Fr. Dwight Ezop
FAITH January, 2017
In July of this past year, I became pastor of St. Mary Parish in Charlotte. Like a number of parishes around our diocese, St. Mary is blessed to have a parish school as part of its ministry. To some, it may sound a bit strange to think of a parish school as part of a parish's "ministry," but it has been my experience, having been pastor of two different parishes with schools, that it is vitally important for our parish schools to see themselves as ministry fields, rather than as private schools that happen to be Catholic. I was reminded about why this is so important on the very first day of the current school year.
On that day, we gathered the entire student body, as well as school faculty and staff and a number of parents and grandparents, for the first Mass of the school year. Because it was the first day of a new school year, there was a lot of excitement in the air. Students were gathered, renewing friendships, new students and faculty members were being welcomed to the school community, and it was my first Mass with the school community in my new parish assignment. The Mass was a beautiful way to ask for God's blessings and guidance for our school community as we embarked on a new academic year. To the best of my recollection, the Mass went well – but I honestly don't remember it as clearly as I might. In part, that might have something to do with my now 51-year-old memory banks, but I think it also has something to do with the fact that an incident that happened after Mass has stuck in my mind since that first day of school.
At the conclusion of any school Mass, I have always made it my practice to visit with the kids on their way out of church. That day, I was exchanging greetings and "high fives" with the students as they made their way from the church to the parish hall for lunch. As part of that exiting stream of students, one of our middle schoolers stopped and greeted me and then asked me very plainly, "Father Dwight, can I be baptized and become Catholic?" I have had lots of school students ask me lots of questions through the years. This was the first time that anyone had ever asked me that one.
Read more from Fr. Dwight Ezop about how Catholic schools encourage students on their spiritual journey here.