Graduating seniors reflect on losses, opportunities
May 14, 2020
For the Catholic Voice’s tribute to graduating seniors from Catholic high schools around the Archdiocese of Omaha, see 2020 GRADUATION FEATURE SPREAD.
Josh Kramer was sorely disappointed he wouldn’t be teeing it up again as a member of the Creighton Preparatory School’s golf team. He also lamented the loss of senior-year traditions he would have enjoyed.
But the state-ordered restrictions in response to the coronavirus that closed all Nebraska schools and halted their activities, such as graduations and proms, through May 31 gave him something unanticipated: an opportunity to grow in his faith and self knowledge.
Kramer and other graduating seniors in Catholic high schools in the archdiocese spoke with the Catholic Voice about what the unusual end to their high school careers has meant for them and the lessons they’ve learned, even while they wait to see if their schools will still hold graduation ceremonies this summer.
“It’s not what anybody would have wanted,” Kramer said.
“It was kind of hard to take at first,” he said. “We (the golf team) had a pretty good shot at going to State this year.” He also missed the camaraderie and fun activities he would have shared with his teammates, he said.
But finishing the school year learning from home and spending more time with family was an unexpected gift, he said.
Kramer, who will leave home later this summer to attend Duke University, is enjoying opportunities for family movie nights and board games, and daily basketball with his two younger brothers.
With school activities suspended, he also was free to use the extra time to pray and reflect on God’s presence in his life.
Kramer noted the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, the order of priests that operates Creighton Prep, who found God through a lengthy convalescence following injury as a soldier in battle.
“During that time he went from an arrogant soldier to a man of God,” he said.
Kramer also learned more about himself in the process, finding that he is more adaptable to changing circumstances than he had realized.
He said it also helped that Prep seniors ended their school year with a four-evening, online retreat, which deepened his appreciation for the Omaha school’s community.
“Reflecting on everything we’ve gone through over the last four years was a really fitting end,” he said. “It slaps a bow on my high school experience.”
Another student athlete, Jacob Gathje from Mount Michael Benedictine School near Elkhorn, had unfinished business when school activities were suspended.
A member of the school’s track and field team, he was injured in the fall but looked forward to competing in the spring until all sporting events were canceled.
“Personally, you just feel awful for the people who have been affected by this (the pandemic), so you realize this is for a good reason,” he said.
“But it’s still really hard missing out on a lot of senior memories that would have come from that last few weeks of school. There’s no sense of closure … not being able to say goodbye to everyone.”
Gathje is grateful for his experiences as a five-day-a-week boarding student at the school and the time he spent with friends and teachers. Now he keeps in contact with those friends through regular Zoom calls and sharing photos taken throughout their high school years.
But he also takes satisfaction in sharing extra time with his parents and a younger brother before leaving home in a few months to attend St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.
And, during his quiet moments, he takes solace in his faith.
“During those times when I feel sad, just talking to him and praying … I feel reassured,” Gathje said. “It’s all part of God’s plan, and it will work itself out eventually.”
“God will help us through this, so I’m not worrying about it,” he said. “And I’m grateful that I still had the opportunity to learn and that my family is safe.”
A RANGE OF EMOTIONS
Like most graduating seniors, Hayden Wolf, of Norfolk Catholic Junior/Senior High School, felt a range of emotions when classes and school activities were canceled.
I’ve been frustrated and disappointed,” she said. “But I’ve tried to keep a positive attitude through it all.”
“My senior soccer season was canceled, so that was a hard pill to swallow.”
“I’ve been trying to remind myself that this isn’t the end of the world. There is always a silver lining,” Wolf said. “I’ve been spending a lot more time with my family, and it’s nice to take a step back from the busyness of my schedule and just relax a little bit.”
“I’ve seen how important family life is and to not take the moments that I have with them for granted,” said Wolf, who will be attending Wayne State College in the fall.
But missing out on senior prom was a particular blow for Wolf.
“I was super excited for senior prom … and already had a dress picked out,” she said, holding out hope that prom may still be scheduled at a later date.
Despite their disappointments, all three students praised their teachers for how they adapted and successfully presented their curricula in an online format, and how they worked hard to maintain good communication to help their students complete their studies.
And, all are happy that their schools will still attempt to hold graduation ceremonies this summer if conditions allow.
“After having time to think about it, I’ve seen that there’s so much more that could be worse,” Wolf said. “Luckily everybody that I know is safe and healthy, so that’s what’s really important.”