Saturday I celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass at Le Moyne College. In June, I will join Bishop Grimes, Bishop Ludden, and Seton Catholic at their Baccalaureate Masses. During this season of graduations, I offer my congratulations and prayerful support to all graduates who are entering a new phase in their lives.
Thinking about graduations and Baccalaureate Masses, I asked myself, “What do our Catholic graduates take with them as they move forward with their education or careers?” As I thought about this question, I reviewed the mission statements of the Catholic high schools in our diocese. The statements may differ from school to school but the concepts are similar. Our high schools recognize their responsibility to be
• places of encounter with Christ that challenge each student to grow in the maturity of Christ;
• institutions that value the whole person and the unique potential of each person;
• committed to the mission of Jesus through the proclamation of the Gospel.
The mission statements speak about programs and environments that
• challenge students to achieve excellence in all aspects of their lives, encouraging them to become responsible church and community leaders who are rooted in Christian principles;
• prepare students for a lifetime of authentic living and dedicated service centered in their encounter with Christ;
• foster responsible decision-making based on our Catholic faith and the teachings of the Church;
• integrate the message of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church so that students will live as evangelizers of the Word of God, promoters of justice, seekers of peace, and agents of love.
What will our Catholic school graduates take with them when they leave our schools? Certainly, we expect our students will leave with the necessary academic knowledge and skills to succeed in life. However, when the word “Catholic” precedes “school” we expect also that graduates will have a unique knowledge and skill set that is rooted in our Catholic mission.
When our students graduate, I hope they take with them
• a realization of their immeasurable dignity as a child of God, made in His image and likeness.
• a commitment to their ongoing relationship with Christ and the wellbeing of others. An authentic relationship with God always includes love for others. Catholic school graduates do not think and live as if they are isolated individuals. They know they are called to be concerned about others.
• an eagerness to contribute to the transformation of society. Although the “transformation of society” may seem lofty and beyond their capabilities, it is accomplished most effectively by living a virtuous life. A life marked by honesty, mercy, love, justice, patience, kindness, humility, and other virtues exemplified in the Gospel has a tremendous capacity to change the “world” of their family, neighborhood, city, and even society beyond their immediate boundaries.
• an awareness of their eternal destiny. God created us to be happy with Him in eternity. How important it is for our graduates to live as citizens not only of this world but persons destined for the joy and beauty of eternal life.
In summary, I hope our Catholic school students have met Christ during their school years and will continue to follow Him and journey with Him as a companion after their graduation. He is the one who will guide them to live as children of God called to be disciples who can transform the world. He is the one who desires their eternal happiness. He is the one they will meet face to face in eternal life.
Pope Francis, speaking to Catholic school students, encouraged them to have a big heart and greatness of soul. “This means having grand ideals, the desire to achieve great things in response to what God asks of you. . . . It means always choosing the good even when it is challenging because it will make you persons with a backbone who know how to face life. . . . It means participating in activities which open you up to others, especially the poorest and most in need and to work to improve the world in which we life” (June 19, 2013).
Congratulations to our Catholic school graduates! May they leave their schools with big hearts and grand ideals. May they choose the good even when it is challenging and difficult. May they recognize their responsibility to assist others, especially the neediest among us.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.