by Erin Hunninghake
ATCHISON — Shortly before Christmas break, the student leaders of Maur Hill-Mount Academy here approached administrators with a somewhat surprising request: They wanted to end the second day of finals with an hour of eucharistic adoration.
The inspiration came from an all-school Holy Hour led by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann this past November. The archbishop’s stirring message encouraged the students to be more pro-active about their faith this Advent season.
“It just seemed like a good way to prepare for the coming of Jesus this Christmas,” said Renz Pros, MH-MA senior and head boy. “We knew it would help put us in the right mindset and prepare our hearts for the real reason for the holiday.” (Head boy is the co-head of the house system, the school’s form of student government. His counterpart is the head girl.)
Although MH-MA works hard to foster growth in the Catholic faith in its students, even the administration had not expected this.
“I was very pleasantly surprised by the idea,” said MH-MA principal Monika King. “The adoration with the archbishop really resonated with them — the music, the environment. They wanted to recreate that.”
“I thought it was really interesting that the students were the ones who approached us about it instead of the other way around,” said MH-MA president Phil Baniewicz.
“They were able to fully enter into prayer through the music last time, and I think the archbishop’s sincere message about bringing yourself to Jesus — through difficult and joyous times— really touched them.”
That highly acclaimed music King and Baniewicz mentioned is the product of MH-MA music director Joe Heron, who has been helping students enter into the Mass with the power of melody for three years.
For Carly Taylor, MH-MA senior and house leader, that praise and worship music, the daily Masses, and healing eucharistic adorations were major catalysts in her conversion to the Catholic faith last spring.
“Adoration was especially big for me,” she said. “I got this feeling of peace and that I was loved. It just really touched me. I felt something like this would be beneficial to everyone before leaving for break.”
Guest celebrant Deacon Dana Nearmyer, who is the lead consultant of the office of evangelization and Catholic formation of youth for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, led the all-school adoration in MH-MA’s chapel on Dec. 15 after a day full of finals.
For one hour, the students had the chance to decompress from the pressure of tests and the distraction of basketball scores and refocus their hearts on the impending birth of their Lord and Savior.
“Everyone gets so stressed out during finals, so we thought this would be a good time to forget about that for awhile and just be with the Lord,” Pros said.
During adoration, students were encouraged to come to the front of the chapel to kneel in front of the monstrance and hold the cloth draped below, creating an even more intimate and tangible connection.
“Come forward and bring your prayers, bring your troubles, bring the names of your loved ones,” encouraged Deacon Nearmyer. “Come and rest in the hands of your Creator.”
Throughout that entire hour, there was not a moment when the steps in front of the monstrance were not filled with kneeling students and faculty.
“That made my heart so happy,” said Taylor. “Not everyone is in the same place faith-wise, so it’s encouraging to see so many people go up front and make a spiritual and physical connection like that.”
“The students are realizing that Jesus is the well that we have to go back to so we can be refreshed and refilled,” said Baniewicz. “It’s such a concrete example of the faith-life here [at MH-MA].
“Our students are seeking Christ and saying, ‘We want more.’”