Sat. Sep 26th, 2020

To the Class of 2020 — those being promoted from eighth grade to high school, those graduating from high school and college, and their families:
I join Archbishop Rodi, Ms. Gwen Byrd, our pastors, our Catholic school administrations and faculties and our parish leaders in first and foremost congratulating you on your achievements and successes. You made it to graduation!
However, I fully recognize this might not be the graduation or promotion you anticipated when this school year began.
I am sorry for the losses you have experienced — the loss of time-honored traditions, the loss of proper goodbyes to friends and teachers, the loss of quality time spent in your school halls. I am sorry that this unprecedented pandemic has disrupted you and your families’ lives.
While losses cannot be fully replaced by substitutions, I commend our parishes and our schools for working to recognize your many accomplishments. Your resiliency is inspiring. Your creativity is unmatched.
You may have heard it said that this pandemic is a generationally defining moment for Gen Z, which is generally considered those born between 1997 and 2010. This will be something that can define your class, but as a shared experience, it will tie you all together.
It does not have to define you as an individual. By your baptism, you are children of God — let that define your identity at the most foundational and most important level.
God, in His wisdom and providence, has placed you and your family in this moment. Consider the opportunities He is giving you, what He is teaching us through this trying time. How will you all leave this experience changed for the better? How will you take these lessons and be the change you wish to see in the world?
These are saint-making times, and you, the Class of 2020, are leading the way in being made a saint through these times. Rejoice that God has placed you in this time and space, so you can rely upon Him, grow in holiness as a family, and overcome this challenge when it ends.
On the third Sunday of Easter, we heard the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). I believe there are lessons for three audiences if we study this passage with the pandemic in mind.
First, for you graduates, I believe you all may be experiencing similar feelings to the two disciples. They are leaving the comfort and what “normal” meant to them. Normalcy of three years following Jesus Christ was violently disrupted over three days. They are grieving losses and facing a great deal of uncertainty. Whether in shock or disbelief, they begin to head out, not sure how to process what happened in Jerusalem.
The Lord appears but the two disciples do not recognize Him. He walks alongside them but in a particular way, Jesus “drew near” to them. In “Christus Vivit,” Pope Francis writes, “You will be able to feel Him at your side not only when you pray, but at every moment. Try to look for Him, and you will have the beautiful experience of seeing that He is always at your side.” (CV 156)
One of the most important things the Lord does is to listen to the two disciples. This is the lesson for parents and adults in the lives of our young people.
Listen to our young people. Listen to their stories, listen to their hurts and listen to their hopes. Give your children space to share, but also give them space to reflect and pray on their own. This is a time to be exceedingly kind.
Pope Francis explains, “More than the amount of time we spend, it is about making others feel that my time is their time, that they have all the time they need to say everything they want. The other person must sense that I am listening unconditionally, without being offended or shocked, tired or bored … Attentive and selfless listening is a sign of our respect for others.” (CV 292)
We know after Jesus listens to them, He reveals himself in the breaking of the bread. The two disciples speak of their hearts burning within them when Jesus spoke to them along the way. They then race back to Jerusalem to share their experience with the other followers.
This leads us to the lesson for all of us Catholics and Christians. I truly believe the Lord is working through this difficulty to sanctify our hearts and our homes. Our hunger for the Eucharist is burning within our hearts, and I pray it will lead to a new springtime in the living out of our faith.
Pope Francis wrote: “Let yourself be loved by God, for He loves you just as you are. He values and respects you, but He also keeps offering you more: more of His friendship, more fervour in prayer, more hunger for His word, more longing to receive Christ in the Eucharist, more desire to live by His Gospel, more inner strength, more peace and spiritual joy.” (CV 161)
To the Class of 2020 and their families, may you richly experience the love of God, the support of our parishes and schools, and the prayers of so many in the Archdiocese of Mobile. Be safe, be healthy and be holy.
—Adam Ganucheau is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He may be emailed at aganucheau@mobarch.org
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By Editor

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