By Joni Weir
It would be unusual for a high school graduating class to applaud the homily at its graduation, but that’s what happened at the 2012 graduation/baccalaureate Mass of St. Pius X High School in Houston, Texas.
A Catholic, college prep school run by the Dominican Sisters, St. Pius X invites priests who have a family member graduating to celebrate the graduation Mass. Father Bernie Weir of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa celebrated this year’s Mass because his niece, Alex Norden, was one of the graduates. Her parents are Joni Weir (Fr. Bernie’s sister) and Wayne Norden. Their wedding on June 8, 1985, was the first celebrated by Fr. Bernie shortly after his ordination.
Fr. Bernie began his homily at the Catholic Charismatic Center in Houston by introducing himself as Alex’s uncle, telling the audience that while Alex and her family are Lutheran he was still optimistic that she would marry a Catholic and join the Catholic Church. That comment and others resulted in applause and laughter from the audience.
During the homily he merged Scripture and Dr. Seuss. He quoted from Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” saying “you have feet in your shoes and brains in your head” and you should use those feet and brains to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He advised the graduates to use their brains and feet to make good decisions in college, to experience all that college has to offer … take lots of naps in college and go to church, but not at the same time. Bring your laundry home, but remember that it isn’t your mom’s job to do it anymore. Not forgetting St. Pius X’s Catholic roots, he asked all boys to break up with their girlfriends and join the seminary.
Alex will attend Texas Lutheran University in the fall majoring in early childhood education. Following in Fr. Bernie’s footsteps, she has been a tireless volunteer for church and community, serving on planning committees for two mission trips to Peru, and the steering committee for the clothing drive at the annual Thanksgiving SuperFeast in downtown Houston, among other activities.
Fr. Bernie returned to Ottumwa following a brief stay with the Weir/ Nordens. He will long be remembered by the senior class of 2012 at St. Pius X High School and all who attended.