Bishop Felipe Estévez paid a visit to Bishop Snyder High School in Jacksonville during National Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 31-Feb. 5), celebrating the late Bishop John J. Snyder’s episcopal ordination anniversary in 1973 for the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y. The theme of this year’s Catholic Schools Week is “Faith. Excellence. Service.”, all of which are qualities Bishop Estévez said were evident at Bishop Snyder High School. For a complete guide to Catholic schools in the Diocese of St. Augustine, click here.
Bishop Estévez celebrated Mass with the senior class in the auditorium, while the rest of the student body and faculty joined him via live-stream in the courtyard. In his homily, the bishop spoke to the students about the allegory of salt and light, calling them to be a light during these dark times.
“As you know, Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.’ And because you are all baptized, you are the light of the world,” he said. “Let the light shine, even during these terrible times of COVID-19. So many people are afraid. Jesus said, ‘I will be with you at all times. You are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.’ Salt brings taste. Light brings clarity. To be Christian means that you are called to be the salt and the light.”
Shortly after Mass, Bishop Estévez visited two religion classes. He discussed St. Augustine’s quote, “Totus Christus,” the universality and diversity of the Catholic Church and his recent pastoral on the death penalty with both freshman and senior students.
The bishop then met with the school’s campus ministry elective class and representatives from the student government to discuss the United States bishop’s 2018 pastoral letter, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love. After the social unrest that occurred across the country last summer, students at Bishop Snyder studied the pastoral to create a week-long plan that includes opening students’ hearts, creating an open dialogue with each other, and educating themselves on the sin of racism. Students shared their own experiences with racism, recognizing biases within their hearts, spoke openly with one another and encouraged forgiveness. Bishop Estévez shared his own experience with racism and talked about an encounter with someone who did not understand how an immigrant from Cuba could rise to leadership within the church.
Finally, the campus ministry class showed the bishop their newly finished Padre Pio “C.A.L.M.” room, which stands for Christ Always Loves Me. The class painted and decorated the room to create a safe space for students to rest and pray. The bishop cut the ribbon and blessed the room with holy water, praising the students for their hard work and dedication to the faith.