They were classmates, teammates, friends and fellow Trailblazers.
“But most importantly we are brothers and sisters in Christ,” Mary Kaitlyn Condict, Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School’s house executive council president, told her fellow 68 graduates at their 2018 Baccalaureate Mass.
They attended the Mass with their families and the school’s faculty and administration May 15 in Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Columbia.
Father Michael Coleman, the school’s chaplain, presided.
Monsignor Michael T. Flanagan, senior associate pastor and former pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish; Father Christopher Cordes, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish; and Dominican Father Richard Litzau, pastor of St. Thomas More Newman Center parish, concelebrated.
Fr. Coleman in his homily urged the graduating seniors to take time each day to remember and write down the “holy moments” they experience.
“If you do that every day, you can’t help but realize that Jesus Christ is with you every step of the way and will never, ever, ever go away,” he said.
The priest pointed out that every instant of their life is “amazing joy” to God.
“You can never be lost because you are with Him and He is with you and He will never — even if you wander away, even if you forget about Him — He will never, ever, ever forget about you!” said Fr. Coleman.
Several students at the Mass offered up the Prayers of the Faithful in their native language or the language of their parents, then repeated them in English.
You CAN take it with you
Bernard Naumann, the school’s president, who is retiring June 30, encouraged the graduating seniors to continue cultivating their prayer life and to make helping other people their main goal.
“There are problems everywhere waiting for solutions,” he said. “There are opportunities everywhere to make improvements for others.
“I want you take what you’ve learned here and mix it with your own attitude and abilities,” he said. “And know you are supported by the love of everyone who surrounds you tonight.”
Tolton Alumni Board Representative Conner McCarty, a member of the school’s Class of 2014, welcomed the graduating seniors to “the extended family of ’blazer alumni.”
“We look forward to you taking your Catholic education with you and following the path that Christ has paved for you,” he said.
He reminded them to keep asking their Blessed Mother for guidance; to keep asking St. Michael the Archangel to defend them; and to keep asking Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati to continue to pray for them to keep living out their faith.
The graduates carry impressive credentials into the next phase of their lives.
•They were accepted into 72 colleges in 25 different states, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces;
•They were offered 115 scholarships (106 academic and nine athletic) totaling more than $5.36 million;
•They will use $1.2 million in scholarships to attend schools in 11 different states and one Canadian Province;
•57 percent graduated with Latin Honors with a 3.75 GPA or higher.
However, “the most important thing we are going to take away from high school,” Miss Condict noted, “is not our high GPA, the glory of winning a state title or any other achievement. It is the relationships we’ve built, the ones that we will carry with us long after we’ve left.”
Graduates who agreed to be interviewed said they want to take with them the faith and familial bonds that helped define their time at Tolton Catholic.
“I can’t ever stop thanking God for everything,” said Troy Baker.
“Of course God is here!” Mr. Baker asserted. “He always is. You can feel it especially when we worship as a class or as a school. You can feel it especially when we sing.”
He has enjoyed getting to know personally all the people in his class.
He wants to stay Catholic and continue growing in his relationship with God and in communion with believers throughout the world.
In praying for his fellow graduates, Mr. Baker asks God “to watch over them and keep them safe, and help them be healthy and successful throughout their lives.”
Like Mr. Baker, Casey Hulshof went to Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School and spent 13 years with many of her Tolton Catholic classmates.
“Here, we focus a lot on the spiritual aspect,” she said. “So we became not only like a family that studies together and plays sports together, but a family that pushes together in their faith and grows together in their relationship with Jesus.”
She said each of her classmates has a “beautiful heart,” and she prays “that they use their beautiful heart to do beautiful things.”
She plans on staying Catholic.
“God created everything and He knows every little thing,” she said. “So for me, that will mean trying to take Him wherever I go.”
She always wears a crucifix, hoping that people will attribute the joy they see in her to Jesus.
Audrey Hebert said Tolton Catholic is “solid.” She always felt like her classmates, instructors and administrators were looking out for her.
Nathan Holtmeyer said he’s grateful for his school and his friends helping to draw him back into a deeper relationship with God whenever he got discouraged.
“We are a solid community,” he said. “The love we have for each other here is close to what you have in a family. And a big part of that comes from a personal relationship and communal relationship with God.”
He asked for prayers for him and his fellow graduates to continue to stay focused on doing what God expects of them and accepting His peace and happiness.
Called to be grateful
A few days after the Mass came the graduation ceremonies in the school’s fieldhouse.
Mr. Naumann; Bishop W. Shawn McKnight; and graduating seniors Veronica Tarka and Nathan Holtmeyer addressed the assembly.
The bishop said the whole Church shares the graduating seniors’ joy as they look ahead with excitement and wonderment.
He urged the graduates to stop and give thanks to God for all the people who helped get them to this moment.
“God has many great things in store for you,” he said. “Be open to God’s plans and be not afraid to make a sacrifice for others.”
He encouraged them to reach for the highest level of Christian discipleship by making sacrifices “for those who are most vulnerable, most defenseless, most in need.”
“It is my prayer that you will stand up for those who have no voice and put your gifts and talents at the service of Jesus’ Gospel,” he said.