Salute to Grads 2018

Every year, The Visitor contacts a sampling of parishes with graduating seniors in the Diocese of St. Cloud, as well as Cathedral High School and St. John’s Preparatory School, and asks them to nominate students to profile in our Salute to Grads section. The students who were nominated are featured below.

Graduation ceremonies

• Cathedral High School

Cathedral High School graduates will participate in a baccalaureate Mass, celebrated by Bishop Donald Kettler, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. Commencement is at 8 p.m. Friday, May 25, in the Cathedral North Gym. Diplomas will be conferred by Bishop Kettler.  

The commencement speaker is Bob Lahr, Cathedral class of 1977. The valedictorian is Alexandru Florea and the salutatorian is Madeline Chopp.

• St. John’s Preparatory School

The St. John’s Preparatory School baccalaureate Mass and commencement ceremony is at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 26, at St. John’s Abbey Church in Collegeville. Bishop Donald Kettler will celebrate the baccalaureate Mass with Benedictine Abbot John Klassen and Headmaster Benedictine Father Jonathan Licari concelebrating.

The Class of 2018 speaker will be Regan Mies of Cold Spring.
The faculty speaker will be biology teacher Sarah Pasela.

FEATURED GRADUATES:

Anna McNamara
St. John’s Preparatory School, Collegeville
St. Mary Parish, Little Falls

What advice would you give students entering their senior year?

I would advise students entering their senior year to take some time over the summer and plan for the upcoming year. If further education is planned I advise early visits to possible schools. I also recommend learning how to perform tasks and make decisions independently to prepare for living on your own.

What do you appreciate most about your Catholic faith?

Being Catholic and attending St. John’s Prep, I greatly appreciate the Benedictine values I have come to know. Three values that I relate to are community living, respect for persons and justice for all humans.

What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think? 

This past semester my world literature class read “The Complete Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi. I found this autobiography incredibly inspirational as it is written about the author’s experience growing up in the war-torn country of Iran. During the Islamic revolution of the 1980s, Satrapi endured numerous horrific events that led her to move to Austria and study at a French school in Vienna. I am certain that in my future, I will look back on this novel and find inspiration from her story.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?

Recently, it seems as though discord throughout the world is being expressed by the use of violence. I hope humanity as a whole can become more tolerant of one another and find peaceful measures to resolve problems.

What is one gift you think you bring to the church? 

One gift I believe I bring to the church is my ability to play the oboe for Mass.

What is your favorite quote? 

My favorite quote is by Pope Francis: “To change the world we must be good to those who cannot repay us.”

What are your post high school plans? 

My post high school plans include attending Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. I intend to major in anthropology and take the medical school prerequisite courses. I hope to study abroad at some point during my four years at Drake.

Maddy Chopp
Cathedral High School, St. Cloud
Sacred Heart Parish, Sauk Rapids

If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be? 

I would like to converse with Mother Teresa. I know she struggled with her faith and for someone as holy as her it is so hard for me to believe. As humans we all have so many doubts that we hold deep inside and it’s really inspiring to me that a revered woman such as Mother Teresa could have had these same doubts. It makes me feel as if doubt isn’t as bad as some of us try to make it out to be. I really would love to see that great strength of character that she had. I really respect her ability to have fully given herself towards others. I hope one day I can develop that deep sense of selflessness.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in high school? 

I have learned that, no matter what, I matter. At the end of the day sometimes you have to be yourself and do what is best for you. You have to trust that you have the capability to do well on that test, perform in front of an audience or play well in your game. I really tried to do it all in high school and, as it is winding down, I realize just how important that was for me. I met so many amazing people and did so many amazing things. Yes, it was incredibly taxing on me, there were a lot of mental breakdowns and sometimes I had to turn in assignments late or not get all the studying done that I felt I needed for a test. Yet, in the end, it all turned out OK. My other passions helped to shape who I am today, and I am so grateful for those opportunities. In the end, I’m not just a scholar but a person.

What service projects have you been involved with? How have they made a difference in your life? 

I have had the pleasure of being surrounded by the amazing Sovada family, Rick and Sue, my entire high school and middle school career. Through Ellie’s Army, a service group they founded in memory of their daughter Ellie, I have been able to connect with many younger kids at the local parochial schools as well as help contribute goods and items toward the women at Domus House [transitional housing for mothers and their children]. These are among so many other projects I have been able to witness and participate in with Rick and Sue. Being able to have them in my life as a constant beacon of love and hope has truly humbled me. They are such good people and their daughter Ellie was no exception. I am honored to be able to carry on her legacy to these other people in our community. Her legacy is giving so many mothers and their children hope.

What is happening in the world today that troubles your conscience? What would you like to change for the better? 

The crisis in the Middle East really sticks out in my mind. I can’t even fathom a world of such oppression and inhumanity that certain terrorist groups like ISIS are spreading. In my multicultural literature class we recently watched a video on the state of education for many young girls in Afghanistan. I was astounded just how awful the conditions were where these girls were learning, yet I was so heartened by their genuine willingness to learn in spite of the atrocity that was considered their “school.” I want these young children to be able to have access to good education because it is a doorway to so many opportunities for these girls.

If you had an opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him?

I would really want to talk to him about the state of the world. I would love to know his opinions on all of the social issues that are taking the world by storm. Further, since Pope Francis has had unique papal perspectives on many traditional Catholic teachings and ideals, I would love to know what he feels is the perfect balance between adapting to modern situations and holding on to steadfast tradition.

What is your favorite quote?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” — Mark Twain

What are your post high school plans?

I plan on attending the University of Minnesota, College of Biological Sciences, either to study biology or genetics. I still have yet to decide whether I will continue on to medical school or not. I also could see myself taking a pre-veterinary path as well.

Hannah Miller
St. Martha of the Revealed Christ Homeschool, Browerville
St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish, Long Prairie

If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be and why? 

I would love to talk with J.R.R. Tolkien. His books are some of my favorites and I love the depth of Catholic symbolism found in them. He was such a learned man, but he lived the Catholic faith in a quiet way.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in high school?

Work hard in school, but do not forget to cultivate your inner life, especially a devotion to Mary.

What service projects have you been involved in? How have they made a difference in your life? 

One of the largest parts of my high school faith life and volunteer work has been Schoenstatt. Schoenstatt is a Marian movement within the Catholic Church — we have our very own Schoenstatt shrine in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota! I have participated in the Schoenstatt Girls Youth since 2010 as a youth, a group leader, a camp counselor, a state leader and will continue to participate as an adult. Schoenstatt has truly made an imprint on my life. I have grown as a person and in my faith. I would not be the person I am today without it.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?

One thing that troubles me is our lack of knowledge about the basics of good and evil. I believe that all problems in our world can be narrowed down to this one fact. Every human being has a choice to do right or wrong but, for most of the popular culture, the line between them has been blurred. Now we have things like legal gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia, simply because our morals, our sense of right and wrong, have been so watered down.

If you had an opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him?

I would ask him what he thinks the world is in need of most now and how this need should be answered by us in the church.

What is your favorite quote?

“I go with you through darkness and night, because your love will always guide me.” — Father Joseph Kentenich

What are your post high school plans?

I will be attending the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, majoring in sacred music.

Alex Florea
Cathedral High School, St. Cloud
St. Mary Romanian Orthodox Church, St. Paul

What advice would you give students entering their senior year?

Work hard and stay adamant in your studies. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste this late in the game. Also, slow down and enjoy — it is your last year after all.

What book did you read in high school that most changed the way you think?

“Fahrenheit 451.” Before reading this I wasn’t much of a reader. I thought books were boring and not worth my time. “Fahrenheit 451” opened my eyes not only to the importance of books, but it helped me find the joy in reading as well.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?

The growing disparity amongst friends and families over arguments that could be resolved by simply listening to one another’s point of view.

What is one gift you think you bring to the church?

Respect for all people.

What is your favorite quote?

“Kids, fiction is the truth inside the lie, and the truth of this fiction is simple enough: the magic exists.” — Stephen King

What are your post high school plans?

I plan to study physics and biology at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.

Gabriel Woodard
St. John’s Preparatory School, Collegeville
St. Francis Xavier Parish, Sartell

Name one thing you are proud of accomplishing in high school.

One thing I am most proud of accomplishing in high school is being lucky enough to have found something I love to do more than anything, my passion.

What is the best advice you’ve received from a teacher?

Some of the best advice I would say I’ve received is firstly to do what you love but to also do your best to find time for sleep.

If you could go back in time five years, what advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself to first get involved in more things, but more specifically to get involved with theater.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?

One thing that I believe is wrong with the world in this time and place is the division between us. The lack of acceptance of other ideas and people is something I strive to change everyday.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated Gospel values in your school life.  

If I had to pick a time that I used my Gospel values in my school life, I would say one of my favorite things to do is to help people understand things or help with homework. One of my favorite high school memories was going to a school in Freeport and tutoring younger kids, being able to give my talent and give the kids joy at the same time is amazing.

What is your favorite quote?

“Being a leader doesn’t mean you have all the answers, just the brains to recognize the right ones when you hear it.” — Newsies The Musical

What are your post high school plans?

I plan to attend college and study musical theater, most likely at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.

Mark Longtin
Minnewaska Area High School, Glenwood, 
St. Bartholomew Parish, Villard 

What advice would you give students entering their senior year? 

Put all of your faith in God. He will guide your life the way that he wants it to go.

What do you appreciate most about your Catholic faith? 

Being able to come back to a community that you have grown up in. You will always have people to come back to, who will help you in life and in faith.

Tell about a book you read in high school that most changed the way you think and why.

“Heaven is for Real.” We are all children of God  —whether we can see him or not makes no difference. Whether or not we believe it at the time he is there with us. He is always by our side, and it helps me to know that when I’m struggling.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better? 

It seems more and more people are straying away from God, more focused on themselves than those around them. I hope to set an example by how I live and treat others.

What is one gift you think you bring to the church? 

I have always been active in serving the church and helping others. I try to have an open mind and accept everyone for who they are.

What is your favorite quote? 

“Treat others as you want to be treated.”

What are your post high school plans? 

I will attend Ridgewater College in Willmar for a one-year diploma in carpentry.

Shelby Schermerhorn
Pelican Rapids High School, Pelican Rapids
St. Leonard Parish, Pelican Rapids

If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be? 

Martin Luther King Jr. — his journey and evolution are fascinating.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in high school? 

How to be myself.

What service projects have you been involved with? How have they made a difference in your life? 

SADD, celebration of cultures, coaching softball, sports, church fundraisers. Personal growth, caregiving experience, joy.

What is happening in the world today that troubles your conscience? What you would like to change for the better? 

Terrorism. Lead my life by Christ’s teachings and evangelize the fifth commandment.

If you had an opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him? 

I feel unsteady with my faith journey — how can we open our minds to grow stronger in faith?

What is your favorite quote? 

“If you can’t find a kind person, be one.”

What are your post high school plans? 

Attend University of Minnesota at Morris, focusing on education, coaching or medicine — and playing softball.

Krista Maruska
Sartell High School, Sartell
St. Francis Xavier Parish, Sartell

Name one thing you are proud of accomplishing in high school.

My first grand accomplishment occurred my junior year through the Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota. I have been singing with this choir since my sophomore year and have loved every year of it. My junior year, however, was very special to me as we performed a piece that delivered more healing to the heart and soul than it could to the ear. We performed “Requiem for the Living” by Dan Forrest. The piece was 45 minutes long and sung in Latin. There were five movements to the piece representing the five stages of grief.

The timing of learning this piece was impeccable and purely God’s plan because at the time of receiving the score, I, and schoolmates of mine, were going through the same five stages of grief after a classmate had passed. The significance of this performance has followed me into my everyday life as I deal with troubles. I went through this time feeling disconnected from God more than ever before. This taught me that prayer is not enclosed between two hands, but reaches the masses through music notes and emotional eyes. This has been a great accomplishment because it helped me to grow emotionally as a person and also to put trust in God that he will give me rest.

What is the best advice you’ve received from a teacher?

The best advice came from my German teacher. It was nothing that was said directly, but I caught on to the advice as I learned firsthand from her teaching style that it is OK to not get everything correct when on your journey of learning [German].

It is common that a foreign language teacher will not correct every single error made within your sentence, because you are not supposed to worry about too many things at once. If you worry about how you conjugated your verb wrong and used the wrong noun determiner when you are trying to learn a new form of grammar, it is difficult to understand and focus on the importance of learning one skill at a time. Take your time throughout your learning process and don’t get discouraged when you see a lot of pen markings on your paper.

If you could go back in time five years, what advice would you give yourself?

If I could go back in time five years, I would tell myself that what other people think about you is nothing more than a thought passing through their brain and perhaps it leaves their mouth. However, that thought is as tiny as a fleck of dust and should carry no burden over you.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?

I am a passionate believer that all lives matter, regardless of color, creed or orientation. A recent passion of mine has been fighting against abortion as I believe the choice to go through with abortion does not have the consent from the baby living inside the mother’s womb. Even more recently, I have been discussing with my friends and family about the meaning of every life and how it seems as though the groups that rally for one division of people to have free life is interesting. It is seen across both political parties, and I, too, participate in the rally for one division of people to have the right of life (pro-life). I am beginning to gain interest in what it would look like if all people rallied for every life without putting a label on it. Maybe that rally can be practiced every day through love, kindness and compassion.

Tell about a time when you demonstrated your Gospel values in your school life.

A great example of demonstrating my Gospel values within my school life occurred my junior year of high school around the time of the election. My close friends at the time had very different views from me and another Catholic friend of mine because we believed in taking action based on our religious and moral views, whereas our other friends believed in taking action based on politics and personal interest. It was a very difficult time in my life where I had to evaluate my faith and why I was holding on to it so tightly when it was so easy for my friends to rebut everything I said because it was based on religion. This is where I grew through my faith and still hold my same beliefs that I did around the time of the election. I have, however, learned to listen to what others are saying, and practice my right to respectfully offer a rebuttal.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is from “Requiem for the Living” and from Matthew 11:28. It is “Come unto Me, all ye who labor, come unto Me all ye who are heavy laden, come unto Me, and I will give you rest.”

What are your post high school plans?

I plan to attend the University of St. Thomas to fulfill a degree in international business and German.

Nicholas Schermerhorn
Pelican Rapids High School, Pelican Rapids
St. Leonard Parish, Pelican Rapids

 If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be with?

Jesus —[for] affirmation and to strengthen my faith connection.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in high school? 

How to actively participate in friendships, a group and teams.

What service projects have you been involved with? How have they made a difference in your life?

Boy Scouts (cleaning off memorial walls), church fundraisers, feeding elders. Giving back feels good.

What is happening in the world today that troubles your conscience? What would you would like to change for the better?

War. Contribute to leadership by becoming a leader who is fair, kind, creative and diplomatic.

If you had an opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him? 

Not sure what I’d have to tell him but I would like to have an everyday conversation with him by asking him how he is. And who or what inspired him to become who he is today.

What is your favorite quote? 

“If you’re not being nice, you’re not doing it right.”

What are your post high school plans? 

Attend Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead, Minnesota, to study life and many interests: nutrition, education, coaching, business.

Rachel Simon
Foley High School, Foley
St. John Parish, Foley

If you could have a conversation with a historical figure, who would it be?

It would be an honor to have a conversation with St. Teresa of Calcutta. As an adamant follower of the Catholic faith, she brought inspiration to so many different people across the entire world. Her whole life was based upon following God’s will, something which I strive to do more of. I’d simply ask for advice on how I, too, can say yes to the Lord as affirmatively as she did.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in high school?

The greatest lesson I have learned in high school is how important of a role effort plays in future success. People ask me all of the time how I manage to keep perfect grades and remain number one in my class, and I tell them all the same thing: It’s not about being smart; it’s about effort. When you are constantly striving to put forth your very best, you will not be left unrewarded.

What service projects have you been involved in? How have they made a difference in your life?

Many of the service projects I am involved with take place at school. The National Honor Society, Conservation Club and Student Council help me give back to my community in beneficial ways while also teaching me what it’s like to be a leader. Examples of giving my time include giving speeches during academic honor breakfasts, starting composting in the intermediate school and collecting donations for annual food drives. Outside of school, I also offer stewardship for my church — being a moderator for confirmation classes, serving various parish dinners and helping out at the summer church bazaar. These service projects not only bring joy to others, but they also bring joy to me in knowing that I am making a difference.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?

It troubles my conscience when people neglect to realize not only how much they matter, but also how much the people around them matter. Even though it may be hard sometimes to find purpose in our lives, it is important to remember that we were all put on this earth for a reason. Because we are all beautifully unique, we can all contribute in so many different ways to the betterment of society. We need to believe in ourselves and others so that someday we may all find peace from the suffering happening in our world today.

If you had an opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him?

Having the opportunity to meet Pope Francis would be amazing, but I honestly don’t know what I’d tell him. A great big hug would be more than enough to express what words can’t explain. Considering that he is a man of seemingly endless wisdom, he’d probably do most of the talking anyway. After all, I would rather listen than talk.

What is your favorite quote?

“You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.” — Ain Eineziz. God would not simply create us if he did not believe in our capabilities. Instead of giving up on the difficulties in our lives, we need to remember that no difficulty is too great with God by our side.

What are your post high school plans?

I will attend St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona for pre-medicine. My hope is to major in biology and possibly minor in Spanish. This may also include studying abroad in Europe for a short period of time. My plans after college consist of surviving medical school and pursuing a career in pediatric oncology. The ultimate goal is to someday have the ability to save lives.

Claire Conzemius
Breckenridge High School, Breckenridge
St. Mary of the Presentation Parish, Breckenridge 

What advice would you give students entering their senior year?

It’s easy to slack off the last year, but keep working to the best of your ability!

What do you appreciate most about your Catholic faith?

The thing that I appreciate most about my Catholic faith is how reliable it is. I am always able to fall back on it in times of trouble or whenever I need an extra hand.

Tell about a book you read in high school that most changed the way you think.

“The Giver” written by Lois Lowry. This book most changed the way I think because it is about a community that sees everyone as the same person. It isn’t until someone breaks the rules that they all find out that being different doesn’t have to be considered a bad thing.

What is happening in the world that troubles your conscience and that you would like to change for the better?

The opioid overdose crisis is a topic that troubles my conscience. Twenty-one to 29 percent of people that are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. It is a very concerning situation that when people are trying to eliminate their pain, to make them feel better they get addicted to it instead.

What is one gift you think you bring to the church?

I bring my voice to the church by singing in the church choir.

What is your favorite quote?

“Do unto others as you want done to you.”

What are your post high school plans?

I will be attending University of Minnesota Duluth for business finance.

About The Visitor

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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