St. Francis of Assisi is known for his teaching kindness, compassion and understanding of nature, particularly the environment and animals. That message was reflected in the homily Bishop Felipe Estévez gave 200 students during Mass at St. Francis Catholic Academy on Wednesday, Sept. 30.
With students practicing social distancing by sitting six feet apart on folding chairs in the school gymnasium, Bishop Estévez reminded them that St. Francis practiced great humility and owned only the garments that clothed him, so great was his devotion to following in the footsteps of Christ.
“We are possessive of all our personal things, but the reality is, we own nothing,” Bishop Estévez said. “Everything belongs to God. We are God’s stewards.”
Bishop Estévez also told the students and staff that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he had received countless emails and letters from parishioners throughout the diocese. The overall message is how much they miss gathering together to celebrate weekly Sunday Mass.
“People are thirsty for the Eucharist, they say they cannot live without it,” Bishop Estévez said. “We have come to realize how important community is as a result of the pandemic.”
Bishop Estévez visited the school to celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, held Sunday, Oct. 4. The academy was built near the site of the Mission of San Francisco de Potano, founded in 1606 by Franciscan Friar Martin Prieto, in what is now Gainesville. The school opened in 2004 with an incoming freshmen class of 61 students, becoming the fourth Catholic high school in the diocese.
During his 4-hour visit, Bishop Estévez celebrated Mass and met with 10 student ambassadors and council members to discuss how their classmates were adjusting to life during the pandemic and toured the campus. He also viewed a recent addition – a relic from the wooden staff once used by St. Francis and given to the school by the Vatican in 2019.