Moments before receiving their high school diplomas, the six graduating seniors from Lumen Christi High School were urged to seek God, to be humble enough to really know themselves and to remember their Catholic roots as they head off into the wider world.
Lumen Christi, which serves grades 8-12, hosted its 16th annual commencement ceremony in Anchorage on May 15. Led by valedictorian Isaac Whisman and salutatorian James Pochop, six seniors graduated before an audience of about 200. In attendance were Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz, St. Benedict Church pastor Father Leo Walsh and guest speaker Carol Sturgulewski.
Dressed in academic regalia of biretta and cape, Archbishop Schwietz began the ceremony with a prayer of thanksgiving for the school, and asked God’s blessing upon the graduates. Father Walsh then gave three pieces of advice to the graduates: be true to themselves, live for others and trust in Almighty God.
TO KNOW YOURSELF WITHOUT ILLUSION
Father Walsh pointed out that “being true to yourself” must be related to the virtue of humility. “The definition of humility is to know yourself, without illusion, before Almighty God.”
Father Walsh then emphasized that God not only knew each graduate’s special gifts, but also their sinfulness. “But the miracle is that Christ looks at us and says, ‘It’s for those sins that I died on the Cross.’”
Father Walsh noted that trust in God is important because there will be times when the graduates will be uncertain of who they can count on in this world, including themselves.
“Trust in the God who made you, who knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb, the God who has sustained you to this point,” Father Walsh said. “He went all the way to the Cross. He’s not going to give up on you.”
Lumen Christi Principal John Harmon then spoke to the assembly. Like Father Walsh, he imparted three “challenges” to the seniors: take advantage of extraordinary opportunities; spread love everywhere, beginning at home; and stay in touch with God.
Harmon recalled the challenges of the previous school year, his first as a high school principal, and one during which the seniors occasionally found themselves inside his office. But Harmon challenged them to see the Hand of Providence throughout their difficulties.
“Everything in life has a purpose from God,” he observed. “There are no mistakes. There are no coincidences. All that we have in life is a gift from God.”
IT’S A FAMILY
Guest speaker Carol Sturgulewski, a graduate of Monroe Catholic School in Fairbanks and elder sister of current U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, gave the final address.
Sturgulewski is a longtime Alaska journalist and current editor of “Alaska Catholic” magazine. She is also the mother of several Lumen Christi alumni.
Sturgulewski recounted the careers chosen by current Lumen Christi alumni, from medical doctors to international coffee baristas to airplane pilots. But whatever career field chosen, Lumen Christi alumni cherished the “personal touch” they received from their high school teachers, as well as the greater Lumen Christi community.
“This school is more than a school,” she relayed. “It’s a family.”
Sturgulewski’s parting words urged the graduates to remember where they came from.
“You come from a Catholic tradition,” she said. “Whether you’re Catholic or not, this school has taught you about morals and ethics, about social justice and about the power of prayer and community.”
Lumen Christi Principal Harmon said there were about 85 students enrolled at the school this year, a number which he expects to exceed for the start of the 2014-15 academic year.
Harmon noted that over the past few years, “all of Lumen’s seniors have been accepted to a college or university of their first choice.”
Those schools have included Georgetown University, Gonzaga University, Oxford University, University of Dallas, University of Denver and the University of Portland, among others.
“The recent graduates received many scholarships and plan to attend various universities, including Benedictine College, the University of Alaska – Fairbanks, and the University of Alaska – Anchorage,” Harmon noted. “Lumen is proud of all of its graduates.”