June/July 2017 Four County Catholic
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Four days after the horrific act of terror in Manchester, England, that took the precious lives of twenty-two innocent victims, I was with the senior class of St. Bernard School at their graduation exercise. There, I found myself face to face with students, many the same age as most of the concert attendees in Manchester. It brought home the harsh reality of the trials faced by all young people today in an unstable world. How would these young people before me respond to another violent strike against sanity and love of one another? As the graduation ceremonies unfolded, the answers came quickly and resoundingly.
The resilience, love and confidence of our young missionaries of hope was beautifully represented by the class orator, Julia Plunkett. She spoke of her challenges growing up and how she was the first woman in her family who would be attending college. She spoke of the strength and unity of the SBS community. She focused on the positive. On the hopeful. On living the mission of our faith. In her words, “We may be different, but we care about each other.”
She further spoke of the lasting influence of the guiding words at SBS: humility, trust, zeal, compassion and simplicity. Here was a strong and hopeful voice speaking confidently on behalf of the next generation. Her words reminded me of a passage from St. Paul often quoted by His Holiness, Pope Francis, “May the God of hope fill you with all the joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) That power overcomes the darkness and emptiness of evil acts of terror. Faith is clearly at work in our graduating seniors as they strive to make a difference in a struggling world.
While I appreciated the opportunity on graduation night to say a few words of validation and encouragement, the night belonged to the voices of the young, empowered with the values, education and character to shape their future.
It was no surprise to hear, that same week, from Monsignor Les Janik, Diocesan Vicar General, that he had a similar experience at the Xavier High graduation. Monsignor Les had been there to hear Mihir Khunte address his fellow seniors and speak of their missionary foundation and their “potential to accomplish great things”.
It was also my privilege to participate in the Academy of the Holy Family commencement a week later and to hear Bolu KuKu in her valedictory address acknowledge that “…at the Academy, I found the power to look towards the future.” Consistently, the Class of 2017 has delivered a powerful message of hope and resolve going forward.
Clearly, this sentiment was evident, as well, in the formal remarks of Mercy High’s Eugenia Cho as she categorized the world at the moment as “uncertain.” Preparing to face that uncertain world, “Mercy,” she said “has taught us to care, to put importance on community and to set aside our differences.” In the words of her classmate and Valedictorian, Jessica Grodovich, “The class of 2017 is elegant, educated and strong -- fearless and ready for the world.”
At every opportunity, our young missionaries of hope expressed their readiness to courageously follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and the lessons and values of faith and community. As Pope Francis recently shared during a trip to the Diocese of Genoa, “A missionary means letting one’s self be transformed by the Lord. To respond to the needs of people in difficulty, we must first of all love them. We can’t do anything without love.”
What I have witnessed this graduation season, is a united student body across all our schools that has chosen hope and love over fear and bitterness. I admire their choice. I am lifted by their indomitable spirit and determination to make a difference in these trying times by honoring and protecting the sanctity of life, respecting the dignity of all co-travelers on the journey of their lives, reaching out to the poor and vulnerable, standing up for religious freedom and by being living examples of peaceful Christian values. God Bless them.
Sincerely yours in Christ’s love,
Bishop Michael R. Cote