Future glimpsed at Marquette Academy Unity Mass in Ottawa

Photo Caption: Members of the Marquette Academy Class of 2022 from St. Columba’s and St. Patrick’s Schools in Ottawa stand around the new school’s shield.

By: Jennifer Willems

OTTAWA — As Catholic Schools Week ended, the students from St. Columba’s School, St. Patrick’s School and Marquette High School here filled St. Columba’s Church to celebrate a beginning — the beginning of Marquette Academy.

The new configuration, which will enroll students in preschool through high school and use buildings on all three campuses, officially takes effect next fall. The Unity Mass on Feb. 5 was designed to give students a glimpse into that future and help them start the process of getting to know one another.

Father David Kipfer, pastor of St. Columba’s Parish and celebrant for the Mass, greeted them warmly, along with their teachers, administrators and parents, and reminded them that unity is not a foreign concept to people of faith.

“We come together knowing we are already one in Christ,” he said. “We are members of his church. We are members of his body.”

During his homily, Father Philip Halfacre honored what has been and invited the students to anticipate what will be.

Asking the seniors to stand, he recognized them as the last graduating class of Marquette High School. He also asked the eighth-graders from St. Columba’s and St. Patrick’s to stand, noting that they were the last graduating classes of their schools.

Each group received prolonged applause, but it didn’t end there.
Father Halfacre then asked the juniors to stand and be recognized as the first graduating class of Marquette Academy.

Finally, looking far into the future, he asked the kindergartners from St. Patrick’s and St. Columba’s to rise. “You can’t tell, but they are standing up,” he quipped before calling them the Marquette Academy Class of 2022.
At the end of Mass, Father Kipfer said Father Halfacre was another symbol of the past and future of Catholic education in Ottawa as the last president of the pastor’s board of Marquette High School and the first president of the pastor’s board of Marquette Academy.

Referring to the first line of Psalm 133, Father Halfacre said it was good for the school communities to be together and to be together in the name of the Lord.

“I don’t think this has ever happened before — at least not in my memory — where all of the students of Marquette and all of the students of St. Columba and all of the students of St. Patrick and just those three schools were together for a Mass,” said the priest, who is also pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish.

“Why are we here today? We are here because we are celebrating and we are here because we are a family,” he said. “All three schools are celebrating together because our three schools are coming together.”
While they prayed for unity — and dressed for unity by wearing gray t-shirts emblazoned with the new school logo — Father Halfacre said true unity is not something that humans can create.

“We receive it as a gift from God,” he said, reminding them of Jesus’ prayer from John’s Gospel that “all may be one, as you Father are in me and I am in you. . . . That all may be one as we are one.”

“We gather today to be thankful, to celebrate and to pray,” Father Halfacre said. “Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Catholic education. May it continue in Ottawa for many years to come. And make us one in your spirit, one with each other and one with you.”

After praying together, the students from St. Patrick’s and St. Columba’s played together, sharing snacks and participating in various ice breakers at St. Columba’s School. The building will house the children in grades one through eight in the fall, while the preschoolers and kindergartners will attend classes in the early education building on St. Patrick’s campus.

Students in grades nine and above will continue to use the building now known as Marquette High School.

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