December 8, 2023

Catholic high school seniors share a Mass and a call to follow their moral compass

A choir from Roncalli High School in Indianapolis lead the singing during the archdiocesan High School Senior Mass at St. Malachy Church in Brownsburg on Nov. 29. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

A choir from Roncalli High School in Indianapolis lead the singing during the archdiocesan High School Senior Mass at St. Malachy Church in Brownsburg on Nov. 29. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

It’s a rare moment for Catholic high school seniors in the archdiocese, and the specialness of what happened on the morning of Nov. 29 wasn’t lost on Philip Kahn III.

A senior at Father Michael Shawe Memorial High School in Madison, Philip spent about two hours on the road that morning, traveling with his Shawe classmates to St. Malachy Church in Brownsburg for a Mass with the other Catholic high school seniors from across the archdiocese.

Settling into the church, Philip and the Shawe contingent were soon part of a large, connected congregation.

They packed the church with fellow high school seniors from Seton Catholic in Richmond, Our Lady of Providence in Clarksville, Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception in Oldenburg, and the Indianapolis high schools of Bishop Chatard, Brebeuf Jesuit, Cardinal Ritter, Cathedral, Father Thomas Scecina Memorial, Lumen Christi, Providence Cristo Rey and Roncalli.

When the Mass ended, its impact on the Shawe senior was clear.

“It was a good bonding experience for our class, to be with all the other schools and taking it all in as one,” Philip said about that rare moment. “It was really great.”

Philip had the same impression of the homily from Msgr. William F. Stumpf, vicar general for the archdiocese and pastor of St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. Msgr. Stumpf was the principal celebrant of the Mass, filling in for Archbishop Charles

C. Thompson, who was spending time with his mother and other family members following the death of his father on Nov. 24.

“He talked a lot about transitioning,” Philip said about Msgr. Stumpf’s homily. “It was really good to hear because we’re all going on our different paths after we graduate.”

Msgr. Stumpf focused on how the high school seniors are in an “in-between” time of their lives.

“You are in a time of transition, transitioning from high school to adulthood,” he told the seniors. “The finish line—graduation—is within sight. But there is so much to be experienced and celebrated in the remainder of your senior year.

“Throughout your life, you will encounter other times when you will be living in transition—for it will happen every time you experience a significant change in your life. In fact, much of life is really a series of transitions and changes.”

In facing those changes, Msgr. Stumpf told the seniors that the Apostles had to deal with similar transitions in their lives, notably between the time of Christ’s resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

“They made their way through that transition strengthened, strengthened by all that Jesus had taught them. And hopefully,

you will do the same,” Msgr. Stumpf said.

It was the first of several hopes he had for the high school seniors.

“Hopefully, you will make your way through this important time of transition strengthened by all you have been taught about your faith and the values that have formed and shaped you. That formation has hopefully shaped you to see the dignity of every human life, to know that you are called to respect the life that you have been given, and also to care deeply for others.

“And hopefully, the two great commandments—love of God and love of neighbor—have somehow been written on your hearts. These moral absolutes are really part of a powerful moral compass that will assist you in navigating not only the future but the time that remains as seniors.”

In closing, Msgr. Stumpf encouraged the seniors to carry that moral compass with them through their senior year and into the future.

“Allow it to inform and guide all of your decisions. I tell you now, it will never, ever fail you. For it always points due north—due north to the truth,” he noted. “May God continue to bless you abundantly as you make your way through the days and months of your senior year.”

Similar advice was shared with the seniors at the beginning of the Mass and near its end.

In greeting the seniors, the archdiocese’s chancellor, Christopher Walsh, encouraged the seniors to embrace a spirit of gratitude in their lives.

“As you go through your senior year, keep in mind your sense of gratitude for your classmates, for your friends, for your family, for your school, and ultimately for the opportunity to have a Catholic education,” Walsh advised.

Most of all, he stressed to the seniors “to be grateful for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made and what that means for each one of us.”

Near the end of the Mass, the archdiocese’s superintendent of Catholic schools, Brian Disney, shared a message of unity for the more than 1,000 seniors in the church.

“Coming together to share in such a beautiful Mass gives great hope for our Church, gives great hope for our society,” Disney said.

Looking across the church, he added, “I see all of this talent, all these abilities, all these amazing human beings who can help us transform the world. As we go forward in the remainder of the school year and all the amazing celebrations, remember this Mass. This is one of the stepping stones of your senior year.

“Remember how we came together. Spread that unity throughout your school, throughout your community and throughout the world. Be that change for the good. And do that in unity for others, filled with God’s love—and always following the manner of our savior, Jesus Christ.”

The messages resonated with Mya Lang-Martinez, a senior at Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis.

“I loved how they said we’re almost there but not yet,” she said. “It was really inspiring to know we’re so close, and we still have so much to enjoy in the months coming up to graduation. Just knowing that there’s so much that we can look forward to—and that every moment matters.”

Mya especially appreciated sharing the Mass with her fellow seniors.

“It was a very lovely Mass. I loved the singing. And it was very nice seeing other people from the Class of 2024 and how we’re all doing this journey together.” †

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