High school graduates grateful for growth in faith
Life during high school is an exciting and challenging time for growth – in academics, co-curricular activities such as sports, theater and speech – and in the faith.
And the faith that is instilled and allowed to grow as students work toward graduation can help guide teens as they move into adulthood.
The Catholic Voice asked eight 2014 graduates how their faith has been nurtured through high school and what they plan to do with that base of love and discipline as they leave home for college, join the military or enter the work force.
Here’s what they said:
Mary Jo Carney, Roncalli Catholic High School and St. Peter Parish, both in Omaha; plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"Throughout high school I have grown so much spiritually, that I wonder how it’s only been four years. I was raised in a family with two amazing parents and seven obnoxious (but lovable) siblings.
"My church, St. Peter’s of Omaha, has influenced my faith enormously. As part of the choir there for eight years now, I love the classical liturgy, level of professionalism and the simple way music inspires people toward prayer.
"I have helped to start many outreaches at my school, Roncalli Catholic, including campus ministry, coat drives and even a pro-life week. But most important, I have experienced how close God is to us in our suffering, and how trust in him makes life worth living.
"I will be attending UNL next year as a vocal performance major, and it is my hope to become a pro-life activist and music composer, possibly contributing to the world of liturgy."
Marissa Daskiewicz, homeschooled and a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha; plans to attend Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyo.
"My high school years have been a time of immense growth in my faith. Religion classes for school built on what I already knew and brought me to a much deeper understanding of the Catholic faith. Through my parish, participation in the youth choir led me to a stronger appreciation for the liturgy.
"I also attended the national March for Life four times, each year receiving a particular grace that helped my relationship with God and others. Volunteer work at Camp Fun and Faith let me share my faith with others.
"Throughout everything, my parents have been role models for me to follow. This fall I will be attending Wyoming Catholic College to study liberal arts. The entire environment there will help me continue to grow in my faith, both in class and out."
Wilson Hupp, St. Mary High School and St. Patrick Parish, both in O’Neill; plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"Without a doubt, my Catholic faith began and is continually increasing because of St. Patrick’s Parish and the school and people associated with it. St. Mary’s High School and St. Patrick’s Parish serve as cornerstones in O’Neill; they have produced some of the town’s most productive and generous citizens. This shows me that faith can truly lead to a joyous life.
"The school has taught me to hand my future over to God and to follow the vocation that he has chosen for me. In my case, I plan to pursue a career in estate law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"Upon graduation, I hope to move back to my home parish in O’Neill. I want to use my career to serve others and continue to expand my faith in a parish that I love and a school that I owe for giving me the building blocks of virtue."
Scott Jarecki, Holy Family High School and Holy Family Parish, both in Lindsay; plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Major influences for Jarecki were his parents and Father James Novotny, pastor of Holy Family, all of whom modeled the faith for him from a young age, he said.
"I’ve grown in faith by going to a Catholic school. By going to theology and religion classes every day you are constantly learning more about your faith and growing closer to God.
"In campus ministry during Lent we would do activities with the little kids to teach them. On the Wednesday before Easter we do the Living Stations. Campus ministry always helps out, and the elementary school watches. It teaches me that there are always people watching you and to always be wise in your actions.
"After high school I hope to be involved with the UNL Newman Center and things like that to keep building and growing my faith."
Kevin Jewell, Mount Michael Benedictine School near Elkhorn and St. Cecilia Parish in Omaha; plans to attend Creighton University, also in Omaha.
"My faith was nurtured through the efforts of many people, not just monastic members. It took effort from every teacher and monk to teach me that faith was more than sitting in church, but rather that in all things that God should be glorified and made a priority. It was a simple prayer at the beginning of nearly every class that made me look at faith on a more involved level.
"In college, I plan to avoid being a dormant Catholic and reach out to the community through service projects."
Shea Lueninghoener, O’Neill High School and St. Patrick Parish, both in O’Neill; plans to attend Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.
"Over the course of high school, my faith has been nurtured mainly by our parish’s youth group and by the guidance of Father James Netusil and Father John Bohn. Both priests have challenged our parish to pursue a deeper understanding of God and to build a strong relationship with him through a variety of activities, such as Father John’s weekly retreats during Lent.
"In a secular world that is becoming more hostile toward Christians, and especially Catholics, remaining tenacious like St. John Paul II and Pope Francis will be difficult, and even mentioning the Catholic Church in public comes with the risk of heavy criticism.
"I hope that being involved with Simpson College’s Catholic Student Organization will provide me another route toward a deeper understanding (of the faith) all of us Christians should strive for throughout our lives."
Emily Paltz, Cedar Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Hartington and Holy Family Parish in Cedar County; plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"My faith has been a foundation pillar in my life. My parents have made a multitude of sacrifices to send me to a Catholic school, while actively encouraging growth of my faith through family night prayer and attending Mass together.
"My school has aided in the growth of my faith through theology classes and numerous opportunities for faith experiences such as weekly Mass, EMHC, peer ministry and the national March for Life.
"My parish has also supported my growing faith through events such as Life Chain, JC Camp and TEC.
"In college, I hope to continue building my faith by becoming active in UNL’s Newman Center and finding people with a similar desire to grow in their faith."
Ellen Townley, Marian High School and St. Pius X Parish, both in Omaha; plans to attend Creighton University, also in Omaha.
"The strength of the Marian community is an attestation to the power of faith. The sisterhood I found at Marian led me to appreciate the innumerable ways one can live out her faith. While class discussions encouraged me to be open-minded, they also helped me solidify my values.
"I immersed myself in the service opportunities Marian offered, from campus ministry and retreats, to tutoring at St. Pius X/St. Leo School and working on Operation Others. Each service organization had its own lessons; all inspired me to greater love.
"I’m excited to attend a Jesuit university next year because I believe the principles on which it was founded, its incorporation of religion into classroom discussion and its opportunities for service will continue to foster the growth of my Catholic faith."