By Kara Moriarty
The North Star Catholic
Lumen Christi High School held its commencement ceremony for the seven graduates of the Class of 2021 on May 6, 2021. While in-person attendance to the graduation was limited to the students’ family and school staff, the school gymnasium was filled with excitement.
The class chose a quote from President Ronald Reagan as their motto, and it rang true throughout the celebration: “We are never defeated unless we give up on God.”
Archbishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M. was a special guest who offered the opening prayer and remarks to the young graduates. As he offered his congratulations on their “marvelous achievement,” he also reminded them that as Lumen Christi (Light of Christ) graduates, they are called to be the “light of Christ for your family and your friends and your community.” He added that “God has a wonderful plan for each of you,” and that “every step he is beside you and no one loves you more.”
Principal Brian Ross reflected on the adjustments the students and the school had to make to continue their education through the COVID-19 pandemic. He urged the class to continue to persevere through life and challenged them with the words of President Theodore Roosevelt to be “In the Arena”; to be the person who “strives valiantly,” “with “great enthusiasms and devotions” so that their “place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Valedictorian and University of Alaska Scholar Vanessa Goerisch shared a collection of warm memories from her time at the school. She reminded her class, “It’s been a wild school year from start to finish, but I think we have made the best out of a bad situation, and despite the circumstances, we have gained resilience and strength. Whatever comes our way, we can navigate through it.”
Salutatorian Garrett Renfro thanked staff, family and friends and shared a quote from the Siege of Vienna in 1683. After John Sobieski the Third handed the Ottoman Empire their worst defeat in 300 years, he entered the city and said, “Venimus, vidimus, Deus vicit,” meaning “We came, we saw, God conquered.” Garrett closed his speech by saying, “This paraphrase should ring true for all my fellow seniors here on stage. While the future seems like a daunting task for us all, remember to trust in God and we shall conquer all that is in our path.”
The final portion of the ceremony was the moment the graduates were waiting for: the presentation of their diplomas from Lumen Christi High School. Family and staff cheered as the following graduates walked across the stage: Amber Nicole Salvador, Caleb Anthony Furneri, Garrett Roland Renfro, Jaydin Wayne Dufrane, Jonah Elias Doniere, Mary Helene Baker, and Vanessa Lucille Goerisch.
Brandon Maes, Lumen Christ Class of 2016, served as emcee and reminded the new graduates, “In times of hardship or strife, when people are posing you ideas that contract from your morals or ethics, recall the lessons you’ve learned here (at Lumen), be strong and represent the school you’ve just graduated from.”
Following the official ceremony, the graduates presented Pastor Tom Lilly, of St. Benedict’s Parish and Lumen Christi, with a special pair of Vans shoes. It was a clear demonstration of their admiration for him and their time at the school, and the joy on Fr. Tom’s face was undeniable.