By LINDA BEHRENS
This year, Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo is “On a Mission.”
This is the theme they are embracing school wide.
“‘On a Mission’ can take many different forms,” says Scott Ruppel, campus minister and music director at Gibault.
“Some students could be on a mission to get a good grade on an upcoming test. Others might be on a mission to set a record in their sport. Our seniors may be on a mission to be accepted into their choice college.”
Ruppel adds, “All of us at Gibault are on a mission to strengthen our relationship with God, to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, and to serve the poor and needy in our community and abroad.”
Ruppel says that a strategic plan was developed at the school several years ago, and Catholic Identity was one of five committees established.
A theme is developed each year and used through lesson plans, daily prayer and petitions. This year’s theme is “On a Mission.” Previous years’ themes were “Life” for respect for all life and “Stronger Together” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Stronger together was important during the changing time of the pandemic because of losses for the student body,” Ruppel says. “But it also meant we were stronger together as a school community, as part of Southern Illinois and our country and the human race.”
He adds, “We are people of God, and God made us for community.”
“On a Mission” was developed to continue building on the messages from the first two years and as a direct tie to the mission statement for the school: “Gibault Catholic High School is a Catholic educational community, celebrates the dignity and uniqueness of every person, cultivates lifelong learning and the pursuit of excellence, fosters faith, inspires commitment to justice and service, and works to develop a life-affirming relationship to the world.”
The students recite the mission statement every Monday morning as part of prayer and announcements.
“The Catholic identity of our school is always in the forefront,” says Michelle Miskell, freshmen religion teacher and member of the school’s Catholic Identity committee. “It connects us. We are all on a mission as Jesus calls us to do.”
She adds, “The more we learn about Jesus’ life, ministry, mission, death and Resurrection, the more we are prepared to serve with the same self-giving love we know in Jesus.”
The “On a Mission” campaign began Oct. 7 at their Founder’s Day Mass, in honor of Father Edwin Hustedde.
“This was the perfect way to start this campaign,” Ruppel says, “because it was Father Hustedde’s mission to make Gibault what it is today.”
When Gibault opened in 1967, Father Hustedde introduced students and parents to flexible modular scheduling, the Learning Center and innovative ways of empowering students to take responsibility for their education.
Gibault is Father Hustedde’s legacy, the embodiment of what he thought learning should be and the great promise of what he believed every student could become, as explained on the school’s website.
Recently all Gibault’s religion classes took time to reflect on the mission of the Martyrs of Charity and pray.
“We learned how these women served those in great need in Liberia, offering medical services, education and community support,” Miskell says. “The selfless giving of these Adorers of the Precious Blood, who were murdered in October 1992, are humbling and inspiring.”
Future plans to incorporate the theme will involve Bishop Michael McGovern’s encouragement to practice discernment, seeking to understand where God is calling each one of us.
“We will do this through scripture, prayer and discussion. We also plan to look at personal mission statements to help us focus on the direction we are headed,” Miskell explains.
Father Nick Fleming is the campus chaplain at Gibault.
“Father Fleming has taken every opportunity to connect our ‘On a Mission’ theme to our liturgies, classroom discussions and teacher meetings. These moments are inspiring and motivating,” Miskell adds.
Principal Steve Kidd has plans to build fellowship and spiritual growth with the teachers and staff, which will bless their mission to serve the students, families and communities.
“He plans to lead teachers in discussion of a Matthew Kelly book titled Life is Messy, that will lift us in our faith and help us understand each other in our own challenges and joys in a more personal and supportive way,” Miskell says.
Gibault offers many clubs for the students, some of which are faith focused, such as Campus Ministry, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Students for Life.
The Campus Ministry group is new this year. The focus so far is on setting up the chapel for Masses, but they will be working toward how to incorporate the mission theme into liturgies.
Two of the club’s members are Faith Miskell and Grant Higgerson, both 17, from Waterloo and seniors at Gibault. They both also are members of Students for Life, and Grant is active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“We hope Campus Ministry will help students with faith and spiritual needs,” Faith says, “along with helping with liturgies.”
Grant feels the “On a Mission” campaign is an important message at Gibault.
“It’s important to serve our school community, to be active at school and our local community. To carry the mission of Christ throughout the world,” he says. “It’s our mission to spread the word of God, even in classes like math and science.”
One of the ways students at Gibault provide mission is through service hours. Each student is required to perform 10 hours of service each school year, in places such as schools, hospitals or animal shelters.
The seniors take three weeks beginning in late February and around Lent to provide service in the community. It starts with a Mass and ends with a welcome back prayer service.
“Besides providing service, the students write in a journal and are given prayers and spiritual work to do during this time,” Miskell says.
“When Bishop McGovern met with teachers recently,” Ruppel says, “he stressed the importance of Catholic identity in our schools. He said we need to raise the visibility of our schools and to work together. We must make this a priority.”
Gibault’s “On a Mission” campaign is just one way to do that.