PERRYVILLE, Md. — The school Mass was more than your typical liturgy at Church of the Good Shepherd on Jan. 23.
“The Holy Spirit does provide,” said Sinead Boyd, principal at Good Shepherd Catholic School.
It was a Mass to recognize the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.
It was also a special day for the students at Good Shepherd and most particularly one little first-grade girl.
Kennedy Elliott, 7, was baptized during the Mass by the pastor, Father Jay McKee, after asking her mom if she could be baptized at a Mass with her friends at school.
“It’s really cool that it was that day because through the sacrament of baptism we start our new life in our journey with the Lord in a special way,” Boyd said. “How it came about? It’s a Holy Spirit thing. Her parents had asked for her to be baptized at a school Mass. We pray for people from conception to natural death on that day.”
Part of the impetus for Kennedy to want to be baptized was being enrolled in the Catholic school where kids in second grade receive first communion and first graders also begin preparing for the Holy Eucharist.
“I think that was probably a piece that propelled that,” Boyd said, adding that she was not surprised this happy little girl wanted to be baptized. “She is so joyful all the time. I think receiving your sacraments will bring a special kind of joy.”
Father McKee credits the atmosphere at the school.
“It’s a very family-oriented, supportive community and tight-knit community. It just makes it conducive for a child to witness that closeness and seeing the excitement of her classmates when they come to church, and in the playground and in the classroom, and I think it is what inspired her to want to be baptized and want to join the church. I think that’s all part of it.” said Father McKee.
It was a special morning at church for the students.
“On top of that, our seventh graders planned this Mass,” Boyd said. “They developed the liturgy. They wrote the call to worship, they wrote the petitions, and they worked with Father Jay in planning the liturgy and they carried out the roles.”
Boyd said Kennedy’s parents are supportive of their only child’s effort.
“Her mom volunteers in our lunchroom, they come to events, they’ve been homeroom parents. They’re very supportive of Good Shepherd School.”
Kennedy’s mom, Amy, is a lifelong Catholic who attended Catholic school for 13 years. The family lives in North East, Md. Her husband, Kenneth, grew up Baptist and has been supportive of Kennedy’s yearning for the Catholic faith.
The family is happy to have this experience together, she said.
“I didn’t have her baptized as a baby, but she’s all in. She loves everything about the church. She saw last year one of the kids getting baptized and she asked if she had been baptized. I was planning it and she said, ‘Well, can I get baptized at school?’”
“She’s very excited about it to be baptized in front of all of her friends. She even invited her gym teacher to come and watch. She’s 100 percent in.”
Kennedy has been to church with family and knew the young kids were preparing for first communion.
Kennedy’s aunt is her godmother, and many families and friends joined the students witnessing the baptism.
And it all happened the week before Catholic Schools Week is celebrated in the Diocese of Wilmington and across the nation.
“I think it means a lot to her,” Kennedy’s mom said of her daughter being part of the Catholic school in Perryville. “The small classes are great. She loves being with all of her friends.
“Catholic school is a big thing for me because of values. I feel that you have to give a kid a good core. Core education, core faith and then let them decide when they get older, but she needed a good core to figure out what she wants to do later in life, and I personally believe that’s what Catholic schools are all about — to give people a good core.”
Father McKee was happy for the sacrament to be delivered at the school Mass, and it’s not a first for him.
“It’s exciting,” said Father McKee, who has seen similar situations play out in 16 years leading the parish. “The first time it happened, the parents were not baptized, nor are they Catholic, but the children wanted to come into the church because of the atmosphere in the school and the environment.”
“The witness of your classmates. Just seeing that interaction on a day-to-day basis has an influence,” he said. “The church’s influence is amazing, just seeing the children cooperate with each other. Faculty for the most part express their faith … and really appreciate the fact that they’re working in an environment that is conducive to them being able to express their faith and to live it out.
“And to spread that faith to the children.”