Bellefonte

Bishop Bartchak visits St. John the Evangelist students in Bellefonte during Catholic Schools Week

Bishop Mark Bartchak talks to children about what it’s like to be a bishop in the church. Bishop Mark Bartchak visited St. John the Evangelist Catholic School, in Bellefonte, for career day January 28, 2015.
Bishop Mark Bartchak talks to children about what it’s like to be a bishop in the church. Bishop Mark Bartchak visited St. John the Evangelist Catholic School, in Bellefonte, for career day January 28, 2015. CDT photo

Sam Yangula said Bishop Mark Bartchak, of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, was a lot taller in person than he expected.

But he was also “pretty nice.”

The 10-year-old met Bartchak on Wednesday during the bishop’s visit to St. John the Evangelist School in celebration of national Catholic Schools Week.

“I was a little nervous and don’t really know why, but it’s nice that we got to interact with him,” Sam said.

After two snow days, Wednesday kicked off the week with career day for clergy appreciation.

Principal Kristina Tice said students were encouraged to dress as what they want to be when they grow up.

“The whole mission is to celebrate who we are,” Tice said about celebrating Catholic Schools Week. “We’re in a region of schools that are growing, and we are who we are by answering God’s call.”

Sam and classmate Claire Topper, 11, were dressed as authors, with pens that never left their hands. Other students were dressed as doctors, nurses, athletes, chefs, police officers and more.

“We’re celebrating appreciation for something every day this week,” Claire said. “It’s nice to be able to have the bishop come to our school and see what we’re doing.”

Thursday will honor teacher appreciation, and Friday will celebrate student appreciation.

Bartchak ate lunch with a group of fourth- and fifth-graders, toured classrooms and participated in a career day assembly where he talked about his inspiration in becoming a priest.

Bartchak said that, growing up, he wanted to be either a teacher or a plumber, but found inspiration in high school when he was asked by two priests if he had ever thought about being a priest.

“I said, ‘Yes, when I was 9,’ and they encouraged me to go to seminary school,” Bartchak said.

The first thought of becoming a priest came when he was an altar server in the Catholic Church, Bartchak said. He was advised to “look up to the older boys,” but instead looked at the priest and envisioned what that job would be like.

Bartchak was ordained a priest in 1981 and was appointed bishop of the diocese in 2011.

But he reminded students that whatever endeavor they embark on, they can’t do it without God.

“You can’t do it alone … you don’t find a path in life without God,” Bartchak said.

Each year during Catholic Schools Week, Bartchak makes his way to a some of the Catholic schools in the diocese.

His next stop is Thursday at St. Andrew School in Johnstown, and Friday at St. Benedict School in Carrolltown.

Spokesman Tony DeGol said the diocese oversees 20 Catholic elementary schools with more than 2,900 students.

  Comments