Holy Rosary students grateful for having wrestled with the faith

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On May 23, Holy Rosary Academy graduated its largest class in the school’s 31-year history. Twelve seniors, ten full-time and two part-time, walked across the stage and into the next chapter of their lives. The Catholic Anchor asked each of the graduates about their experience at Holy Rosary and their future plans. Principal Catherine Neumayr also spoke about each student individually, and the class as a whole.

Drew Benton

Benton moved to Alaska from Massachusetts as a freshmen. He said his faith benefited from looking at all subjects through a Catholic lens. Exploring why the church has specific teachings rather than blindly accepting them helped him appreciate the doctrines, he said. Seminar, he said, was the most influential class because of how morality plays into their discussions.

“It strengthens your intellect and your ability to argue,” he said.

He participated in soccer, wrestling, track and drama.

He suggests that prospective Catholic school students “be ready for a challenge because not only is there a high level of learning, there’s a broader learning spectrum. Not only do you learn about what’s going on in society today, you also learn what the Catholic view of that is and how you’re supposed to handle that in a more public setting,” he noted.

Benton said Holy Rosary gave him a greater sense of ownership of his faith because learning about it more in depth allowed him to choose to believe, rather than passively accept his faith.

He plans to attend Grand Canyon University to study psychology, with the goal of becoming a counselor.

Neumayr noted that Benton “has graced the halls of Holy Rosary with humor and kindness.”

Juliana Biegel

Biegel started at Holy Rosary in seventh grade and said her faith deepened because of how all subjects revolve seamlessly around the faith.

When truth is taught, regardless of the course, “it deepens your faith, because knowing how to find the truth teaches you how to defend your faith,” she said.

Although chemistry was very difficult for her, it was the class that impacted her the most, because her teacher taught her the value of working to achieve the best that she can, Biegel said.

She participated in soccer and track, as well as playing and coaching volleyball. She was in drama and yearbook, and planned school dances.

She recommends youth consider attending Catholic school because of the family-like community, and the chance to think beyond the surface level. The most beneficial aspect of attending Catholic school has been the support she found in “meeting teachers and other people my own age who are trying to be the best, and who want the best for me.”

She will attend University of Alaska Anchorage to study to be an ultrasound technician or physical therapist.

Neumayr said, “Juliana has become a vital member of the senior class. Her work ethic and attention to detail has made her invaluable to me as principal.”

Lael Droege

Droege attended Holy Rosary since her freshman year. She spent her sophomore year part time at Holy Rosary and part time at South High School. After one year, she decided to “come back to Holy Rosary because of how much I valued the education here,” she said. “The faith aspect definitely brought all the subjects together.”

She said her faith grew through weekly Mass, but was also because she was “taught how to think, and not what to think.”

She was active in volleyball and soccer throughout high school.

If anyone were reticent about attending Catholic school, she would counsel them that “it’s not oppressive, it brings you freedom and shows you how to appreciate everything going on in your life.”

The most rewarding aspect of Holy Rosary was the small size, she said, adding that everybody “has your back, and will love you and give you the support that you need.”

Droege plans to attend University of Alaska Anchorage and hopes to eventually become a lawyer. Observing her keen logic and love of debate, Neumayr predicts that “Lael is destined to be a first-class lawyer. She is compassionate but fiercely defensive of justice and truth. I can’t wait to see her in the courtroom someday!”

Atlin Bell

Bell, whom Neumayr describes as “a true gentleman with an excellent work ethic and a drive to succeed in this world and to live a holy life,” attended Holy Rosary since kindergarten. Attending Catholic school his whole life has helped him to understand God better and “how to defend our faith, and just be well-rounded,” he said.

The most rewarding course for him was his American seminar. In that class, he enjoyed discussing how modern people think and talk, and the ideas that are “challenging our faith,” he said. He also appreciates that faith is incorporated throughout the curriculum.

Bell was active in the school’s extracurricular programs, playing varsity soccer for three years, and participating in drama for a couple years.

He would advise prospective Catholic school students to “try it out, give it a try… You get a really good education, and a way head start.”

Bell said he experienced the benefit of smaller class sizes and individual attention from the teachers. He will be attending University of Alaska Anchorage to study accounting, as he plans to become a certified public accountant.

Neumayr shared, “Atlin always has wonderful remarks to add to the class discussion.”

Gabriele Holder

Holder began attending Holy Rosary five years ago, prior to which she was homeschooled. As a Catholic, she found Holy Rosary to be both challenging and strengthening of her faith because “learning more about the faith always makes you question what you believed before and causes you to have a greater understanding for what you believed before but didn’t necessarily have a foundation for,” she said.

She said her seminar classes were most enjoyable because she loved debating and getting to the truth of the matter.

Although she is not a big fan of athletics, she tried playing soccer for a year, and was active in yearbook and drama.

She believes that anyone, including non-Catholics, will get something out of attending Catholic school, because the mission of a Catholic school is to lead students to the truth. She said the greatest benefit she gained from Holy Rosary is a greater ability to apply her faith to her life and share it with others.

Holder will attend Ave Maria University, where she plans to study nursing. One of Holder’s greatest contributions to the school, according to Neumayr, is her generosity in sharing her talents, particularly her musical talent.

Sam Jemmings

Jemmings began at Holy Rosary in seventh grade. He also attended South High School part-time throughout high school, but graduated from Holy Rosary.

As a non-denominational Christian, he said attending a Catholic school allowed him to see things from a different perspective. Of all his classes, the seminars left the deepest impression, “because it shows what people thought in that time period more than just the textbook, which just gives the facts,” he said.

Although he didn’t participate in sports at Holy Rosary, he played hockey at South High School.

While not Catholic, he said attending a Catholic school is a good experience “because it teaches you more how to think than just what to think.” He particularly noted the difference between Holy Rosary’s classical method of education and the public school’s approach.

After graduation, Jemmings will be playing hockey in Massachusetts.

Neumayr has been most impressed with his ability to really get to the heart of the matter, even when it is a very broad topic. “He is very analytical in nature, and he is able to synthesize articulately the crux of the discussion in a very advanced way,” she said.

Michael Lucas

Lucas attended Holy Rosary for his entire education. Because of the integration of Catholicism into all the courses and the school’s culture, Lucas shared that, “every year I’m growing and growing” in faith and devotion.

He said he is most grateful for the seminar classes because they have taught him to think rationally, and introduced him to great literature.

He’s been active in athletics, competing in track, soccer, and most notably, wrestling, in which he is a state champion. Because of his positive experience at Holy Rosary, he’d strongly recommend others consider attending Catholic school to reap similar benefits in their lives.

Of all the influences Holy Rosary has exerted in his life, Lucas said the most beneficial is his growth in faith. He notes of Holy Rosary, “they implement [the faith] really well here with the prayers and everything, and I think it’s helped me become a better Catholic.”

Lucas was accepted to 11 colleges and is still discerning which he will choose. He knows he will continue wrestling wherever he goes.

True to his classical education, Neumayr believes that Lucas “epitomizes the Greek idea of arete, which is that striving for excellence. In everything he does, academically and athletically, he strives for that excellence.”

Hanna Massell

Massell moved to Alaska from California before her senior year. She previously took classes at a junior college, but wanted to experience the liberal arts before going to college. She attended Catholic school before, but was able to dive much deeper into the faith at Holy Rosary, learning aspects of it she had never known.

Of all of her classes, Euclidean geometry impacted her most, she said. It challenged her to be more self-disciplined and grow in self-confidence, as she had to demonstrate propositions to the class and teacher with no notice.

At Holy Rosary she played soccer for the first time, after having played basketball for much of her life. She enjoyed the challenge of trying something new, Massell noted. Of the many benefits of a Catholic education, she said she is most appreciative that she grew in faith.

Massell is headed to Wyoming Catholic College. Afterward she plans to attend medical school with the goal to be a holistic doctor.

Neumayr reflected on Massell’s transition to classical education, explaining that her first month was, “very difficult, because she realized that she hadn’t begun to think, but her meteoric success throughout the year has just blown me away.”

Ciara McMorrow

McMorrow began her part-time studies at Holy Rosary as a freshmen. She was homeschooled for a portion of her classes and actually graduating from the IDEA homeschool program, while receiving a certificate of completion from Holy Rosary.

Her faith was most impacted by the spiritual community at Holy Rosary — being able to pray with her fellow students.

“It’s one thing to pray with your family,” she said, “but it’s another thing to pray with your peers.”

Seminar class was an eye-opening and rewarding experience, McMorrow said, because not only does she have the opportunity to defend what she believes, but she had to be open and respectful while listening to her classmates’ points of view. She was also grateful for the Catholic culture on campus, such as seeing priests regularly, and getting to interact with them in a way that’s not always possible after a crowded Sunday Mass.

McMorrow participated in drama at Holy Rosary. She will attend the University of Alaska Anchorage to study nursing, hoping to work with children in the future.

Neumayr was astounded by McMorrow’s intuitive and discreet compassion towards classmates going through difficulties. While accompanying friends “she’s been the nurse that she wants to be, but she’s nursed them spiritually,” Neumayr said.

Forrest Rose

Rose attended Holy Rosary since first grade. Being a Lutheran at a Catholic school was challenging, yet beneficial, he said. Initially, the basics of Catholicism didn’t strike him as too different from Lutheranism. But in upper elementary and middle school he said, “it definitely was a little more challenging trying to figure out what to think as he go “to know both sides of the argument very well,” he said. “Sometimes I joke saying that I’m half Catholic because I go to a Catholic school where I have all the resources to learn about that faith,” while at the same time being immersed in the Lutheran faith outside school.

Rose participated in state science fairs nearly every year, and most enjoyed physics.

His advice to those considering Catholic schools is to be prepared to be challenged, particularly in a classical environment, because “it’s not as simple as knowing the material, you need to know why the material is the way it is.” He credits Holy Rosary for his critical thinking skills.

Rose will attend Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Neumayr called Rose the class logician. “He is such a clear thinker. He writes and speaks with no extra words, he gets right to the point and he’s dead on.”

Jon Syren

Syren began attending Holy Rosary halfway through his junior year, having attended Catholic school in Kansas prior to that.

He said he appreciates that students are not simply lectured to about the facts of the faith, but come to learn why the church teaches what it does in a seminar setting. He enjoyed apologetics class the most.

“The students are engaged in trying to figure out what the church says in this sort of arena (which) allows everybody to pursue the truth in a very challenging atmosphere,” he said.

He believes attending a Catholic school is the most rewarding experience a person could have because “a Catholic school pursues the truth and only the truth.”

“It’s going to arm you for the battle which is life when you actually have to leave the high school,” he added.

He said he feels prepared by his Catholic schooling to live a life in which he will practice his faith.

In the fall he will attend Hillsdale College in Michigan to study political science.

Neumayr has known Syren his entire life. “He is a very kind, open, generous person who brings fun and an excellent intellect,” she noted. She also remarked how he often encouraged deeper discussion in his classes.

Stephen Woyte

Woyte attended Holy Rosary for five years. While raised Catholic, he said the school strengthened his faith.

“Honestly, I think I would have left the faith if it hadn’t have been for Holy Rosary,” he said. “They really give you a foundation of understanding.”

He likened his faith to a building that was structurally weak, torn down, and rebuilt into “a much stronger building of faith and virtue” by not only the school’s theology program, but the integration of Catholicism into the whole curriculum.

He played soccer and track, but said drama was most formative. He hated his initial exposure to drama, but the following year had the part of a lead villain in the school play, and discovered a real love of acting. As a self-professed “people person,” Woyte said he loved Holy Rosary’s “little Catholic family.”

Woyte is enlisted in the Alaska Air National Guard as a loadmaster on the C-17. He will pursue studies at UAA’s professional pilot program or Embry-Riddle Worldwide Aeronautical University.

Neumayr said Woyte’s attention to detail was key to the events his class put on. “He really gets logistics, which is perfect for the military that he’s going into,” she said.


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