Last week, students, faculty and staff at Pomona Catholic School laced up their collective walking shoes as they revived a tradition at the San Gabriel Valley school that had been shelved since the mid-1980s — walking to Mass as an entire student body.More than 300 students from the middle school and high school made the half-mile trek down Holt Boulevard to St. Joseph Church. Joining them were alumni and parents, many who remembered taking this same journey back when they were students.“We used to do this at least on the First Friday of every month and on holy days around Easter and such,” says Leslie Carr who graduated in 1984. Carr’s mother-in-law was in one of the first graduating classes from the school and also remembered the regular walks to Mass.“It was fun,” she continued, “the camaraderie of walking with our sisters as we went to church to pray. I think it’s just great they are rejuvenating this fine tradition.” Indeed, students were energetic and excited the morning before their walk. Classrooms were buzzing, permission slips were gathered and organizers were relieved that the weather was perfect with blue skies and warm sun. Principal Samuel Torres was extremely cheery as he met with the seniors at the front door of the school to lead the walk.“This is a simple way we can reach out to the community of Pomona and let them know that we are still here and thriving,” he says of the school that was founded in 1898. The girls’ high school has seen a steady increase in enrollment in the past three years; and this year the middle school has become an official part of the Pomona Catholic school body (they had been facilitated by educators from nearby St. Madeline School).Having all students gather for Mass is a challenge for administrators. The school’s chapel only seats 70 and so the auditorium is often used for celebrations of the Eucharist. “Going back to have Mass at St. Joseph really calls us back to our roots,” says Torres. “For so many students, the only time they come to this church is for their baccalaureate Mass, at the end of their time with us. Now, we want that changed.”As the students walked down the busy street to the church, cars honked and passersby greeted “good morning.” Students chatted happily as they passed by barber shops, car repair stations, restaurants and a few homes with gardens and fences.Once at St. Joseph, students waited until everyone was gathered to enter the church. At the front of the line, the senior girls were still bubbling. “It’s exciting to bring back this tradition so that we can celebrate as one school,” says Mary Jane Carr who admitted that when she first heard about the walk, she thought it was “kinda weird. But once you learned how it was a part of the school for so long, it became cooler. I’m glad we’re doing this.”“So, how was your walk?” smiled Father Roberto Jaranilla Jr., St. Joseph’s pastor, who welcomed the student body. He recalled meeting with principal Torres last year talking about how they could revive the tradition. “The only time I got to see students was at their graduation, at the end of the year,” he mused. “Today brings back a history between St. Joseph and Pomona Catholic, back when the school and church were closer. I am glad you can start the school year off together as one student body here in the church.”“This is a very powerful moment,” said parent Annie Wilson who joined her high school freshman daughter on the walk. “Joining together for a celebration of liturgy really shows that the school values spiritual development. We celebrate our school. We celebrate our faith and in all this, there are elements of joy.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0923/pomona/{/gallery}