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NOTE: The following letter was published in the May 31, 2018 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
One of the joys this time of year affords me is attending our Catholic high school graduations. It is also a good reminder for me to keep all of our graduates this year in my prayers. What a joy it is to visit our high schools, as the energy and enthusiasm of our youth is always inspiring, but this is particularly so at graduation time. Of course, attending our graduations also allows me an opportunity to thank all who make our high schools the wonderful places they are, the students primarily, but also the administrators, boards, teachers, staff and generous benefactors. I get to offer, too, my prayerful congratulations to the young men and women upon reaching this part of their journey through life. They are usually excited to be moving on, moving forward: many to higher education, some to service in the military, and still others to the workforce. Graduation can seem like it is all about finally having answers, about completion, being done. But as I think back to my own high school graduation and the conversations I have had with my nieces and nephews and people their age over the years, there are really more questions than answers.
What am I going to study in college? What career will I pursue? Will I be able to get a good job and make enough money? What qualities am I looking for in my future husband or wife? Could God be calling me to explore a vocation to the priesthood or religious life? Where do I want to raise my family? And, the ultimate question, how much longer can I keep my Snapchat streak going? So yes, there are lots of questions for our graduates to consider as they go forward. But I also encourage them to keep one question above them all—yes, even above Snapchat streaks and Instagram likes: “What is Jesus asking of me?”
Each and every one of our graduates has been created and loved into being by a God who has a purpose, a design for them; for all of us. In these years ahead, they are going to be faced with many obstacles in discovering what that is. Our graduates themselves and the Faith that has been passed on to them throughout their years of Catholic education no doubt will be challenged, mocked, disregarded, and even hated at times if they live their life always seeking the answer to that question. But I encourage them to remember the words of Jesus to his first disciples and which He speaks to us today: “Do not be afraid…by your perseverance you will secure your lives.” Their true happiness in life, not a fleeting happiness, will be intricately linked to their discovering what God wants of them…guaranteed. After all, He created each of us, knit us together in our mother’s womb, and He knows us better than we know ourselves…so we need to go to Him regularly in trying to figure things out.
I encourage our graduates’ parents and particularly their grandparents to help our young adults to keep in mind this question of what God is asking them to do, whom He is asking them to become. God loves them, the Church loves them, we love them. We are all here for them and want only the best for them and from them. So yes, they should celebrate their graduation today and, in the years to come, but we need to encourage them to keep God’s plan for them in mind, whether it be for what they will study, their careers or vocations, their service, their marriages, their families, their lives…to wake up each and every day and begin with this simple prayer: “Lord Jesus, what are you asking of me today?”
Yes, God bless and keep our graduates. We have such pride in them and want them to always remember that God is always, always there for them, and so are we! They should always feel they can go to Him or us, or return to Him or us at any time.
May God bless our graduates, and congratulations once again, Class of 2018!
The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen