Recently, I had the opportunity to address the graduates of our six diocesan Catholic High Schools at their respective Baccalaureate Masses. I would like to share with the Catholic graduates of the public high schools in the diocese some of what I said.
Many of these graduates have been enrolled in the faith formation programs in our parishes and involved in parish youth groups. I want these graduates to know of our love for them and our recognition of their achievement. Please, share this with any public high school graduates who are Catholic whom you may know.
God has given you many gifts and I have no doubt that you can and will do remarkable things with those gifts. But, never forget that the most important gift you have is your faith. God has created you to use that gift every day of your life. Your parents have seen that you have been raised in our faith which needs to serve you all the days of your lives. I can guarantee that if you make the commitment to live that gift, no matter what you do or what happens, you will be filled with hope and be able to see the bright side of life even when difficulties and sadness happen to you.
Graduation from high school is a rite of passage when you leave behind your childhood and begin a new chapter in your lives. You strike out on your own as young adults. Throughout your lives the Lord has spoken to you through your parents, your family, your catechists, your teachers, your friends and your parish Church. You have been told what to do and how to do it.
Now it is up to you. You will continue to receive advice but now you must take responsibility. This can be a new and exciting experience in your lives. I know you dream of success. Please, be convinced that you will never be successful and find genuine happiness without faith in God, who strengthens and sustains you. Stay close to Jesus and to His Church.
Because you are going into a world in which change is the constant, you will need the steadiness that our faith can offer. Faith can anchor you in God.
Some change is good. Some is not. Some examples of change in our world: in February of this year seven Earth-like planets were discovered in our galactic backyard. New found worlds. What will that mean in the future years of your lives?
You are going into a world which voted to oust the thimble and boot which have been part of Monopoly since 1935 in favor of animal figurines. A favorite board game of many people is now different.
You are going into a world in which humans must be better stewards of the creation that the Creator has given us. The encyclical of our Holy Father Francis, Laudato Si, is on target in which he reminds us that creation belongs to the Creator and it deserves respect from us creatures.
You are going into a world without the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. How sad is that!
You are going into a world in which a couple of weeks ago a young man self-detonated at the conclusion of a concert by Ariana Grande. Deaths, including children. In that world of hate and darkness you graduates will grow up faster and in more danger. Compare that terrorist-murderer against Ariana who manages adolescence with dignity, unlike some other teenage stars. You are going into a world in which the horror of terrorism was repeated at London Bridge.
Since the terrorist attacks on our nation on 9/11 this madness continues to grow. You will need your Catholic faith to deal with its consequences.
The Lord has promised us an Advocate, Someone by our side, to help us love. To assist us to love. To love like Jesus, even in hate-filled situations. Love is the fundamental message of Jesus. It is a disposition of life for which God has given us an Advocate, someone at our side to assist us in all things, especially teaching us to love one another.
Congratulations, graduates. You should be proud of yourselves and your accomplishments. Graduation is the ending of your high school academic work. It encompasses all the emotions of leaving the familiar. The stories of things that happened in school and even outside of school will be important memories for you. Parties. Awards. Accomplishments. Competitions. Proms. At the same time graduation is about commencement. Starting afresh. Beginning a future.
Who you are now is God’s gift to you. Continue growing to your God-given potential and remember that you are not alone. You have a Helper. God is there for you. What you can and will become is your gift to God. May God bless, protect and watch over you all the days of your lives. Congratulations Class of 2017.
Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden
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