Pope Francis, pictured above being mobbed by youth from Brazil and Poland in St. Peter’s Square, is popular with young Catholics. Ontario’s Catholic secondary school students have launched a campaign to request the pontiff participate in their province-wide Mass. CNS photo/Paul Haring.

Papal participation sought for student Mass

By  Enrique Olivo, Youth Speak News
  • May 1, 2014

Ontario’s Catholic students have invited Pope Francis to share with them in a province-wide Mass to be held May 7.

The Catholic Board Council of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, made up of more than 40 high school students, has invited the Holy Father to be part of the one-of-a-kind, province- wide Mass under the theme of “Strengthening Students through the Church.”

This simultaneous Mass will unite those in support of the Catholic system and give them a chance to stand together in solidarity.

As Michael Pallotto, the vice- president of the Catholic Board Council, said, “Our Catholic voice is strong, and it is united. Judging by the success we expect to have, that message will come across loud and clear.”

With the help of the Archdiocese of Toronto, the council has been sending letters, tweets and e-mails to the Vatican to invite Pope Francis to share his greetings and perhaps even a homily with Ontario’s students on May 7, the day when most of the province’s Catholic secondary schools in 29 Catholic boards will celebrate Mass.

The hope is to have the Pope send his message in the form of a video, as he had done last October for a conference on the New Evangelization in the Philippines. A response has been received from Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

In the event that Pope Francis will be unable to share a video containing a few words of grace, the Salt + Light Media Foundation has already recorded greetings from many of Ontario’s bishops that will be played at the beginning of the Mass.

This is the first year this initiative is taking place. The student trustees came up with the idea for a province-wide Mass in late 2013 when they were thinking of ways to unite Ontario’s Catholic students, and were moved by the idea of a board-wide Mass hosted by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

Taking place during Catholic Education Week, running May 4-9, this initiative aims to have every Catholic school board across the province hold a simultaneous Mass in each of their schools — both secondary and elementary.

With support from the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association and countless teachers and administrative staff from boards across the province, the hopes for a successful event are high.

“Through this effort, I hope that the youth of Ontario who attend our Catholic schools will come to realize that the gift of faith, although personal and celebrated in their local school or parish, can also connect them to a wider more universal expression of that gift through the Church,” said Bishop William McGrattan, the Toronto auxiliary bishop who later this year will take over as bishop of Peterborough.

(Olivo, 17, is a Grade 12, student at Neil McNeil High School in Toronto.)

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