From St. Mary’s School to Seminarian

Please enjoy the following guest story submitted to us a family in O’Neill, Nebraska, in response to our ongoing series about the work our local Catholic schools do in bringing students and families closer to Christ.

“It has become a tradition in our family that whenever we leave town on any kind of a road trip, my husband, Kevin removes his ball cap and leads us in The Memorare, asking Mary to intercede for in safety on our travels. We didn’t always do that. In fact, we didn’t even know that prayer until our sons Luke and Kyle started school at St. Mary’s. This school prayer is prayed in unison in bus, van, or school car whenever there is a ball game, speech meet, retreat, or any other school activity is attended. What a blessing that prayer has been to our lives of faith! This is just one example of the impact the Catholic School has had on our lives.

When we first moved to O’Neill in 2003, we had enrolled the boys in the public grade school, but were active in St. Patrick’s Parish Community and the CCD programs. It was only a matter of time before the priests pursued our family and strongly encouraged us to consider sending the boys to St. Mary’s. An addiction problem was slowly tearing our family apart. One evening in the summer, before school started, some families from the Parish and St. Mary’s School came over and personally invited us to ‘pray about it.’ We knew we needed some kind of a change, for the sake of our little family. By God’s grace, He led us to discern what His will was for us. That fall the boys began 6th and 7th grade at St. Mary’s. Prayer came alive again in our home, beautiful friendships developed, and the boys, Kyle especially, had taken an interest in establishing his own prayer time with Jesus. He had some good spiritual direction from the priests and found the truth to some answers he had been wrestling with. As a 6th grader, he had the opportunity of playing football on the playground with the young associate priest. He recalls thinking ‘Wow, he is pretty cool’ and that priests are just ‘regular people.’ Little did we know that the seeds of a possible priestly vocation were being planted. It was a bit more difficult for Luke to ‘fit in’ at first, but let’s face it; junior high is just tough no matter where you are. The beauty of private Catholic Schools is the smaller class sizes and personal attention from the teachers. Luke eventually made friends ‘with everyone’ and junior high seemed more bearable.

As we all grew stronger in our faith, the sacraments became more and more important as we could see the Lord moving and working in our lives. Daily prayer read over the intercom and weekly school masses and reconciliation opportunities helped keep things in perspective. I could see changes in the boys. I saw commitment to excel in all areas, especially in holiness as they began to choose better movies to watch and music to listen to. I will never forget the day Kyle introduced me to the Litany of Humility or when he taught Kevin the difference between objective truth and subjective truth. We’ve learned so much from our boys!

I recall both Luke and Kyle studying The Salvation Story from a great priest and learning about the Bible from our sons. The many required retreats they attended were very influential in emphasizing the beauty, respect and dignity of each person as a gift from God.  The Theology of the Body segment taught to seniors further accentuated that truth. I believe this helped Luke and Kyle establish healthy boundaries with the females in their lives, and to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.

I mentioned earlier that the smaller class sizes made it possible to form strong, wholesome friendships and those relationships have been maintained. Now they are all going to each other’s weddings and keeping in touch incessantly on social media. Just recently, Luke received a letter in grad school from his high school English teacher. She had heard ‘through the grapevine’ that he could use some words of encouragement so she wrote him a letter. There was profound respect that Luke and Kyle had for their teachers and that respect has developed into some lasting friendships as adults. Kyle checks in with one of his favorite teachers who ‘hooks him up with’ the newest edition to a Sci-Fi series he likes to read.

Unity and service to one another in our family, parish, school and community was, and still is,  greatly emphasized at St. Mary’s School. I can recall volunteering with several service projects, helping at retreats, cooking for class meals, collaborating with the public school and hosting the post prom festivities together and gathering for Community Rosary to pray as ONE Church. Kevin and I have both grown tremendously in our own faith individually and as a married couple. We have climbed out of our comfort zone and began our walk of discipleship with the Lord by working with youth groups in our home and organizing a Vocations Ministry at St Patrick’s’ Church. Life was interrupted, by Jesus Christ when His Holy Spirit guided the many people we’ve met along the way to help shape each of us into His disciples and they continue to equip us with weapons and armor for the journey.

Catholic School Education has changed our lives in so many ways; I could share pages of our experiences. As I conclude, I know I speak for my whole family when I say how thankful and blessed we are to have had the opportunity to send our children to a Catholic School. Amidst all the challenges and struggles in life, the foundation of faith is what ‘holds you up’ when life starts to crumble. That rock of faith foundation is continually supported by drawing on prayer, service, friendships, and especially that loving relationship with the Lord; all of which was ignited early on when we trusted God and enrolled at St. Mary’s School. Thank you for this opportunity to reminisce and to once again thank God for this wonderful blessing!” – Jodi Loecker

Editor’s note: Kyle Loecker is currently a seminarian and serving the students at St. Stephen the Martyr in Omaha, Nebraska.

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