By MICHAEL WILLIAMS
On May 10, eight young people, clad in navy blue, took a key step into adulthood during the graduation ceremony at Lumen Christi High School in Anchorage.
Outside it was gray and beginning to rain, but indoors it was incandescent with accomplishment and hope for the future. About 100 people attended.
After the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the national anthem, Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne read from the fourth chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians: “I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received… He gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry.”
He then prayed for blessings on the graduates, that “they would know themselves more fully through [God’s] love… and through that path come to know what [God has] in store for their futures.”
Archbishop Etienne then drew from advice he received from his nieces and nephews.
“You will face some hard times,” he said, “but it’s going to be okay. Put your trust in the Lord. Lean on your relationship with him, because he will guide you, even if and when you feel lost at times.” The archbishop then exhorted the graduates to stay close to the church, to keep going to church, and to keep praying, for “this is how you will remain with Jesus in a concrete, practical and sustaining way.”
He concluded by encouraging the graduates, especially those who will be going to college out of state, to “stay connected with your new faith family… to use these gifts wisely,” and “to make a generous gift of yourselves and your lives, to build up the body of Christ, wherever you go.”
After this, Principal Brian Ross spoke. He commended the graduates on their years of sedulous study and schoolwork, involvement in a host of extracurricular activities, and service to the church, their families, the school and wider community.
“These are significant achievements, and you have every right to be proud of them,” he said.
He acknowledged that the graduates had faced a number of “academic, athletic, moral and spiritual challenges,” throughout their school career. He cautioned them that challenges would not go away, and that the ones they have already experienced will “pale in comparison to the ones they will face in the future.”
However, speaking for himself and the staff, he said, “I firmly believe that each of you is equipped with a unique personality, a distinctive character, special skills, uncommon abilities and one-of-a-kind talents that will allow you to be successful in the face of these guaranteed challenges.”
After Ross concluded his remarks, John Harmon, who serves as chancellor of the archdiocese, rose to give the commencement speech. The former principal of the school quizzed the graduates on things like: “Name the three wealthiest people in the world,” and “Who are the last two winners of the Miss America contest?” He reminded them that “after the worldly recognition, the applause dies; awards tarnish and achievements are forgotten.”
He then quizzed them about the important people in their lives.
“The people who make the real difference in your life are not the people with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards,” he advised. “They are the ones who care… [who] are with you on your journey of life.”
He concluded his remarks by encouraging the graduates to spend time with friends, family and to continue to develop their relationship with Jesus Christ.
The ceremony ended with speeches by class salutatorian Kaare Helgesen and valedictorian Maeve Bakic. The class then received their diplomas to embark on the next chapter of life.