“We know our futures are in God’s hands. He has assured us that He has our futures figured out, and they are better than any of us could ever imagine.”
Kate Bedsworth of Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School’s Class of 2019 reminded her fellow graduating seniors that their time together helped them learn how to grow with change and to rely on God, Who knows where they’re going.
“The future is who we are going to be,” Miss Bedsworth, daughter of Shelly and Jason Bedsworth, stated during the school’s graduation ceremony.
“Ask God to show you His plans and to lead you in the right direction,” she suggested. “He wants to reveal His plans for your life, and He is there to help you every step of the way.”
She was one of 67 graduating seniors to take part in the school’s fifth annual commencement.
At the Baccalaureate Mass earlier in the week, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight urged all of them to include God in their plans and to remain fearless in opening themselves up to what He has in mind for them.
“We all have plans for ourselves,” the bishop noted, “But God has many more wondrous things in store, beyond our imaginations.”
He acknowledged that some difficulties may lie ahead.
“Don’t be afraid to accept them!” he said. “And don’t be afraid to try something different, new or even hard, if it is what God is calling you to do. That’s where you will find your joy and contentment in life.”
He reminded them that each has been given a unique vocation for the good of all.
“All of us have a fundamental mission in our lives, which we share with one another, in proclaiming the Gospel and witnessing to Christ’s light in the darkness of this world,” he said. “All of us share with the Lord Jesus in the mission of proclaiming glad tidings to the poor.”
He reminded them that Christians are not allowed to simply curse the darkness, condemn the world or condemn people.
“Rather, you are being called and sent forth to be a light in the darkness,” he said.
Be like Fr. Tolton
Derrick Evers received the Father Mike Coleman Award for exemplifying the spirit of the school.
Ben Breitweiser received the Bishop Gaydos Award, and Heather Snow received the Father Augustine Tolton Award. Both are given for exemplifying the mission of the school.
This year’s graduates plan to use $2.25 of the $5.5 million in college scholarships offered to them.
“The first chapter of our lives has ended,” Joseph Lutz told his fellow graduates. “Let us cherish our memories, remember our home, and step into our futures, together, prepared and blazing a trail.”
He said they have been blessed with some of the best teachers they could ask for.
“These are the people we have known, loved and will now let go of,” he said. “We’ll be off to who-knows-where, living our lives but knowing our roots are here at this school, with the 39 teachers and 538 other students who we call friends.”
Sister Julie Brandt, diocesan associate superintendent of Catholic schools, congratulated the students on behalf of Bishop W. Shawn McKnight.
She noted that the school’s namesake, Venerable Father Augustus Tolton, was born into slavery in Missouri in 1854 and became the Roman Catholic Church’s first black priest in the United States.
He was a person of deep faith, was persistent in handling challenges and roadblocks, and was resilient and generous in service and reaching out to others in need.
“As you go forth,” said Sr. Julie, “may you take all the gifts you have received and give them back through generous service, your persistence, your resilience and enduring faith.”
Miss Bedsworth thanked the adults who had helped her and her classmates grow into the people they are.
She urged her fellow graduates to “treasure the past, enjoy the present and always trust in God and His unfailing love and mercy, because it’s true what they say: The future is ours.”
Searching for God’s will
Miss Snow’s parents gave her a choice. She chose Tolton Catholic.
“The Catholic aspect is really important to me,” she said. “I wanted to continue to have the opportunities to integrate my faith into my education, and I really love the community here.”
She plans on taking with her the strong work ethic Tolton Catholic helped her develop, as well as the ability to see needs in the community and do something to address them.
“They really allowed us to do that here and grow with the school,” she said.
She looks forward to studying animal science at the University of Missouri and become active in campus ministry at the St. Thomas More Newman Center.
The past four years have given her numerous opportunities to worship God at Mass and in Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament and to put her faith into practice by helping other people.
“Being Catholic is part of my family and our heritage and tradition,” she said. “This is what I’m called to be. It’s how I was raised, and I want to raise my own children the same way.”
She requested prayers “for all of us to search for God’s will in our lives and to know what that may be,” she said.
Vincent Elfrink said he’ll miss the tight-knit friendships and familiar surroundings that have been such a large part of his four years at Tolton Catholic and his time at Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School before that.
He’s looking forward to attending the University of Michigan, getting active at the Newman Center on campus and taking part in intramural sports.
“I enjoy being Catholic,” he said. “It keeps me focused on God and staying on the right path.”
He plans on maintaining a support group of fellow Catholics who hold each other accountable.
“It’s great to have friends like that to keep you on the right path,” he said.
He’s grateful to his parents and friends and all the teachers at Tolton Catholic “and everyone who has helped me throughout these years.”
He asked for prayers for respect for everyone else in the world.
“We see a lot of disrespect and irreverence, and I just pray for everyone to become respectful and reverent with everyone else,” he said.
“What I’m meant to be”
Benjamin Breitweiser grew up in Columbia, went to Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School and recently moved to Glasgow with his family.
One of the things he’ll miss most about Tolton Catholic is the culture of INAM — “It’s not about me.”
That means “thinking about other people around you, not thinking about yourself — consciously thinking about what you can do for the betterment of all our brothers and sisters in Christ, and just understanding what it means to be a Catholic Christian all around,” he said. “Treating others with dignity and respect, based in love and the fullness of faith.”
He plans to study agriculture at State Technical College in Linn on an A+ Scholarship.
He is grateful to God for knowing and loving him, to his parents, Ritt and Laura Bretweiser, for adopting and raising him and sending him to Catholic schools, and to the adults at Tolton Catholic who helped him become the person he is.
He has always been Catholic and always wanted to be Catholic.
“This is what I’m meant to be,” he said.
He asked for prayers for him and his classmates to hold onto God, continue their journeys in faith, never losing sight of it, even in troubled times.
End of the beginning
Clayton Sapp, who was a member of Tolton Catholic’s House Executive Council, advised his fellow graduates to keep this moment in perspective.
“Part of the journey is the end,” he said. “It might even be the most important part, as it offers us an opportunity to reflect and grow as people.”
He said that while looking forward to college is awesome, “it’s important to not forget about Tolton and all the great memories we’ve made here.”
“We’re in the endgame now,” he said. “And because of our time at Tolton, we will be better equipped to handle the change which will be ever present in our lives as we grow older.”