoria Dhabalt Compton, who until recently had been director of the Office for the Missions for 15 years.
Those winners were:
Fifth place: Our Lady of Lourdes School, Decatur;
Fourth place: Ss. Peter and Paul School, Alton;
Third place: St. Mary School, Brussels;
Second place: St. Louis School, Nokomis;
First place: St Agnes School, Springfield.
Continuing, Deacon O’Toole said, “Last year, students in schools and parishes around our diocese participated in the annual Missionary Childhood Association Christmas Artwork Contest. All entries are submitted to the diocesan Office for the Missions and local winners are selected to be sent on to the national competition.” First, Deacon O’Toole recognized diocesan winners of the MCA Christmas Artwork contest who then came forward to receive their awards.
In the K-2 division:
From St. Mary School in Brussels, Jayleigh Droege and Conley Klocke; and from Holy Family School in Granite City, Nora Pritchard;
In grades 3-4:
From St. Mary School in Brussels, Blake Nolte and Madlyn Nolte; and from Holy Family School in Granite City, Mira Ahlvers;
In grades 5-6:
From Holy Family School in Granite City, Olivia Essington; from St Mary School in Brussels, Delani Klaus; and from St. Aloysius in Springfield, Sophie Murphy;
In grades 7-8:
From Holy Family School in Granite City, Dayanara Austin; and from St Mary School in Brussels, Hope Odelehr.
One student’s artwork was selected for further competition and she was a national winner: Elizabeth Antonini from St. Boniface School in Edwardsville. She will be recognized at a ceremony in December at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., and her artwork will be displayed at the shrine during Advent. A replica of her winning artwork was presented to her school.