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Making Saints

Schools in the Diocese of Lansing exist to form scholars and saints who grow in relationship with Jesus Christ. Patrick Brennan has overseen spiritual development at both Powers Catholic High in Flint and, now, Lansing Catholic High School.

“I encountered God.”  

These are not the words of a long-ago saint or a well-known theologian. These are the words of a Lansing Catholic High School (LCHS) ninth grader who testified to personally meeting the Lord on a recent class retreat. 

When students come to Lansing Catholic as freshmen, the school’s priority is to offer them a real relationship with God. To provide these life-changing encounters, Lansing Catholic sends all its freshman students on a three-day retreat at the Damascus Catholic Mission Campus in Centerburg, Ohio. The retreat helps students come to know Jesus more personally through small group prayer, eucharistic worship, and powerful testimonies. One freshman described his experience this way: “I’ve grown so much in God. I learned how to talk to him. I learned what he’s really like. I learned what he liked about me … and that he’ll forgive me and anyone else for anything.”  

By personally encountering the reality of God in the first year of high school, our hope is that students will be much more likely to joyfully study and practice their faith through high school and beyond. 

Following this freshman retreat experience, students have opportunities to attend other significant overnight retreats and mission trips throughout high school. These “kairos” experiences are meant to give students additional significant encounters with God, so their “faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor 2:5) 

At this year’s upperclassman Kairos retreat, one student experienced being “overcome with overwhelming peace” from the Holy Spirit, while another student testified to hearing God call her his “cherished and beloved child.”  

Through these additional retreat experiences, students come to know the multiple ways that God can communicate himself to them personally. Father Joe Campbell, the chaplain at Lansing Catholic, said that “the biggest blessing of being a chaplain is accompanying students as they encounter Jesus, sometimes for the first time, in retreats and other spiritual formation events here at school. I love seeing lives touched by Jesus.”

While faith can grow substantially through retreat experiences, students also need opportunities for ongoing spiritual growth throughout the school year. This ongoing formation begins with an emphasis on the sacraments. Every Lansing Catholic student attends Mass and Eucharistic Adoration on a weekly basis. An average of 60–70 students per week also receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

All Lansing Catholic students complete a required theology curriculum, but there are also many students who desire spiritual formation beyond the required classes. Two years ago, the school began offering an optional Christian Leadership course. What began with six students has now grown to 34 students, and an Advanced Christian Leadership course also has been added. These courses combine human, spiritual, and pastoral formation to complement the intellectual study of the faith received in other courses. Students are immersed in a variety of spiritual practices, including how to recognize the voice of God in prayer, how to give their personal Christian testimony, and how to lead a small group. 

Another formation initiative that has experienced tremendous growth at Lansing Catholic is Discipleship Group. This group involves 30 to 40 students who meet before school to support one another in the call to discipleship. The weekly meetings provide students with a sense of community that they may have previously experienced only during retreats. Students participate regularly in small group fellowship, prayer ministry, and praise and worship. As students have experienced what it looks like to follow Jesus together, Discipleship Group has become an important source of encouragement for students to be active witnesses of the faith within and beyond the halls of LCHS.

There are many recent examples of joyful witness to the faith from Lansing Catholic. Nearly 30 LCHS students led the Michigan March for Life in November, walking in unison through downtown Lansing. Another powerful witness are the six students and staff members who are choosing to become Catholic or complete their Sacraments of Initiation into the Church this year. 

In addition, the school currently has three alumni who are studying for the priesthood within the Diocese of Lansing. 

Lansing Catholic’s president, Dominic Iocco, is convinced that the recent spiritual growth witnessed from this school community is only the beginning of what God has in mind. 

“God has big plans for this school and for our diocese as a whole. But ultimately, our spiritual growth is completely dependent upon receiving God’s abundant grace,” he said. “And we’ve seen what can happen when students are willing to receive all that God has to offer them through a Catholic education.”