GREEN BAY — St. John Paul II Classical School students, faculty and family members witnessed a special celebration following the school Mass at St. Philip the Apostle Church on the morning of Nov. 7.
Fr. John Girotti called forward third- grader Ella Bergeron and her sister, Willow, a second-grader, for baptism.
“This is the most important day of your life,” said Fr. Girotti to the girls prior to the rite of baptism. “You are going to receive the gift of God into your life.
“Everything Jesus did for us … all of that is going to be given to you,” he added.
Fr. Girotti noted that unlike their classmates who were baptized as babies, the sisters will remember this day. That was the intent, said their father, Ben Bergeron.
“We’ve been waiting for them to get older so they would understand it and decide if they wanted to pursue this,” he said. “We just wanted to wait to see if it was the path they wanted. They were able to understand it and answer the questions themselves.”
Fr. Girotti explained the significance of the water and the use of the oil of catechumens and oil of Chrism. Willow was baptized first.
“They are very close, just one grade apart, so we thought it made sense to do it together,” said Ben.
The family belongs to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in De Pere. Ella and Willow started at St. John Paul Classical School last year. Baptism is covered as part of catechesis at the school.
“We run Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which is a Montessori-based faith formation for the children where they can touch, see, smell and hear the mysteries of our faith,” explained teacher Jenny Johns, who leads the program.
“We talk about the water, the garment, the oil and the gestures that Father prays,” she added. “Every year at Easter time, it’s a full group celebration. We celebrate the liturgy of the light in the atrium. Then we move right into the baptism presentation.”
Ella and Willow understood that the other children “have that risen light of Jesus burning in them” and wanted it, explained Johns. The girls prayed that their parents would say “yes” when they told them they were ready for baptism. Their classmates were supportive, added Johns. She appreciated that the other students were able to share in the special moment.
“What a teaching moment for these children,” said Johns. “Like Father said, it happens when we are this tiny baby. We don’t remember (our baptisms), but to be a part of this great gift and to realize that these are the same gifts that we received is a joy.”
Fr. Girotti, who was personally invited by the family to baptize the girls, welcomed the two newest members of the church, which drew loud applause.
“They were a little nervous to share it with all their friends, but I think it turned out really well,” said their mother Ashley. “They were happy to have all their friends here.”