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Being 'here' just right for students and their full-time chaplain

If students opt for a little less FaceTime (the app) and a little more face time with Fr. Joseph Bernardo, Pius X High School chaplain, it will be a sign the word is spreading:

"He's here."

Of course, 'here' requires a little defining, but safe to say if he's not in his office in the high school basement he's helping with sacramental and spiritual needs elsewhere in the school. He oversees key spiritual events, such as Mass, confession and adoration.

Students can even find a phone number to safely text him anytime to arrange a face-to-face conversation.

It's Fr. Bernardo's first year as a full-time school chaplain, though he has served as part-time chaplain in the past.

"Having me not teach, if a student needed to come see me, they don’t have to wait for an open period," he said. "If they need me now, I’m here."

Pius X has 13 priests and two sisters teach part- or full-time, and they also help with student spiritual needs.

For Fr. Bernardo, sometimes 'here' means at a sporting event.

Students notice, they thank him, he likes watching a game, and he has a chance to connect with another key audience: parents.

"Go where they are going, and meet them there, and chat with them, or at least they see me there," he said. "So that sense of presence is huge for parents. Sometimes I get parents who come up and ask a question, so it gives them that outlet as well."

Back in school, students continue with their own tough questions, sometimes kept to themselves for too long. They range from wondering what to do about a specific issue, all the way up to their purpose in life.

The questions haven't changed much, he said, even from his own life questions as a student in a Catholic elementary and middle school. He attended a public high school in Guam. Sometimes he needed someone to talk to. Sometimes, he needed silence.

"I think about as great as a school setting is, it can also be a place of anxiety for students," Fr. Bernardo said. "Who knows what they are dealing with in the hallways? So just to have the place in the chapel just to be away from that, to go be in silence and prayer."

Part of the education at Pius HS is preparing students for life. What is more important than finding ways to spiritually grow, develop a habit of finding someone to trust, or a place to pray.

Constant texting, chatting online, connecting but through a screen, all of those routes fail what people really yearn for, Fr. Bernardo said.

"I think it makes them more susceptible to that feeling of loneliness," he said. "So I think that compounds that sense of 'I want that human connection.' They may think they are getting it, but the human heart longs to be connected to people on a one-on-one basis."

That's why he's here.

Pius X • 6000 A St. • Lincoln, NE 68510 • 402-488-0931 • Fax: 402-488-1061

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