Growing faith shapes Anchorage Catholic school graduates

Holy Rosary graduate Michael Rannals prays during a May 21 baccalaureate Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Anchorage. — Photo by Joel Davidson/CatholicAnchor.org

By JAMES DECRANE & JOEL DAVIDSON

Catholicanchor.org

As the 2011 graduates from Anchorage’s Lumen Christi High School and Holy Rosary Academy move on to the next stage of life, they are being challenged to hold fast to Christ — no matter what life may bring.

“We are bound sometimes to have an experience of failure and an experience of rejection,” Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz told Holy Rosary Academy graduates during their May 21 baccalaureate Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. “But what’s important for us in those moments is not to focus on ourselves but to focus on where the Lord is calling us.”

Archbishop Schwietz’s homily related the New Testament reading  which recounted how Saint Paul and his disciples were rejected by the Jews in Antioch.

“Rather than feeling sorry for themselves for being rejected and cast out, they saw an opportunity to spread the Gospel in more effective ways,” Archbishop Schwietz told the five graduating seniors.

He emphasized that God is present in all of life’s moments.

“[God] carries us on in his design for us through all the experiences of our lives,” he said, “not just the positive ones.”

Lumen Christi High School graduates walk to the school gymnasium moments before the start of their graduation ceremony May 12. — Photos by Joel Davidson

Earlier in the month, pastor of St. Benedict Church Father Steven Moore challenged the 16 graduates at Lumen Christi High School to take a serious look at the core beliefs they wish to take into adulthood.

“At Lumen Christi, we propose that Jesus Christ is the answer,” he said. “We have proposed that the great treasure for us ought to be faith in Christ and sharing that experience of love in a Christian way of life.”

The dual messages of following Christ in all of life’s circumstances and sharing his love with others are themes that many of the graduates have come to embrace.

“Senior year … I really think a lot of us had defining moments in our faith,” graduate Lauren Heilala said. “Graduating from Lumen Christi my faith is stronger than it’s ever been and I know it will continue to get stronger.”

All 16 Lumen Christi graduates are Catholic, except for one student who plans to enter the church next year. Another student, Yuri Beans, was baptized this year at St. Benedict and faith appears to be at the forefront of many students’ minds.

“I started here in seventh grade not having a very strong faith at all,” graduate Justin Teel said. “But the theology department and Lumen gave me a feeling that they would never give up on me. I realize that what they were teaching me was to never give up on God.”

Students also recognized that as young adults their beliefs need to become their own.

“Senior year was my first year at Lumen that I began to be independent in my faith,” Heilala said. “It was also wonderful to be able to see my friends grow spiritually along side of me.”

Holy Rosary graduate Daniel Daney also expressed gratitude for the spiritual strength he drew from his time in Anchorage’s only other Catholic high school program.

Daney is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and credits his conversion to regular holy hours before the Eucharist — a practice which the school observes on the first Friday of each month.

Recently, Daney decided to answer what he believes may be a call to the priesthood.

“The school’s dedication to prayer and to God has really helped,” he said. “It really boosted my faith.”

This fall, Daney heads to Borromeo Seminary in the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio to continue his discernment.

In his closing remarks to Holy Rosary’s graduates, Archbishop Schwietz urged them all to keep their focus on Christ wherever he leads.

“Our focus should not be on ourselves and not on the world but on Jesus Christ who is our only Savior,” he said.

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