December 7, 2018

Archbishop implores students to be witnesses to Christ

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson shares a light-hearted moment with seniors A.J. Strange, left, Sarah Mattingly and Audrey Troxell of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. The archbishop met and talked with seniors from 10 Catholic high schools across the archdiocese following the annual Mass he celebrated for them on Nov. 28 at St. Malachy Church in Brownsburg. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson shares a light-hearted moment with seniors A.J. Strange, left, Sarah Mattingly and Audrey Troxell of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. The archbishop met and talked with seniors from 10 Catholic high schools across the archdiocese following the annual Mass he celebrated for them on Nov. 28 at St. Malachy Church in Brownsburg. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

It was a rare and even magical moment to behold involving the seniors from 10 Catholic high schools across the archdiocese.

Their special Mass with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson had just ended, and as the closing song played, the nearly 1,400 students started singing, clapping and raising their hands together in a united moment of spontaneous joy.

Seconds after being part of that memorable scene on Nov. 28, Kate Bosley of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis still beamed as she said, “It was really cool seeing all the schools that normally are rivals come together like that.”

Nathan Dickman of Seton Catholic High School in Richmond was equally effusive about the experience that occurred inside St. Malachy Church in Brownsburg.

“It was very incredible to see so many people in one church, let alone them all be young people, and all of us be together at one time with the archbishop and all the priests,” Nathan said. “I could honestly feel the presence of Jesus like no other time before.”

That’s exactly the feeling that Archbishop Thompson hopes stays with the high school seniors now and in the future.

Coming together to live a life centered in Christ was the essence of the message the archbishop shared with the students from the Indianapolis Catholic high schools of Bishop Chatard, Brebeuf Jesuit, Cardinal Ritter, Cathedral, Father Thomas Scecina Memorial, Providence Cristo Rey and Roncalli, plus Seton Catholic in Richmond, Father Michael Shawe Memorial in Madison and Oldenburg Academy in Oldenburg.

At the beginning of the Mass, the archbishop told the seniors, “As we gather here today to celebrate all that you have accomplished and looking also to your futures beyond even high school, we remember we rely on God’s grace, the grace that is provided here for us in word and sacrament.”

While God’s grace binds them, Archbishop Thompson also used his homily to remind the seniors of the tremendous gifts and the challenging responsibilities that are part of a Catholic education and the Catholic faith.

“When we live our faith, it will not always be received well. It will be rejected. And we may have to suffer for that faith.”

The archbishop added, “Religion provides the conscience of society, and the world pushes back at that. Our schools are a ministry of our Catholic teachings, of our Catholic Church, of our Catholic faith. And we teach not just what is popular, not just what is easy, not just what is in vogue in the world. We teach what we believe to be bound by Scripture and tradition rooted in Jesus Christ.”

That belief calls Catholics to put Christ first in their lives, the archbishop told the seniors.

“That’s our calling—to be witnesses to Christ. And our Christ is one whose throne is a cross. Not power. Not an army. His victory was over sin and death—for our sakes, for our salvation.

“We must be Christ-centered in all we’re about, in all that we do. And Christ‑centered means that Jesus doesn’t witness ‘to live and let live.’ Jesus witnesses to live for others, for the sake of others.”

Archbishop Thompson also used the theme of a winning lottery ticket to remind the seniors of the great gift they’ve been given through a Catholic education.

“Everybody is always thinking if I win the lottery, here’s where I’ll go and here’s what I’ll do,” he noted.

“You’ve all won it. Look around the world. To the rest of the world, you’ve won the lottery. What are you going to do with this formation and this education? Are you going to let it slip away to worldly values so you can be more popular? Or do you take what Jesus calls us to do and proclaim this Good News, this witness to others? Even to the point of sometimes being rejected.”

Through it all, the archbishop encouraged the seniors to become “the people of God that you are called and meant to be.”

He also stressed keeping their focus on “the end,” of being reunited with God in heaven.

“What Jesus promises us is not an easy way, but the way to salvation. The way to true life, to true peace, to true joy. And you have what it takes to be a part of this mission, and not let the world transform us. But we, through our faith in Jesus, [will be] transforming the world, if we remain Christ-centered.”

In closing his homily, Archbishop Thompson assured the seniors, “This is a day of looking with hope and joy. No matter what comes, God is always with you, Christ’s love resides in you, and as he promises, he will give you what you need if you stay rooted and centered in him each day, in each relationship, in each endeavor that you undertake.”

That theme of hope and joy came to life in the seniors singing and rejoicing together at the end of the Mass.

“I’m just grateful to be here,” said Allison Pena of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, summing up the feeling of many seniors. “I felt included in the Church community. It felt very cool being with all these seniors here.” †

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