Hardest lesson, well learned

We’re nearing the end of a year which began in our diocese with a call from Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, to focus on the brevity of life. “I would propose that all of us in the Church of Peoria not only strive to more deliberately remember the reality of death, but also to reclaim the comforting richness of our Catholic tradition and spirituality,” he wrote in his 2008 Festival Letter, later updated as a pastoral letter.

The reality of death was a hard lesson learned at several Catholic schools this year. Longtime inspirational Alleman High School softball coach Jim Appelman died in October at the age of 38 after a battle with stomach cancer. This week’s Catholic Student section tells how the young students of St. Malachy’s School aided Brad Schoon as the popular Geneseo High School teacher was dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

And the football team of Central Catholic High School in Bloomington dedicated its state championship season to two beloved boosters, Dr. Gary Johnson and Chuck Schanaberger, who both died suddenly in 2008.

The death of Schanaberger, Central Catholic’s development director, came just days before the Saints played in the state quarterfinals. On game day, not only was the traditional pre-game Mass at Central Catholic offered for Schanaberger, according to Father Patrick Henehan, chaplain, but so was the pre-game Mass at the school of their opponents, Quincy Notre Dame. The Catholic school rival earned the Saints’ “utmost respect” for that gesture, said Father Henehan.

It was just one of many powerful lessons in “the comforting richness of our Catholic tradition and spirituality” experienced in and out of our schools this year. — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief, The Catholic Post

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