When Campus Minister John Fyrqvist asks the 50 second, third, and fourth grade students who come to the after-school Chiara Luce Badano Club at Cathedral School of St. Matthew in South Bend, “Why are we here?”, their answer is loud and enthusiastic. “To become saints!”
The club was the brainchild of a fourth-grader, Lucy Lauck. In second grade, Lucy was already meeting with some of her friends to say the rosary during recess. Although there were many extracurricular opportunities for middle school students, she thought primary students too should be able to grow their faith. This fall, she approached Principal Sister Gianna Marie Webber, OSF. Always eager to foster faith formation in her students and deepen the school’s Catholic identity, Sister Gianna Marie invited Lucy and her friend Adelynn Triest to brainstorm with Fyrqvist. That’s the genesis of the club.
They met for an hour after school every Monday during the fall semester. Rather than starting big and losing momentum, the gathering consistently drew 40 or 50 students, about half of those enrolled in those grades. Faculty advisers include Mrs. Mary Lauck, Ms. Gisella Mancini, and Mrs. Kathy McMillen, who teach those three grades. There are also middle school helpers. The focus is Marian, although other saints are presented and invoked, especially on their feast days.
Lucy says one of her objectives was to learn more about Blessed Chiara Luce [“Clear Light”] Badano, who died of a rare bone cancer as a teenager in 1990. As a young girl, Chiara gave many of her favorite things to the poor. She joined the Focolare movement when she was only 9; its founder, Servant of God Chiara Lubich, gave her the middle name Luce in recognition of the light the older Chiara saw radiating from her. Members of the Chiara Luce Badano Club have written a play about her which they hope to present to the whole school during the second semester.
Besides praying together, members of the Chiara Club have made their own rosaries and participated in Living Rosaries, where each is assigned one of the mysteries to pray every day. Their pastor, Father Terry Fisher, blessed the rosaries, and students also got to touch them to a relic of the True Cross. They’ve held a baby shower for Mother Mary, with items donated to the Women’s Care Center. For the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the older students acted out the story of Juan Diego’s encounter with the Virgin Mary. They hope to learn about and present other Marian apparitions from different parts of the world. Intercessory prayer is another focus, with petitions ranging from the war in Ukraine to the recovery of ailing relatives.
Lucy, the oldest of five daughters of Anthony and Mary Lauck, can’t remember a time when she didn’t pray the rosary, which her dad helps keep track of on his phone. Besides grace before meals, her family prays the guardian angel prayer at bedtime, and she has now added a decade of the rosary, meditating on her particular mystery, the Nativity. After Mass every Sunday, the Laucks spend time with their Cavidini grandparents, which includes formal evening prayer. “My grandfather, John Cavidini, is really connected with God,” Lucy testifies. Her godmother gave her a children’s Bible for her birthday, and she often reads Gospel accounts to her younger siblings.
The Cathedral School of St. Matthew is unique in having a full-time campus minister as well as a part-time assistant, Paul Cline. Fyrqvist’s other responsibilities include planning retreats, pilgrimages for each grade, and sacramental liturgies. Weekly clubs he advises for older students include St. Philip Neri Club, in which seventh- and eighth-graders combine faith formation and service in such ministries as Our Lady of the Road, and Young Vincentians, who help the parish St. Vincent de Paul Society. Mission Fridays include time for adoration, sacred music, and faith sharing in small groups. Every grade has a time on Friday for adoration, and the whole school is present for Benediction at 2:30. As parish Director of Religious Education, Fyrqvist also instructs people — including grade school students — who want to enter the Catholic Church.
Because the faculty have other after-school responsibilities second semester, the Chiara Club will only be meeting once a month, but Fyrqvist is visiting every classroom to assess interest in lunchtime opportunities which may include learning Latin, a debate team, and a St. John Paul II acting troupe.
“I get to participate in such a joyful part of life at St. Matthew’s!” exclaims Fyrqvist.
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