Message To The 2018 Catholic High School Graduates
Congratulations graduates of 2018!
I would like to begin by inviting you to join me in thanking your parents for making the commitment and sacrifices to provide you with a Catholic education. I also want to express my gratitude to the priests, faculty and staff of your high schools for working so hard to fulfill your schools’ missions of forming and educating you – spirit, mind and body – as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Over the past few weeks, you have probably been looking back over the years and remembering some of those events that marked your time at your school. There were the spiritual moments of daily prayer, retreats, school Masses and service work. There were also the academic challenges and opportunities, as well as involvement in athletics, theatre, music programs and other extra-curricular activities. All these experiences, as well as the people who have walked with you on this journey of high school – your parents, the staff, teachers, coaches, classmates and close friends – have helped to form you into the people you are today as graduates. And through it all, the Lord Jesus has always been with you – guiding you, celebrating with you the happy times, helping you through the tough times.
Just as learning doesn’t stop with high school graduation, neither does your personal and spiritual formation. As one chapter of your life closes, another will begin, whether in college, the military or the workforce. There you will encounter a whole new group of people, and you will be exposed to new ideas and new avenues of learning. There you will find new challenges and find yourself having to make some big decisions, some of which could well affect the rest of your lives. How will you make those difficult choices?
I hope that you will draw on what you have learned through your Catholic education. Over these years, you have been taught not only literature, math, science and history, but also what it means to be a faithful disciple of Christ in today’s world. This entails not just learning in your head, but also in your heart what it means to be a follower of Jesus and how to live that out in your life. This includes making good, moral and ethical choices and being a person of integrity, generosity and compassion.
Now the Lord sends you forth as his missionary disciples into a world that is desperately searching for purpose and meaning – but so often in the wrong places. Using the gifts of the Holy Spirit you received in Confirmation, you are to be Jesus’ bold and courageous witnesses in your daily lives. No matter where you go, you are called to share his love, truth and mercy with those who so need to hear the Gospel message.
Be sure to also call upon the Spirit’s gifts as you face the difficulties and challenges that are part of everyone’s lives. At some point, you will encounter people who live according to a different set of morals and values, and whether consciously or unconsciously, may try to lead you away from your Catholic faith, your beliefs and your convictions. They may well ridicule and reject you if you don’t follow them. But always remember that no matter what comes, Christ will always be with you to guide and protect you. We know there are so many ways to encounter him and to invite him into your lives: in Holy Communion at Mass each Sunday, through daily prayer, by regularly receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, through involvement in campus ministry, chaplaincy programs or parish ministries and activities, and by seeking always to learn more and more about Him and your faith.
I encourage you to build on the strong foundation of faith and learning that your school has helped you to establish so that your future may be a wonderful adventure filled with joy and fulfillment, as well as interesting and challenging life experiences. It has been said that followers of Christ are not meant to fit in with everyone else, but rather to stand out. I hope you will stand out – that people will notice you because of the way you live as faithful and committed disciples of Jesus. Above all, I pray that you will always have the inner peace and joy of knowing that you are a beloved child of God who watches over you every step of the way.
Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, patroness of our diocese, may the Lord Jesus continue to bestow on you every grace and good gift you will need to live a full and meaningful Christian life as you go forth as his disciples in the world.
Again, congratulations and may God bless you all!