Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter
June 6, 2023 // Bishop

Saint Joseph High School Graduates Encouraged to Let Their Light Shine Brightly

Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter

“We gather to give praise and thanksgiving to God for all the gifts He has bestowed on the class of 2023 from Saint Joseph High School,” was the greeting from Bishop Rhoades at the Saint Joseph Baccalaureate Mass. The celebration included assistance from newly ordained Deacons Harry Verhiley and Andrew Oross.

More photos from the Mass.

The celebration took place on Thursday, June 1, the feast of St. Justin Martyr, a scholar who in his search for the truth converted to Christianity and is known as the patron saint of philosophers. Bishop Rhoades noted how fitting the Mass took place on this feast day filled with a room of scholars searching for the truth.

“Catholic education is all about the search for truth on the wings of reason and faith,” said Bishop Rhoades.

The 194 members of the class of 2023 spent their time at St. Joe High School living out the school’s animating principle of God Calls, We Answer.

Graduates CeCe Farrell and Mitchell Kazmierzak were awarded the 2023 Principal’s Award. It is given annually to a student who exhibits the qualities of the school’s core values of Reach Higher, Build Family, Serve with Joy, and Discover Our Gifts. Peter Letherman won the Appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy award. Anna Maffetone won the Thomas Gerencher Award, a scholarship given in memory of long-time St. Joe English teacher Tom Gerencher to an outstanding student in the subject of English.

Derby Photography
Students and staff of Saint Joseph High School gathered at St. Pius X Parish in Granger for the Baccalaureate Mass with Bishop Rhoades on Thursday, June 1.

Third-generation St. Joe student Sydney Taylor won the 2023 Charles Martin “Touch a Life” Scholarship. Awarded by the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, it’s given to a promising African American student in strong academic standing desiring to give back to their community. The scholarship includes $5,000 in tuition assistance and a $3,750 paid summer internship, and there is only one recipient in the county.

Graduate Elijah Diller was awarded the 2023 Reed A. Oei Memorial Scholarship. Reed Oei was a passionate scholar, a key member of the St. Joe Quiz Bowl team (winning four straight championship titles), and a top-ranked student-athlete on the men’s tennis team. After graduating in 2018, Oei double majored in math and computer science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, later graduating magna cum laude with nine published papers and national recognition. While pursuing his Ph.D. in math, he lost his battle against cancer at the age of 23. To honor Oei’s legacy, his family established this special scholarship and it’s awarded to a student who demonstrates exceptional academic performance, especially in math, who plans on majoring in math or computer science, who shares positive contributions in the school environment, and who displays exceptional character.

In his homily, Bishop Rhoades talked about the blessings the students received at their baptism with the light of Christ entrusted to their parents. He said that throughout their lives, parents and godparents have kept that light burning brightly, passing on the Light of Christ by raising them in the faith and showing them that faith is not only a way of thinking or an idea, but a way of acting, and a manner of living.

“Graduates, now it’s up to you as you go forth from high school, to choose to walk on this path of faith, the path upon which your parents and this Catholic school have guided you. The path of holiness,” said Bishop Rhoades. “Jesus invites you to follow Him on this path. It is the way of the cross. Jesus said whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. This may seem foolish in the eyes of the world. In fact, Saint Paul wrote as we heard in the first reading that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”

Bishop Rhoades talked about the power of the cross and how it can be frightening and a symbol of loss of life, but the opposite is true with the cross being a supreme manifestation of God’s love. “It shows us that each of us is loved personally by Jesus with a passionate and faithful love, a love without limits, a love that even conquers death. We can choose to follow Him on that path of love inspired by His love,” noted Bishop Rhoades. “We are encouraged to do so by the fact that the love of Christ did not end with His crucifixion, but culminated in the joy of His resurrection so evil does not have the last word.”

He encouraged the graduates to hang a crucifix in their next location and life journey. The crowd was told to say a prayer before it every day remembering that God triumphed on the cross not with violence but with love.

“I pray that you will live your lives deeply, not superficially, that you will live intensely, not apathetically, that you will live generously and not selfishly. Please don’t hide your light under a bushel basket. In a world where there is so much darkness, the Church needs you to share the light of the faith you have received, and in the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of faith, hope, and charity in the world,” said Bishop Rhoades.

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