By Lizzie DeWispelare, Aquinas junior
DAVID CITY (SNR) – Bishop James Conley traveled to Aquinas High School in David City Jan. 17 to visit with the campus missionaries organization.
The campus missionaries faith-based group has been present at Aquinas for 12 years. It was started during the 2004-2005 school year by Father Joseph Steele, pastor of Presentation Parish in Bellwood and seventh-grade religion teacher. Father Steele said he wanted to do something more than teach.
“[It] started with some parents who approached me about it, and I had a few kids interested,” he said. The group began meeting at the home of Mark and Willow Holoubek, whose children attended Aquinas. They meet now in the chapel meeting room, at 7 p.m. Sundays. It is open to freshmen through seniors, and about 12-25 students attend each week for various activities. According to Steele, the campus missionaries organization has morphed over the years from bonfire meetings to more group discussions.
Sister Ann Marie Zierke, M.S., who teaches freshman and eighth-grade religion, as well as junior English, was invited, with Sister Karen Marie Wilson, M.S. to assist with the group when they were assigned to Aquinas.
“We have prayer time, social time and learning time where we learn different aspects of our faith,” she said.
“We sometimes have guests like seminarians, priests, sisters and even Bishop Conley.”
Senior Allison Pokorny, who joined her sophomore, pointed out that the meetings end with Night Prayer.
“I like being able to grow in my faith with my fellow students,” she said.
Sister Anne Marie added, “I like to see the interaction between the grade levels, and I like to see the kids get excited about aspects of their faith.”
These are precisely the goals of the organization, according to Father Steele. He wanted to “allow students to grow in their faith outside the classroom, with friends supporting each other and creating a spiritual culture of peers.”
Pokorny said it is important to have a group like this at Aquinas “because we need to build a foundation for our faith.”
The campus missionaries are now led by senior religion teacher Father Benjamin Holdren, who is also pastor of St. Peter and St. Joseph parishes in Bellwood. Father Steele, Sister Anne Marie and Sister Karen Marie also continue to assist, and sixth-grade religion teacher Father Corey Harrison, assistant pastor at St. Mary Church in David City, is also part of the team.
“I think it’s a blessing to have three priests and two religious sisters at a group like this,” Sister Anne Marie said. “This availability is uncommon, so the Aquinas students should take advantage.”
“It was really a blessing to spend time with the campus missionaries at Aquinas,” Bishop Conley said. “These are a great group of kids. I was glad to be able to talk with them, and to experience their commitment to being missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.
“I’m very proud of them,” he continued, “and I’m very grateful for the sisters, priests, teachers, and parents who are forming them in the faith.”
Aquinas serves 174 high school students and 123 middle school students. The school is supported by 13 area parishes.