McNicholas returns to in-school masses

On August 30, McNicholas High School celebrated its first in-school mass since February of 2020. The Mass was originally scheduled to take place in Penn Station Stadium, but the location was moved to the Main Gym due to inclement weather.

At the beginning of the 2021 school year, Fr. Kevin Scalf, C.PP.S. was welcomed into McNicholas High School as a faculty member. “I’m a priest of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. It’s a religious order that was founded by Saint Gaspar in Italy in the 19th century…What we’re really about is reconciliation of the whole person in Christ,” Scalf said.

Scalf teaches two sections of dual credit theology to seniors in addition to serving as a priest. “From my first meeting with Mr. Mueller…I felt a great sense of peace because of the wonderful people here; caring, kind, hospitable, humble, bright, and committed to the mission of the school. I believe God was saying to me, if it all works out, this is where I want you. The playful spirit that comes with this place has made it a lot of holy fun,” he said.

When Covid-19 shut down in-person mass across the United States, priests were hard hit by the crisis. “There was an anxiety of the unknown and this feeling of loneliness because we couldn’t be with the people we love, the people we serve,” Scalf said. “That spatial distancing was very challenging, and we found ways to bridge it in a virtual way, but nothing replaces the human.”

 “I’m so glad he’s joined us; I love talking to him and think he’s a great addition to the theology team,” sophomore Audrey Hurlburt said about Fr. Kevin Scalf joining the faculty.

[Fr. Kevin Scalf wishes farewell to the students of McNicholas as they leave the Opening School Mass. Before becoming a priest, Scalf planned on majoring in broadcast journalism, but his plans changed when he beginning teaching religion at Summit Country Day. “I started Kairos there, and social justice activities, liturgy,” Scalf said. “I thought, I don’t know if I want to go into journalism now. I think I want to stay involved in this. But there was something deeper, and it was this nagging tug, and I think God was saying to me that I’d find much deeper fulfillment doing all those things in the future as a priest.”]

When the Mass began, freshmen were led into school by retired history teacher Mr. Frank Lowden on the bagpipes. This has been a tradition at McNicholas High School since 2002.

“It started with Tom Bill, who was principal here at McNicholas,” Lowden said. “It was something that [he] approached me on and asked if it was something I would be willing to do, and I said, ‘yeah, absolutely!’ I thought that was a great idea.”

[Lowden has been playing the bag pipes for almost 30 years. “1992 is when I first took lessons, but my story of the bagpipes goes back a lot farther than that. I’m Scottish by descent, so I was exposed to it from a young age. My mother would go to Nova Scotia… at the border between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, there’s a piper that’s always there. After driving on the road for twenty-three hours, I would make my mom stop there so that we could listen to the bagpiper. From a really young age, I was very taken by the music.”]

The liturgy music was led by Mrs. Sherry McCamley on the piano. “The mass that I did [on August 30] was the first time I sung at McNick,” McCamley said. “The music director at IHM asked if I could do it.”

Liturgical music isn’t the only thing that McCamley loves. “I have been singing and playing piano since I was six years old… when I was a senior in high school I started playing with a rock band, and that’s how I worked my way through college… I’ve written shows, I’ve performed in shows, I’ve music directed, I’ve played piano in pit orchestras… the most recent thing I’ve done was worked with a writing partner to write a show about mental health issues called She’s Crazy: Mental Health and Other Myths.”

McCamley added that performing at mass was a very hopeful experience for her. “I was very impressed with the new priest, Father Kevin, and Jeff Hutchinson, and how serious they are about creating a community environment at this school… I loved the fact that the students actually sang! One of the bad things about being a teenager is that you’re afraid of not looking cool, so lots of times in a group situation nobody will sing, but I thought it was really neat that most of the kids at McNick sang along.”

[Before Covid-19 hit, Independent Music Direct Sherry McCamley had many events scheduled for the upcoming months. “Everything got cancelled- everything just went boom… luckily, a month prior to that, we had done our show at UC, and CET, the local PBS station, had filmed our show… they very generously gave us all the footage, and we started doing virtual shows.” McCamley directed the music for McNick’s Opening School Mass.]

In the 2020-2021 school year, masses were replaced with small worshipping services that took place during C.R.E.W. “I think we recognized the capacity for the crew to be a space of intentional faith-building and prayer,” Theology teacher Mr. Jeff Hutchinson said. “We also don’t want that to be the only space we use. Some of that is going to depend on the larger realities around Covid transmission. There could be a moment where we decide that it works for all of our student body to be in the sanctuary at Guardian Angels this year. Looking at the realities on the ground right now, that seems pretty far off.”

The entire school gathered in the main gym for the second Mass of the school year on September 20, and will again join as a community to celebrate Mass on Oct. 4.  

[For the first Mass of the school year, students were split up into two groups; the freshmen and seniors went to mass first, while sophomores and juniors attended later in the school day. Junior Harlan Mulvey said, “I enjoyed the mass at the gym. It was very spacious. I enjoyed having two class grades per mass. I would also enjoy having mass outside.”]

All photos courtesy of Visual Arts teacher Bea Gardner

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