For her connection to Bishop Noll Institute and for her lifetime devotion to others, Saint Maria Katharina Kasper was announced as the school’s patron saint during its Catholic Schools Week Mass on Feb. 3.
The Most Rev. Robert J. McClory, bishop of the Diocese of Gary, celebrated an all-school Mass with select Bishop Noll students and staff, along with principals from local Diocesan elementary schools, in attendance. The Mass was also livestreamed to all Bishop Noll students and Diocesan elementary students who could not attend the traditional way due to health and safety guidelines. Bishop McClory introduced the dedication ceremony for the school’s new saint by saying “saints cheer us on, they are with us and inspire us.”
Bishop Noll junior Abigail Wojtaszek and Bishop Noll sophomore Sophia Mendez, BNI representatives on the Diocesan Youth Council and members of the school’s Campus Ministry group, spoke at the podium about how the project began this fall when they wondered why Bishop Noll did not have a patron saint.
“This is something special and momentous for our centennial year,” Wojtasek said. “It took us awhile to get the idea into action - a lot of emailing - but we’re glad it could all be unveiled during Catholic Schools Week.”
Saint Katharina was the foundress of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, the same order that founded Catholic Central High School, now known as Bishop Noll Institute, in 1921. She was born in 1820 in Dernbach, an area that is now in western Germany. She felt the call to her vocation as a child. Upon entering the sisterhood, Katharina built her own house in Dernbach, which eventually became the congregation of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. By 1868, the order had spread across Europe and landed in the United States.
By the time of Katharina’s death in 1898, the Poor Handmaids had 193 houses around the world, with the U.S. Motherhouse in Donaldson, Ind.
Blessed Maria Katharina Kasper was canonized a saint at the Vatican on Oct. 14, 2018. Her feast day is celebrated Feb. 1.
“Besides her ties to BNI, Saint Katharina was selfless and devoted her life to helping the poor,” Wojtaszek said. Bishop Noll is rooted in those same values, which makes it obvious why Saint Katharina was chosen.
“Schools and parishes have patron saints to provide both guidance and a sense of identity,” Wojtaszek said. “It’s our goal that Saint Katharina will be ingrained into every spiritual event we do. We would like her to be invoked during prayer, present at our Masses, and pictured in places in the building. Everything that our feeder schools do for their patron saints, we would like to do for her.”
Wojtaszek added that a patron saint serves as a spiritual role model and somebody who will pray for students.
Saint Katharina was also chosen for her personal qualities demonstrated throughout her life.
“My favorite quality Saint Katharina demonstrated was her perseverance,” Wojtaszek stated. “There were no orders in Germany, so she founded her own. That determination is something I admire.”
Dr. Michele Dvorak, PHJC, attended the Feb. 3 Mass as a representative of the congregation of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ.
Sister Dvorak, a past Bishop Noll board member, a member of Bishop Noll’s Centennial Steering Committee and currently president of Ancilla College, spoke about how Saint Katharina felt compelled to help others even as a child.
“We are delighted and honored that Saint Katharina will be present here in a special way at Bishop Noll. She had a real sensitivity to how much she had and how much she was blessed in her life and how others might not have that same opportunity.”
Sister Dvorak presented gifts from the Poor Handmaids to the Bishop Noll community. The items representing Saint Katharina including baskets of pears and bread similar to those given out by Saint Katharina as a child. Attendees also received a Saint Katharina medallion, framed artwork and a biography of her.
In the future, Bishop Noll’s Campus Ministry plans to incorporate the school’s new patron saint into centennial events, school Masses and functions.
Interestingly, when Catholic Central first opened,
the Poor Handmaids made St. Catherine of Alexandria the girls’ patron saint, and St. Thomas Aquinas as the boys’ patron saint. Following the Poor Handmaids’ departure from CCHS in 1933 and over additional time, however, the acknowledgement of any patron saint
at Bishop Noll eventually disappeared. Additionally, St. Catherine of Alexandria’s feast actually was pulled in 1969 from the General Roman Calendar, though in 2002 it was restored as an optional memorial.