STAYTON — Father Mark Bentz, a 2004 graduate of Regis High School, returned to his alma mater a decade later to give the homily at a Mass marking the rural Catholic school’s 50th anniversary. He told staff and supporters that the jubilee really is a celebration of the work of Christ.
“If we go to Catholic high school for four years and we don’t know Jesus, we have failed,” said Father Bentz, parochial vicar at St. Cecilia Parish in Beaverton. “We are here to bring people to Jesus. If not, then all we have is a nice prep school.” The priest says that young people attending Mass and coming to the sacraments will “change the world.”
Against the odds, Regis has survived and now is growing, with an expected fall enrollment above previous years. Already, 166 students are signed up. What’s more, the faith life is resilient in the face of modern culture, people here say.
“It’s a great community,” says Morgan Alley, who graduated from Regis last year and attends Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. “It’s small and there is strong faith.”
Larry Keudell, a 1977 graduate and father of graduates, says the school has always created leaders with strong character.
“The faith-filled education Regis provides creates this character,” Keudell told the congregation after Mass. “The school builds, nurtures and reinforces that faith at an impressionable time in a person’s life.”
Larry Etzel, a 1971 graduate and mentor to students, says the rural high school has survived in part because of the strong identity of the Santiam Vicariate, a coalition of Catholic parishes.
The region’s Catholics in general are proud of their faith and willing to work hard for it, Etzel says.
“Take a look around,” said Scott Coulter the former Regis teacher who has returned as principal. He pointed at worshipers. “See what this place has created. This is the community called Regis.” Coulter even thanked the custodians for making the campus shine.
Msgr. Tim Murphy, former president of Regis, presided at the Mass, assisted by Father Bentz, plus Father Ed Coleman and Deacon Steve Tabor of Immaculate Heart Parish. Tabor is a 1984 Regis graduate.
As in many small towns, a few big families have made a big impact on Regis. The Lulay family has sent 96 students to the school while the Silbernagels have sent 88. The Heubergers come in third with 55.