“Baccalaureate Services Groups composed of interested students and their families may plan and organize baccalaureate services that are religious in nature. However, the school district shall not be identified, explicitly of [sic] implicitly, as sponsoring or endorsing such services. Attendance at such services shall be entirely voluntary with students and school personnel acting as private individuals.”
No, this does not come from the Seton Handbook. This is the announcement that appeared in the Wiggins School District RE-50J Board of Education monthly newsletter, May 2013.
I don’t know if this evidence of increased secularization is much of a retreat from 38 years ago when I graduated from WHS. We had baccalaureate the night before our graduation. I honestly didn’t know exactly what it was supposed to be, but it was taken for granted that all the graduates would be there. It was proposed to us by our principal as primarily a sort of practice or prep for graduation. We dressed in our caps and gowns and processed into the gym. Rather than march onto the stage as we would the next night, we sat in the front row of folding metal chairs on the gym floor.
I was aware that our parish priest was going to say something. (The various pastors of the different denominations in Wiggins rotated doing this.) So, I must have had some idea that it was religious, but mostly I thought of it as a trial run for graduation.
What I remember best is that whoever was #3 GPA-wise in the class would do a Scripture reading. (This was another clue that baccalaureate was somehow religious.) #3 was my best friend Paul Schneider. Paul is no longer just Paul. He is now an ordained priest with the Franciscan Friars, Father Paul Mary. His ordination took place last Saturday in Milwaukee, his first Mass was Trinity Sunday, and he will again be reading Scripture to a gathered crowd of Wigginites this Sunday when he says a Mass of thanksgiving on Corpus Christi at Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
Back to baccalaureate. The greatest change in the event from 38 years ago is the School District RE50-J’s (I’ve never understood what that all means.) disassociation from the event. If there is any suggestion of something religious, a school district has to make it explicitly, not just implicitly, clear that it has nothing to do with it. Private individuals, acting independently from the school, can have something to do with it, but we all must realize that this is just a personal thing and not to be interpreted as the district supporting anything religious. There has to be a safe buffer zone between God and a tax funded public school.
“Drug Free Zone” signs outside of public schools are always suspicious, especially since contraceptives are promoted within the classrooms. “God Free Zone” might be posted and desired, but metaphysically we know that this “ideal” is impossible no matter how much of an effort is made to forbid God entering through the doors of the school. (Each human visitor must first check in at the office and wear a visitor placard strung from his neck. However, God is not allowed to wander around the halls even if He were to agree to the placard.)
The Moore Oklahoma grade school teacher during the tornado “did the teacher thing” and “did what she was not supposed to”. She prayed aloud.
Do we think that there might be a new sort of sign posted outside the rebuilt Moore grade school? Maybe it could say, “Not allowed: aloud praying except in case of life-threatening tornados or other natural or man-made disturbances.” But maybe there would need to be the exemption added on: “If such prayer is raised in such circumstances, please note that the individuals are acting as private citizens and in no way officially represent the Moore School District.”
That’s too much of a sign. Maybe those in Moore and everywhere else should take for granted that God is present and ready to listen in every corner of every public school.
And certainly we can be grateful that in the halls of Seton, He is acknowledge every day in His ubiquity; in His presence within the souls of its inhabitants and most especially in His Eucharistic presence.
Blessed Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.