For Catholic school students, wearing a mask is a way to imitate Jesus’ sacrifice

Erica Johnson, an eighth-grader at St. Mary Elementary School in Mount Clemens, is one of thousands of students across the Archdiocese of Detroit required to wear a mask throughout the school day. While Johnson admits it’s uncomfortable, “Jesus was thinking of us when he died and sacrificed himself,” she said. “We live out our sacrifice to protect others by wearing our mask.” (Photos by Michelle Samartino | Special to Detroit Catholic)

Face coverings have taken some getting used to, but students are proud to #DoItForHim: ‘It’s nowhere near the sacrifice Jesus made for us’

During September and October, Detroit Catholic is asking readers to prayerfully consider a gift to the Catholic Services Appeal, which funds more than 170 ministries vital to the Church in southeast Michigan, including this publication. Visit to support the mission by making a gift today. We are grateful for your generosity and prayers.

MADISON HEIGHTS — Several weeks after Catholic school students across the Archdiocese of Detroit returned to the classroom, students are getting used to the new safety protocols — including wearing masks.

Sabrina Causley, a senior at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights, was among those who thought wearing a mask for her seven 50-minute classes would be challenging, but “it’s actually quite easy,” she said. 

“I often forget it is on my face during class, and it no longer bothers me,” Causley told Detroit Catholic. “In the beginning, I was afraid the masks would be uncomfortable or hot.”

While students at the high school and elementary levels say wearing masks all day has been a challenge, it’s one many students are embracing as a way to live out their faith.

Bishop Foley High School senior Sabrina Causley wears her mask while taking notes during class.

“We have to wear it to achieve the normal we all want back,” said Cameron Behnke, a fellow Foley student, who admits he doesn’t prefer to wear it. “I am willing to do my part in the Bishop Foley community by wearing a mask to keep myself, my classmates and our staff safe and healthy.” 

In a September letter to Catholic school families and staff, archdiocesan schools superintendent Kevin Kijewski underscored how Catholic schools are working together to keep everyone safe. Kijewski encouraged students and staff to keep their faith in mind as a reason for keeping up with the protocols. 

Kijewski’s letter encouraged schools to show their spirit and masks on social media using the hashtag #DoItForHim.

“We all recognize some of these protocols can be inconvenient and even uncomfortable at times,” Kijewski said. “Amid all of this, we are called to exercise the virtues of honesty, temperance, fortitude, prudence, patience, and kindness.” 

By adhering to school safety measures, such as wearing a mask, “we offer protection to all members of our respective school communities and their households. This protection primarily benefits the ‘least ones,’ those who may have an increased risk during the pandemic — our parents, siblings, and dear friends who are not at our schools,” Kijewski said.

“What we do for these least ones, we do for Christ.”

Bishop Foley junior Cameron Behnke said wearing a mask isn’t something he prefers, but he understands the greater good and is willing to sacrifice to keep his classmates and teachers safe. 

For Behnke, the Bishop Foley junior, it’s been a worthwhile reminder. 

“Our sacrifice for wearing the mask is nothing compared to what Jesus’ sacrifice was for us,” Behnke said. “In some way, it relates to how Jesus died for us on the cross because this mask is a small inconvenience for us compared to what God had to do to defeat sin and to give us heaven.” 

At St. Lawrence School in Utica, eighth-grader Peter Tocco is required to wear his mask all day, except when he is eating lunch. It’s been challenging at times, “but I am getting used to it,” he said.

“I can’t say I have fully adjusted to it yet,” Tocco said. “I have asthma, so it makes it more difficult to breathe with a mask on at school, and especially at football.”

When given the perspective of Jesus’ sacrifice, though, it opened a new interpretation for Tocco. “It was nowhere near the sacrifice Jesus made for us,” he said. “He died on the cross to save us from our sins.”

Lower elementary students at St. Lawrence are required to wear a mask, but kindergarten classmates Mario Catalano and Alyssa Pintar say it’s not so bad, after all. 

Kindergarten students Alyssa Pintar and Mario Catalano must wear their masks in the hallway at St. Lawrence Elementary School in Utica. It can be itchy sometimes, but “I’m helping others be more like Jesus,” Mario said.

Wearing his mask can be itchy sometimes, Mario said, “but I’m helping others be more like Jesus and so I can go by other people.”

Alyssa nodded her head and said, “The best part about wearing my mask is so I don’t get other people sick. The worst part is that it’s hard to hear what other people are saying.”

For Patrick Jaboro, a senior at De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren, no sacrifice is too much when compared to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. 

“Wearing a mask is a new cross to bear,” Jaboro said. “We can all grow in our sufferings. I believe through this suffering, we may be able to unite our desires to the desires of Christ on the cross. Through this, we may suffer with Him, grow closer to Him, then when we die, we may be able to rejoice with Him.” 

Although he was hesitant to return to in-person classes, Jaboro feels De La Salle has done an excellent job keeping the student body safe. 

Bro. Ken Kalinowski, FSC, interim principal at De La Salle Collegiate in Warren, encourages mask-wearing among his students, including senior Patrick Jaboro.

“Up until the first day, I was questioning how safe procedures would be, and how efficient the plans would work,” Jaboro said. “As a student here, it is very easy to see huge differences,” he said, noting the directional tape on the floor, the 6-foot distance stickers and the desks placed 6 feet apart.

Other than being allowed to head outside for fresh air during lunch, Diego Cabello wears his mask approximately eight hours during the school day at Detroit Catholic Central in Novi. 

“Catholic Central gave out reusable masks to everyone, so it is easier when you see all your teachers and classmates wearing masks, too,” the junior said. “Since I have to wear a mask along with everyone else, I have adapted to it. It is just like remembering my laptop for class — I double-check that I have it every morning before I leave the house.” 

It is a sacrifice to wear his mask, but a small one, Cabello said. 

Diego Cabello, a junior, wears his mask alongside his brother, Augustine, a freshman at Detroit Catholic Central in Novi.

“It is one way we can pick up our daily cross and follow Him. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice out of love for others. Any of the little inconveniences we have to deal with now, such as wearing a mask, or temperature checks, even the cancellation of sports or clubs, we are doing to show our care and compassion for others,” he said.

Sixth- through eighth-graders at St. Mary School in Mount Clemens are required to wear masks when entering the building, as well as throughout the day.

Eighth-grader Erica Johnson admits wearing the mask can be hot and sweaty at times, and difficult to keep in place, but “I know that it helps prevent my friends, their families, and others around them from getting sick.”

The “simple act” of wearing masks is a way of showing that she and her classmates care and respect others, Johnson said. 

“Jesus was thinking of us when He died and sacrificed Himself,” she added. “We live out our sacrifice to protect others by wearing our mask and decreasing the risk to others.”