By Deacon Tom Picciano
BINGHAMTON — Students came from the North, South, and West to attend a Catholic Schools Week Mass at Seton Catholic Central Jan. 31.
Bishop Robert J. Cunningham was the main celebrant. Seven priests concelebrated.
The gymnasium was filled with pupils from St. James School, Johnson City; St. John the Evangelist School, Binghamton; and All Saints School, Endicott, along with those from SCC. Many of the students gathered in bleachers off to the side while others sat in rows of chairs placed on the gym floor. Parents and grandparents took up an area in the back.
A choir made up of dozens of students led the group with hymns and sung parts of the Mass. The intercessions were offered by a half-dozen others representing each of the schools. Several student Eucharistic Ministers distributed communion.
In his homily, Bishop Cunningham spoke of leaving Syracuse that morning thinking about GPS. He said it helps direct people along the way from city to city and sometimes to go place to place within a large city. The bishop said GPS offers the best roads to take, the shortest routes, and the arrival time.
“What does GPS have to do with Catholic Schools Week?” Bishop Cunningham asked.
“Let’s not forget the foundation of the Catholic school is the person Jesus Christ. It’s the reason our Catholic schools exist. They exist to proclaim the Good News. God saved his people by sending his Son so that one day we would be with him in heaven,” he said.
“Catholic schools show the way. Unlike traveling from one city to another city on a number of roads…there’s only way to heaven. It’s having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” said the bishop. “He’s the way back. He’s the GPS.”
Bishop Cunningham related a favorite Gospel passage, where the tax collector Matthew is called by Jesus. He noted that Matthew dropped everything to follow Jesus. The bishop then offered a suggestion to the students.
“Jesus looks at your heart also. He looks for His love and mercy. Sometimes you might think your shortcomings and weaknesses make you an unlikely follower of Jesus. Nevertheless he knows your heart. He wants you to follow him.”
The bishop said that Catholic schools offer much with outstanding academic programs, integration of Catholic faith in all subjects, and outreach in service.
“The next time you take a trip… plan a vacation… you’re trying to find your way in unfamiliar territory — remember what I said today,” he said.
“It’s great to have GPS. And it’s great that Jesus is our GPS to eternal life. Take advantage of every opportunity to know Him better. Love Him more and serve Him. This is the primary purpose of Catholic education. This is what we celebrate this week.”
Deacon Tom Picciano is a journalist and longtime contributor to The Catholic Sun. He serves at St. Vincent de Paul Blessed Sacrament Parish in Vestal.