Catholic school students in Santa Barbara gathered with Archbishop José Gomez Jan. 31 at Bishop Garcia Diego High School to celebrate a special liturgy in honor of Catholic Schools Week --- and to celebrate schools as communities of faith, knowledge and service.
Short videos of each school were shown, as each school --- Notre Dame (at Mother of Sorrows Church), Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Raphael and Bishop Garcia Diego --- emphasized the unique qualities that make their schools Catholic, not only as centers of learning, but as signs of faith and providers of service to their community. That was brought home as, upon their arrival, students, teachers, administrators and parents brought boxes of canned goods for the poor.
During his homily Archbishop Gomez told the students that he, too, had attended Catholic schools. “I say ‘thank you’ for that gift,” he said, as he emphasized how important his Catholic education is to him and how important young people are to the Church.
Pope Francis, the archbishop said, values young people, as was evident last July at World Youth Day in Brazil. “God needs you,” Pope Francis told the youth. “God is calling you. You are the ones who hold the future.”
Archbishop Gomez drove home the point, telling the Santa Barbara youth, “You are a child of God and God loves children. You are called specially by God and He is with us. God loves everyone else, too. You will find God is with you when you love others. That is what the pope is asking of us today: to love one another. And we may never know what that love can accomplish.”
He asked the students to pray for the pope, to have a devotion for the Blessed Mother. “You make a big difference when you pray for one another,” he said. “Your kindness will be known to all.”
He then told them the story of two people walking along the seashore, discovering a fish out of the water, and one of the men throwing the fish back in the sea. When his companion asked what difference it made to throw that fish back, the man replied: “To that one fish I am the world.”
“I ask you,” Archbishop Gomez told the students, “to do the same: Make a difference in the lives of others.”