Bethlehem marks 200 years with liturgy

Members of the Bethlehem High School Choir sang during a Mass Sept. 14 marking the 200th anniversary of Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, Ky. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

BARDSTOWN, Ky. — Alumni, family and friends of Bethlehem High School gathered for a Mass of celebration Sept. 14 at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral.

The Mass was a culmination of a yearlong series of events to commemorate the school’s bicentennial anniversary.

Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, a 1983 graduate of Bethlehem, noted the men and women who “have gone before us and the great legacy we have received.”

During his homily, Bishop Spalding reflected on the “good tradition” of Catholic education in Nelson County.

“We know our past. We know what history has brought us to this moment,” he said.

The challenge for the future is to determine how “we now leave it to our descendants.”

“We have to keep working. We have to keep telling our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren, our Godchildren — Jesus Christ makes a difference in your life,” he said.

In 1819, Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget, the first Bishop of Bardstown, charged a small group of Sisters of Charity from nearby Nazareth, Ky., to open an elementary school in Bardstown.

Since that time, it has gone through numerous iterations as a day school, a co-educational elementary school and a girls’ school.

In 1970, it became the co-educational high school as it continues to be today. It is one of nine Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville and only one of two co-ed secondary schools. The other is Holy Cross High School in Louisville.

Bethlehem is the only Catholic high school in the archdiocese outside of Jefferson County. Its current enrollment is 250 students.

Bicentennial anniversaries remind us what we have been given, Bishop Spalding said.

“We have received not only a legacy that goes back 200 years. We’ve got a legacy that goes back to Christ himself,” he said. “Once again, we ponder those gifts and are responsible for sharing them.”

The Holy Spirit, Bishop Spalding said, guided those who laid the foundation of Bethlehem — parents, educators, women religious, clergy, parishioners and friends.

“There have been ups and downs in Bethlehem’s history. There have been ups and downs in the history of our church and in the story of Christianity,” he said.

But, the Holy Spirit has guided the faithful through it all, he said.

“We are never alone. With the communion of saints before us and the Holy Spirit with us, we are to prepare a way for those who will follow us,” he said.

Members of the student choir provided music during the Mass. Other students served as lectors, gift bearers, altar servers, cross-bearer and as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.

Following the liturgy, an All-Class Reunion Bash featured the Kentucky v. Florida game on a 14-foot outdoor screen.

In the lead up to the bicentennial year, the school launched a capital campaign. The campaign —“200 Years and Beyond: Building Bethlehem Everywhere” — aims to increase tuition assistance for students, raise teacher salaries and construct an athletic complex.

The school dedicated its FiveStar Stadium, part of the school’s new $3.7 million athletics complex last month.

Click here to learn more about the campaign.

Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, a 1983 graduate of Bethlehem High School, blessed Bethlehem students who brought forth the bread and wine at the Mass Sept. 14.

Bethlehem alumni sang the opening hymn at the Sept. 14 Mass.

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