By Janelle C. Gergen/Associate Editor, OND
East Grand Forks – Hundreds gathered at Msgr. A.I. Merth Gymnasium in East Grand Forks on May 26 for Sacred Heart School’s 2017 commencement exercises. Diplomas were conferred to 16 graduating seniors.
Valedictorian Valerie Noel Doze spoke on behalf of the class. She talked about the unique opportunity Catholic education provides in being able to speak about God in the classroom. She said it helps to instill in students the fact that the most important part of life is a relationship with Christ.
“In a world where Christian values are not always popular, this is an important lesson,” Doze said.
She described impactful service opportunities the group took part in through their years at Sacred Heart, most notably the school’s inaugural Senior Legacy Project in which the class chose to minister to the students of St. Mary’s Mission School in Red Lake. Doze said, “While education is highly valued at Sacred Heart, the school never forgot to remind us that imitating Christ with our lives is above everything else.”
Doze said the class learned the value of meeting people where they are at and loving them as Christ does. She reminded the class of these words of St. Teresa of Kolkata: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
“This is powerful for us to understand if we are going out in to the world and it will allow us to remember to use our education to serve others,” Doze said,
Encouraging her class to continue living lives of service, she closed by saying, “Let us use the knowledge we gained, relationships we have established and faith we have deepened to answer this call. If we utilize this education, we can do just about anything we set our minds to.”
The commencement address was delivered by Mark Kennedy, President of the University of North Dakota.
Kennedy spoke about winning versus losing. He said a perfect metaphor for living a Catholic life means that winning from the perspective of the next world often times means losing from the perspective of this world.
Kennedy quoted 2 Corinthians 12:9, where Paul says, “but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Kennedy shared with the class several times throughout his life that through failure or changed direction, he truly succeeded because he offered the situation up to God. In summary, he said, “It is only through failure in the eyes of the world, and often our own, that we achieve true success. We will never truly be happy in this world or the next no matter how much money we have, how much we enjoy our job, how attractive our spouse, until we surrender our will to His, letting God’s grace strengthen us. Pursuing God’s will is and should be a lifetime job. … It’s the only thing that can bring true success and inner peace to our lives.”
Principal Jodi Vanderheiden presented the class and called each member forward to receive a diploma. Cheers of congratulations from loved ones and friends were heard from the crowd.
Commencement exercises closed with a blessing imparted by the Most Reverend Michael J. Hoeppner. The school band played recessional music as the Class of 2017 processed outside. The young men and women quickly gathered for a celebratory tossing of their caps, symbolizing the end of one journey and the start of another.