Congratulations, graduates!

| May 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

To honor graduating high school seniors in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, The Catholic Spirit invited representatives of our Catholic high schools and parishes to share important lessons, formative experiences and hopes for the future.

The 18 students featured in the following pages were selected by their high schools and parishes. They include young men and women with diverse career goals, ranging from automotive engineering and youth work to medicine and health care, as well as two future seminarians. Many described the impact of local volunteer work and mission trips on their faith, and several said studying philosophy — in particular, the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas — deeply shaped their worldview. The Catholic Spirit wishes them and all of our graduates the best.

The Catholic Spirit edited for length and clarity.

Catholic high school graduation ceremonies


AlexSchaefferAlexander Schaeffer
New Prague High School

Schaeffer attends St. Wenceslaus in New Prague. His parents are Jan and Scott Schaeffer. He plans to attend Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

High school is a very busy, stressful time for most people, myself included. I often find myself overwhelmed with projects to do, errands to run, tests to study for, and about a million other things. Whenever I feel this way, I find myself looking to God and asking him for help. Every time, he helps me to focus on one task at a time and reminds me how every activity I am involved in will make a difference in my life in the future. At this time in my life, I am learning and growing into a more well-rounded individual, and God helps me to remember this every day. As a result, everything I do feels important and useful. Now, instead of feeling overwhelmed and afraid when I look at my busy schedule, I feel confident that God is guiding and preparing me for the future he wants me to have. Bottom line, I have learned that I can put my entire life into God’s hands and that I can trust that he will help me through every obstacle I may face in the future.

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

Last summer, I participated in my first Catholic Heart Work Camp. Catholic Heart is a religious organization that, throughout the country, uses religion and the gathering of teens and adults to help needy communities. The one I was a part of took place right outside of Omaha, Nebraska. While I was there, I volunteered at a home for troubled teens with my assigned group by doing various household chores and yard work. We also spent a couple of days touching up paint on more than 30 houses. The experience was definitely an amazing one for me. Not only did I meet a ton of great new people, but I also saw the impact that only a few hours of service had on a community. Tears were streaming down the faces of those we helped. I will never forget this experience.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

As we all know, the Catholic Church is currently dealing with several problems. Many Catholic priests are being accused of sexually abusing minors. Our Church is being called by much of the country to change our ways and allow homosexuals to be married. We also have many priests retiring and few new ones available to take their places. I would love to get Pope Francis’ insight on all of these problems. The Catholic faith is so beautiful; I don’t want to see it fade away or feel pressured to change in any way. I would ask Pope Francis how he believes we should respond and what we need to do to fix these problems. He has the power to bring all of us Catholics closer together and, by working together, nothing will stand in the way of our faith and beliefs.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

This Easter, I had the privilege of portraying Jesus in my church’s passion pantomime where the last few hours of the life of Jesus were performed. I was able to gain insight on how Jesus felt during this ordeal and why he did what he did. As a result of this experience, I now feel that I have a better understanding of Jesus’ final moments. I feel closer and more connected to him, and I also better understand how much he truly loves us.

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

One of the best books I have ever read that has a great message is Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.” “Never judge a person until you have walked in their shoes.” This book reminds us to treat everyone as a brother and sister of Christ and to not judge those we do not know.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

I believe that Mother Teresa of Kolkota is an excellent role model for all Catholics. She was an ordinary woman who, with God’s help, did extraordinary things. Her faith was so powerful that she gave up her entire life for God: her family and friends, all of her possessions and eventually her life when she became too sick to continue her work. She has done exactly what God calls each of us to do: to follow him to the ends of the earth. Mother Teresa is a great reminder to all of us of how God wants us to live.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

There is nothing better than listening to a religious speaker or a homily made specifically for teenagers and young adults. Those of us who fall into this category often have very different lives and very different problems from our parents. Consequently, we teens and young adults do not always relate to the words we hear spoken from our pastors or from other religious speakers when they often talk about problems and situations we have never experienced. I believe that if Catholic churches everywhere helped push teens and young adults to listen to more religious speakers on topics relevant to their own lives and also gave more homilies that better related to this age group, they would feel more connected to their faith.

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

The first person who came into my mind was Abraham Lincoln. Today, I see the world much in the same way that he saw our country when he was president: broken and afraid. We see so much anger, sadness and hatred every day. We clearly are a divided world in so many ways. I would ask Lincoln for advice on how to fix our world, since he managed to turn two enemies of hate in our country into one of eventual friendship. We need peace throughout the world, and I believe that Lincoln would help us accomplish this.

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

“Always remember to be yourself.” I feel the happiest, most confident, most successful and the closest to God when I am simply myself. I remind myself of this almost every day, and I know that it has made a difference in my life. God created all of us in his image; we are all unique. It is our responsibility to be who he wants us to be and to do everything in his name.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

1. It is my aspiration to become a physician someday so that I can live my life helping and healing people. 2. I have always wanted to build a clinic or a hospital in a third-world country that desperately needs it. I want to leave some sort of impact that I know will change people’s lives for the better. 3. I want to live every day of my life in the hands of Jesus, following his plan for me and being the disciple he calls each of us to be.


JohnIngebrigtsenJohn Ingebrigtsen
St. Thomas Academy, Mendota Heights

Ingebrigtsen is a parishioner of St. Joseph in West St. Paul. His parents are Susan Ingebrigtsen and Paul Ingebrigtsen. He plans to attend Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

While not strictly a lesson, I consider critical thinking to be the greatest benefit I’ve gained from high school. Critical thinking has been important especially to me not just in matters of learning in class, but in learning from life. I’ve been encouraged by multiple teachers to ask the questions that aren’t easy to answer. I feel that when one looks to explore the intangible, they can discover who they think they are and how they should see other people around them. This learning about myself and others physically, mentally, and spiritually is why I think critical thinking has been the most important skill given to me in high school.

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

My proudest accomplishment in high school is the service I did at Camp Friendship, Annandale. Camp Friendship is for children and adults with disabilities or special needs As part of my senior service requirement, I volunteered for a weeklong session at camp. I spent the week with a group of men and participated in daily activities with them as well as provided simple care like helping the men eat their meals. I had never worked with people with disabilities before and my experience was wonderful. I built friendships and bonds with these men and experienced how truly human and lovable they were even though they could be very different from me physically or mentally. My respect for all life was strongly affirmed and reinforced from my service at camp.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would ask Pope Francis how he can be so incredibly loving. Obviously a life of intense devotion and prayer has helped him, but any little advice or tips he could offer to combat the temptation to judge or mistreat others would be gladly welcomed.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

My freshman year I went camping with YMCA Camp Widjiwagan. I’ll gladly boast how Widjiwagan is a hard core, bare-bones approach to camping. With no electronics and few amenities my group would travel more than 10 miles a day across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Provincial Park. Being out in nature without the constant business and distractions of regular life allowed me to really stop and reflect as well as soak in the beauty of all creation around me. This time was where I felt my faith strengthened through my camping experiences.

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

“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury has probably been the most influential book in my high school career. My big take on the book is life is too important to pass away complacently with simple and even hollow pleasures. Also shunning knowledge and critical thinking that challenge the norm is the path to downfall.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

I don’t know if it is fair to identify a single role model for my faith. There have been many men and women who have taught me important lessons of faith and love through their hard work and actions. Every person excels in at least one virtue and observing how they use this virtue to help others around them can be a lesson for me on how to practice knowledge, patience or caring, for example.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

I think a lot of teenagers have really challenging questions about social issues and why such terrible things can happen in the world. Not until this year was I really introduced to the in-depth and very detailed teachings of the Church that encompass more than I ever realized. I feel the Church needs to more actively address the deep philosophical, theological and moral questions  of teenagers who question why the Church teaches what it does.

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

I think it would be really cool to meet Ferdinand Porsche. My dad and I are both big Porsche and car enthusiasts in general. It would be cool to meet the mind behind such a long lasting car brand. What thought and passion went into the iconic 911 we still see today with such a long racing history.

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

I’d give myself the advice I think anyone would give themselves: Try new activities even if they take you out of your comfort zone or you aren’t at first successful. Also especially important for me is not to procrastinate on long term projects.


LouiseRossiterLouise Rossiter
De La Salle High School, Minneapolis

Rossiter is a parishioner of Good Shepherd in Golden Valley. Her parents are Colleen and Ted Rossiter. She plans to attend Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

I think the greatest lesson I learned while in high school was how to be confident in my work, and how to manage my time.

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

One thing I am proud to have accomplished in high school is being captain of the high school swim team.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would like to talk to Pope Francis about the issues he sees as most important to the well-being of our world today. I want to know what he sees as the biggest problems in our world, and what ideas he has for fixing these problems.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

The most significant faith experience I have had in high school has been serving others in various service projects. I have most enjoyed being a part of my school’s Starry Night Prom, a dance we hold for people with disabilities. This event very much minds me of Jesus’ message of loving everyone and including everyone, giving all people the chance to enjoy life and have a good time, no matter what their abilities are. We are all deserving of love, dignity, and respect.

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

The book I read in high school that most changed the way I think was “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai. Her courage and determination really stand out, but the thing I most admire is that she is making such a huge difference at age 18. It’s difficult for anyone to fight for what they believe in, but she does it, and she has made a difference because of her willingness to speak up. I hope to be that accomplished and brave someday.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

My older cousin Sylvia is very much involved in the Catholic Church and is a spiritual role model of mine. I admire her passion for serving others and living out Jesus’ message of love. For me, she is the true definition of someone who is talking the talk and walking the walk. She is acting upon what she believes in.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

The Catholic Church should stay relevant to our generation, bringing up topics and issues that young adults care about and can relate to. The Catholic Church should also be inclusive of all people, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race, culture, etc.

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

I would like to have a conversation with Gloria Steinem, because I did an extensive project on her my junior year, and I would love to hear her opinion on the definition and practice of feminism in today’s society.

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

If I were to go back in time five years, I would probably tell myself to not lose that willingness to try new things, meet new people and put myself out there. I would also tell myself that not everything has to be perfect, mistakes can be made, but putting too much pressure on myself to do everything the “right” way isn’t necessary.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

I hope to become a happy person who is secure in herself and what she believes in. I hope to travel to every continent at least once, and I hope to find what I am passionate about.


AlexMoudryAlex Moudry
Providence Academy, Plymouth

Moudry attends St. Anne in Hamel. His parents are Ben and Nichole Moudry. He plans to attend Benedictine University in Atchison, Kansas.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

The greatest lesson I learned in high school was humility. I had a pretty high opinion of myself coming out of middle school. Once I reached high school, it wasn’t the school work that humbled me, but rather the friends I made. I realized that I wasn’t the best, and I didn’t need to always be the best. I came to actually consider myself, and have been able to realize the person God made me, strengths and weaknesses. It has helped me to grow considerably.

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

One thing I am proud of accomplishing in high school is achieving a real prayer life. Previous to my senior year, I had not had any real habit of personal prayer with God. After a retreat with NET (National Evangelization Team) Ministries at Providence Academy, I was given the moral strength to begin praying not only more deeply than before, but also far more consistently. It has been a constant blessing in my life.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

If I were to have an audience with Pope Francis, I would like to discuss with him selfless love. I don’t know how to attain this love. I’ve examined my relationships, and it seems that all (including with God) are based on a sort of love that is essentially self-serving, even if they involve sacrifice. I want to love God for his own sake and not for the sole purpose of me getting to enjoy heaven. I know this sort of love originates from God (charity), but I would love the chance to go over this with the pope.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

In December of this past year, my senior class had a three-day retreat. It was amazing. We discovered that we can help each other in our spiritual lives, something that we either hadn’t considered or didn’t have courage to initiate. It is something new and wonderful to me, for as “iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17). Also, I learned vastly enriching details about faith, especially regarding the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. It committed me to a formerly lacking life of prayer, which has perhaps been the best thing to happen to me ever.

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

I read “The Silver Chalice” by Thomas Costain. It’s about a young Greek man who lived around the time just after Christ. He experiences Christianity from the first believers and the apostles, and it was neat to read a depiction of the fervent faith of the first believers. It was also intriguing to me how Basil, the young man, explores this previously unknown faith and approaches it with total innocence and openness. I was impressed with the way he approached every decision, always trying to do what was most right.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

One spiritual role model I have is my choir conductor. There are two especially notable things that I admire in him. First is his constant joy. He lives his faith proudly, and everyone can see that he finds joy in it. Joy is contagious and inspiring, and he lives it out well. The other aspect of his faith that is wonderful is his spirit of evangelization. He is only our choir conductor, but he has said time and again that it is his mission to not only move the audience to God with our singing, but especially to bring us (the choir) to God.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

I feel like this question misses the point a little bit. The only thing that the Catholic Church needs to do for young people is promulgate itself and make known the Gospel. Young people don’t need to be catered to by the Church in order for us to believe and trust in God. Having an engaged life in the Church is a decision that only an individual can make. The Church should need to do no more than exist in the truth, and it should be the individuals who live it out so honestly and steadfastly that it is inherently attractive and true.

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

If I could have a conversation with a historical figure, it would probably be St. Philip Neri. He is my confirmation saint, and, although I’ve read about him, reading only can capture so much. It would be neat to actually meet him in person and see what he was like and actually had to say.

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

I would try to make an effort to convey to myself how important a personal relationship with God is. Having a life of prayer and unity with him is far superior to one without. I could have benefited massively from understanding this earlier, and even though I know I don’t fully understand how much I need it now, it has still helped me immensely.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

1. Give God everything I’ve got. 2. Raise a family of saints. 3. Bring people to God through my profession.


SamLauxSam Laux
Academy of Holy Angels, Richfield

Laux is a parishioner of Annunciation in Minneapolis. His parents are Anne LaLonde-Laux and Paul Laux. He plans to attend St. John’s University in Collegeville.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

Everybody has a story; get to know it.

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

Being elected Holy Angel’s student body president is my greatest high school accomplishment. The position has allowed me to use my leadership skills with the Holy Angels community.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would be in awe at first, but I would discuss what it truly means to be merciful.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

I was able to travel to Haiti with a group this winter through Mission Haiti Inc. We were able to meet and interact with the incredible people of Haiti. This trip broadened my view of the world and helped me to realize that even in great despair, there is beauty.

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

I recently read “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett, which contained a variety of philosophical themes that caused me to analyze the book and some aspects of my life in different ways than I have before.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

I’ve been blessed with many, but the most influential has been my youth minister, Jimmy Dunn. His ways of teaching, inspiring, and building community have had a large influence on who I am today. He convinced me to join youth group and go on mission trips through my parish, and he has shown me what it takes to be a kind, compassionate, and caring person as well as a steward of the faith.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

It seems as though the church is consumed by rules and guidelines of what it takes to be a Catholic rather than accepting everyone and encouraging Catholics to make the world a better place.

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

Teddy Roosevelt.  He proposed and carried out many plans that were controversial during his time.  His contributions greatly influenced our nation today.  I would ask him about the courage it took to make decisions that were ahead of his time and how I could incorporate some of his leadership skills into my life.

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

Be open to new opportunities and new people. I was able to participate in AHA’s spring musical, which was a new experience, and it allowed me to meet new people. I regret not joining theater or trying other interests out earlier.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

Graduate from college, succeed in an occupation that allows me to travel and experience new places and new people, and continue to be a loving family member and friend.


AngelaYarussoAngela Yarusso
Hill-Murray School

Yarusso attends St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi. Her parents are Rochele and John Yarusso. She plans to attend the University of Wisconsin LaCrosee.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

High school has taught me the skill and value in balancing my life. I quickly found that it was necessary for me to manage my time between school, activities and relationships with my family and friends. Through that, I have learned how to prioritize in order to accomplish tasks while maintaining a relatively stress-free lifestyle.

Name one thing you are proud of accomplishing in high school. I am proud of who I became in high school.

I was the leader in a multitude of school clubs, which led me to meet a variety of students in all grades. I got involved in my school to gain experience and benefit my peers and unknowingly, I became a role model to many younger students.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

There is a lot of dissonance in our world today. I would like to discuss with the pope how we as Catholics can work to include people in our faith without changing our faith.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

Throughout high school, I volunteered at many different places and participated in several service projects. This year, I made a meal for the homeless at Simpson Shelter. Before I arrived, I had anticipated that I would serve a meal to the residents and then leave feeling satisfied having given my time to serve others.

Instead, I had one of the most moving experiences of my life. I mustered the courage to walk up to a table of men who were playing cards and started a conversation with them. They were incredibly kind. We did not talk about anything in particular; we simply laughed and played a game of cards. I found it so moving that these men could enjoy time with each other, even given their unfortunate situations. I was inspired by their optimism and have never been more encouraged. I saw God in the faces of these new friends.

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

“The Scarlet Letter” is a book I’ll never forget; it left a mark in my memory. In the novel, society tried to shame the main character for adultery. Instead of being humiliated, the woman became an independent, harder worker. She surprised the community and inspired others to believe in themselves and not allow past mistakes define them.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

My priest, Father Cory Rohlfing, is a role model of faith in my life. He is kind to everyone and spreads God’s message of love everywhere he goes. Father makes time for others, listens to everyone and then makes decisions that will benefit the majority. Every Sunday, I leave Mass feeling inspired because his homilies are so full of wisdom. He is approachable, and I am able to discuss my faith with him. Father Cory is compassionate and has a loving heart and has been there for me as I continue my faith journey.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

It can be difficult to reach today’s younger generation, but if the Catholic Church displays a welcoming atmosphere, then youth are more likely to join and stay. People want to go where they feel included. My generation is a group of independent thinkers and avoid following things blindly. Young adults would like to know the “why” of the Church not just the “what.” And we’re looking for Church leaders to lead by a positive example and gain the trust of the congregations they serve by being the role models.

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

I would like to have a conversation with Adolf Hitler. He undoubtedly carried out evil actions, but what motivated him? I would ask him about his viewpoint on God. I want to know what he valued and if he loved anyone.

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

I would tell myself that people change and you’re going to need to be OK with that. You cannot control everything; sometimes things just happen. God is always with us no matter what the circumstances are.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

As I move forward with my life, I hope to make a positive impact in the world by living the life God planned for me. I would love to get married and raise children who will grow to serve others. I hope to enjoy a career that is centered in the Catholic social teaching of dignity to the human person and respect for life.


AnnaEvansAnna Evans
Convent of the Visitation, Mendota Heights

Evans attends St. Joseph in West St. Paul. Her parents are Joan and Robley Evans. She plans to serve with NET Ministries for a year and then attend the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

The greatest lesson I learned in high school is that joy is a choice, not a feeling. Happiness comes and goes for a myriad of reasons, but knowing that the Lord is constant in my life through both triumphs and struggles can always bring a hope that leads to joy.

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

I am simply proud of coming to the end of high school knowing I have grown both intellectually and spiritually, made amazing friends and seen how God has and will work in my life.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would discuss (hopefully in Spanish) how he first encountered the Lord and discerned entering the priesthood.  I want to hear the experiences that have inspired his great love for all people.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

The summer after my freshman year, I had the opportunity to attend both Discipleship Week at the NET Center and a Steubenville Conference with my youth group. In these weeks, I first began to realize the immensity of God’s personal love for me. It was then I first recognized that Jesus died on the cross for me and understands my heart better than I do in every situation.

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

Multiple times throughout my high school career, I read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. Each time I read it, I grew in appreciation for all parts of life, learning to see the beauty in both joys and sufferings.  Life holds many gifts, and this book reminds me to be grateful and wise about the freedom I have within it.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

My brothers and sisters are spiritual role models for my Catholic faith. Though their lives have taken on different paths and vocations, each has shown me in both word and example that nothing can change the fact that I am a beautiful daughter of God who always has a home in the Catholic Church.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

The Catholic Church can encourage community with other young adults through small groups, participation in different church ministries and conferences. Many outreach programs end after high school, so continuing these through college and beyond the campus remains vital. Just like high-schoolers, young adults need to remember that faith is a daily conversion; having community within their home of the Catholic Church encourages this conversion immensely.

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

I would love to have a conversation with St. John Paul II. I want to listen to his great wisdom and love, hear more about every stage of his life, thank him for his intercession and discuss how he used theater to speak truth even in dark and dangerous times.

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

I would tell myself to always remember that God is faithful, to challenge myself and not to be afraid of difficult or uncomfortable situations.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

1. Work with youth, both as a nurse and within the Church. 2. Write at least one song. 3. Become a saint.


MichaelMaloneyMichael Maloney
St. Agnes, St. Paul

Maloney is a parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony. His parents are John and Anne Maloney. He plans to attend St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

Get involved and take chances: If there is something you want to pursue, and you believe you have the ability to do it, then now is a good time to do it. In high school there is time to make mistakes without any serious consequences. Throughout high school I went from someone who was over-cautious and did not get involved much to someone who joined a few activities and even started a chess club. Even if some pursuits don’t work out, others will and the only things that matter in the long term are those attempts that succeeded.

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

I got the chance to go to a Catholic school with an emphasis on the liberal arts and classical education, and the thing I am proud of is taking advantage of this situation and learning everything I can while I had the chance. It is often easy during high school not to push oneself, but I have taken my weakest subjects, reading and writing, and made them much stronger with great teachers and by reading authors such as Dante and Aristotle. I have also been able to learn Latin and even read Vergil’s “Aeneid” in its original language.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would begin my conversation with Pope Francis by asking him who his favorite pope was and what his favorite period is in Church history. I would also ask him what he hopes his legacy will be. Conversations about history always bring up other topics such as morality and doctrine, and there are always more stories of saints and martyrs that can be told. At the end of our time together, I hope he would offer to me some advice to help me grow closer to God.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

The most significant faith experience for me was definitely a Vianney Visit. A Vianney Visit is an opportunity for any young man who would consider enrolling at the seminary to attend a weekend visit at SJV from Thursday to Saturday. Before attending, I had already known several of the seminarians, but I was not sure what seminary life was like. I saw very clearly that they are normal college guys who are also striving to do God’s will. Their lifestyle was a powerful witness to me and I hope to offer that same witness to someone else.

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

This year in my theology seminar we read “The Consolation of Philosophy.” Boethius wrote this book in prison, and he uses a personification of Lady Philosophy to show that what happens to humans are not what make them good or bad; therefore, circumstances should not affect a person’s happiness. The book helped me to realize that I should not be affected by fortune or luck because only my actions and perspective should make happy or unhappy. Boethius, a man on death row, also reveals that a detached person is more powerful and freer than one attached to worldly things.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

St. Thomas Aquinas is my confirmation saint and the saint I look up to most. He is one of the smartest people who ever lived and yet he was still humble. He lived a very simple and prayerful life while simultaneously writing voluminous theological and philosophical works. He strongly defended the Church against heresy and other erroneous beliefs, and I believe that God may be calling me to do something similar in my vocation.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

I think that a lot of people, especially young people, know too little about the history and saints of the Church. I have seen few things as inspirational as the stories of the saints, especially the martyrs. Even in our own day, in which the Church is often under attack, it is essential to be able to defend the Church from lies and to pray to the saints who have gone through similar trials. Knowing the incredible history of the Church would help to prevent many people from falling away and would strengthen the faith of those who stay.

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

If I could have a conversation with any historical figure, I would choose to have it with my patron, St. Thomas Aquinas. I would talk to him about the many errors and problems of the modern world and listen to what he has to say about them. I would ask him how he thinks that we can combat those errors best. This conversation would have to be hours long because I have noticed that conversations get much better if they are afforded enough time.

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

My advice would be what I learned while in high school and what I read in Boethius: In junior high the only things that really matter are the good friends that you make and will keep throughout high school, and the knowledge learned in classes. These are the only two things that really stay with you past junior high, while mistakes and anything bad that happens passes quickly. If during junior high you focus on learning and fostering good relationships that have real staying power, then high school will be easier.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

The first thing that I hope to accomplish is to learn as much as I can, especially in the areas of philosophy, math and physics. Then I hope to teach what I know, and write works defending and promoting the Catholic faith similar to what St. Thomas Aquinas did, so that I can lead as many people as possible to the truth of the Catholic faith. God has given everyone certain abilities to bring others to him and he calls us through our vocation to bring as many as possible to him.


BethanyAllenBethany Allen
Bethlehem Academy, Faribault

Allen attends Divine Mercy in Faribault. Her parents are Paul and Cecilia Allen. She plans to serve with NET Ministries.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

I learned that no matter what I am trying to accomplish, whether it’s homework, a project, a test or something not directly related to school, with a little bit of time, prayer and effort, I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to.

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

I am proud that despite all of the craziness of high school, I finished! There were a lot of activities, clubs, homework and jobs, but somehow, I successfully got a diploma!

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would discuss the importance of youth ministry for the high school-level kids and try to figure out the best way to go about getting youth involved.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

The most significant faith experience I had was during a Lifeline event — an event consisting of Mass, a talk and adoration — put on by NET Ministries. I remember one time I was praising the Lord in adoration surrounded by hundreds of teenagers, and we were singing and using charismatic prayer. I remember being overwhelmed at one point by the power of the Holy Spirit, and I had a profound realization that Jesus was truly present. I knew that he was there, but feeling his true presence made me fall in love with the Catholic faith all over again.

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

In my English class during eleventh grade, we read “The Great Gatsby.” This book changed the way I think because society tells us that we need money in order to be happy and successful. Jay Gatsby used money to try to find his happiness, but it didn’t work. I learned that money isn’t the most important thing in the world, and this concept goes against everything that the world teaches us.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

My confirmation sponsor, Catherine Stroh. She has been someone who I’ve always admired and looked up to. She was my small-group leader when I was in seventh grade going to middle school youth groups, and I’ve always known that I could ask her any questions about the faith. She radiates the love of Christ to those around her. I hope that someday I can live out my faith as radically as she does.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

The Catholic Church can keep young adults involved in the life of the Church by having more events for them. Once someone is out of high school, there really isn’t much for him or her to do as far as growing in his or her faith. There are groups for adults and groups for youth, but there aren’t as many groups for young adults. This could be either in the form of retreats, Bible studies or just quality time with other Catholic young adults where they can discuss the faith.

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

I would love to have a conversation with St. Pope John Paul II. I think that by having a conversation with him, I would gain so much knowledge and appreciate for the faith that I don’t already have. There are many things that he could teach me in a conversation, and so many things I could get out of it.

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

I would advise myself to always strive to be the best person that I can be. I would tell myself to always try my best at everything I do, and to remember that every person I encounter is a daughter or son of the one true God, and that he loves them, and I should, too.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

In my lifetime I hope to first finish school (high school and college). Second, I hope to have a big influence on at least one person in their faith life. Lastly, I hope to end life here on earth as someone who followed God’s will in everything, someone who constantly lived out the faith, and someone who impacted many people’s lives in a positive way.


MathiasRotsteinMathias Rotstein
Chesterton Academy, Edina

Rotstein is a parishioner of Holy Family in St. Louis Park. His parents are Nes and Emily Rotstein. He plans to attend St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

In philosophy class during my junior year, we studied what St. Thomas Aquinas teaches on happiness. Aquinas describes happiness as a sense of peace, joy and satisfaction. He teaches that you won’t find happiness or satisfaction in material goods, money, people, pleasure — all of the very things that I’d always thought would lead to happiness. What I learned from Aquinas was that true happiness lies only in our union with God. He taught me that every action can either bring me closer to God or draw me away from him. It was a grace-filled lesson for me. I realized I needed to do whatever I could to draw closer to God, and there I would find true happiness.

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

Over the past four years, I have had the opportunity to learn Gregorian chant through my parish and through Chesterton Academy. It has been very gratifying to be able to share this sacred music with others. Many have told me how chant helps lift their hearts in prayer. The Chesterton Academy Men’s and Women’s Scholas sing at daily Mass. As a senior, I’ve had the opportunity to lead our Men’s Schola. I am proud of the role I have played in encouraging more young men to participate in the sacred liturgy through Gregorian Chant and participation in our Men’s Schola at the high school level.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

My family is from Argentina and lived through the same economic and political turmoil Pope Francis experienced there. Despite those hard times, I see in my family the same joy and gratitude that Pope Francis exhibits. If I had the opportunity to have an audience with Pope Francis, I would discuss with him how to help people in this country become more appreciative of what they have, how to be grateful and joyful. I would also ask Pope Francis how we can help young people in the United States turn towards a life of virtue when they are so deeply rooted in a materialistic culture.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

The most significant faith experience I had in high school was the pilgrimage I took to Rome with my classmates during junior year. Worshiping with people from all over the world in St. Peter’s Basilica helped me recognize the universality of the Church. The immense beauty of Rome moved me and walking in the footsteps of the saints inspired me to want to follow them in holiness. The trip to Rome helped deepen my faith and it was on our Rome pilgrimage that I first began to discern my vocation seriously.

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

The book I read in high school that most changed the way I think was Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics.” Aristotle teaches that happiness is found in a life spent practicing the habit of virtue. I began to examine my own actions in light of the moral virtues and their corresponding vices. The book helped me realize that a life of moral excellence and true happiness is possible. The “Ethics” changed the way I defined happiness. It helped me begin to make more deliberate choices for virtue and to take action that would benefit the common good.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

My spiritual role model is our parish priest, Father Joseph Johnson. He is a wonderful model of charity, mercy, kindness and prayerfulness. Father Joseph helped open my eyes up to the possibility of the priesthood and he is a great example of the joy that can be found in giving your life to Christ.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

I think the Church needs to ensure that young adults have a strong, Catholic education and excellent formation. In my experience, an outstanding education helps keep young adults engaged and prepares them to share the truth and goodness of the Catholic faith with others. Young adults nowadays really want to make the world a better place and they are attracted to truth, beauty and goodness. I’ve noticed when people oppose the Church it is usually due to a misunderstanding of Church teachings and a lack of awareness of the tremendous good the Church does. Catholicism could spread like wildfire if more young people could reach out to those who question the faith and help them understand the teachings of the Church with charity and compassion.

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

I would choose St. Thomas Aquinas because, after Jesus Christ, he had the greatest impact on my faith journey. The number of topics we could talk about would be endless, but I would want to talk with him most about how best to evangelize others in our modern world using reason. Aquinas stressed the idea that faith and reason are complementary. I would ask Aquinas how he would express this concept to a modern society who seems to have lost a foundation of reason.

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

Five years ago, I was a new convert to Catholicism. I appreciated my faith, but I was unhappy with my parents for enrolling me at Holy Family Academy, our parish K-8 school. The advice I would give my prideful, 14-year-old self would be to settle down and recognize my parents’ good intentions for me. Instead of fighting against everything, I would tell myself to see the blessings in front of me: an excellent education, caring friends, great teachers and loving parents. I would tell myself that God has great things in store for me, beyond anything I could have imagined.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

The first thing I hope to accomplish is to be ordained a priest and celebrate the Holy Mass. The second thing I hope to accomplish is to help bring others to the Catholic faith and encourage them in a life of virtue in their journey towards heaven. The most important thing I hope to accomplish is to live my life in perfect accordance with God’s will.


CarolineTracyCaroline Tracy
Cretin-Derham Hall, St. Paul

Tracy attends St. Joseph in West St. Paul. Her parents are Tom and Valerie Tracy. She plans to attend Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

Do what you love. I do service at Peace House. There, I met a friend named Ali, who always gives me great advice and words of wisdom. One day, I was telling him about how I was unsure what I wanted to do with my life, and he simply responded, “Do what you love.” I think about this every time I am making a difficult decision and how important it is to follow my heart.

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

I am most proud of playing a leading role in my senior year fall musical, “Children of Eden.” I played the role of Eve and was able to sing amazing music and work with inspiring people. The reason I enjoyed it so much was because of all the hard work I put in, and the rewards I reaped from that work. I learned to trust myself and I found that I was more capable than I had ever thought before.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would talk with Pope Francis about making the Catholic Church feel like a welcoming and loving environment for marginalized people. My hope would be that anyone who does not have a place to belong can find that place in the Church.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

My most significant faith experience was traveling to San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, to do service work through a mission. I was so moved by the beauty in the people and the land that God had created there. Since the day I got home, I have not forgotten what I saw and who I met. It put my life into perspective with a better understanding of what everything in my world really means and is worth.

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

Reading “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wudunn changed the way I think about feminism and the empowerment of women around the world. The education of women is vital to the ingenuity and unity of generations to come.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

My spiritual role models have always been my grandma and grandpa. They are so devoted to their faith and to their family, and I am so grateful for the love they have given me. They are rooted in their faith, and I can clearly see that passed down into their children, my cousins and myself. I will never forget my childhood sleepovers at their house, and them praying with me before I went to sleep.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

I think in these rapidly changing times, the Catholic Church needs to be an advocate for all the issues that face the modern world. People need to turn to their faith in a war-torn world, and the Church should be a voice of opposition to violence. As a young person, I know that my peers have a goal to be global citizens, which means being engaged in current events and knowing your own beliefs, and being able to use those beliefs to challenge things that are unjust. If the Church encourages young people to be active members in society and to physically go out and make a change, it would lead us to want to be a part of the Church.

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

If I could, I would talk with Katherine Hepburn. Being an actress primarily in the 1940s and ’50s could have been a very demeaning profession, but Hepburn made it seem empowering. She was a role model who wasn’t a perfect blonde bombshell; rather, she was independent, bold and took on roles that challenged gender stereotypes. In a time when women were not supposed to speak up, Hepburn showed her strength through her acting and her fearlessness to do things that were meaningful to her, which to me is inspiring.

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

I would tell myself to be open to all people and appreciate their differences. I have found that by keeping an open mind and listening to what someone has to say makes me appreciate why God made us all diverse. It also makes me thankful for my own strengths, and even my weaknesses. I can find things that I am not good at in others, and I think that is amazing.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

First, I want to have children so I can teach them to go out in the world and do good. Secondly, I want to spend time in a developing country so I can better understand poverty first-hand, and I would love to be immersed in it so that I can truly know the experience. Lastly, I want to have a career that makes me feel fulfilled. I want to be able to help others as well as myself. My goal is to be able to go home knowing I made a difference for someone and that I learned something from that experience.


SarahBeckerSarah Becker
Home school

Becker is a parishioner of the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake. Her parents are Steve and Ling Becker. She plans to attend Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

Most of all, I learned that God is exceptionally, relentlessly faithful.  Throughout every challenge I’ve faced over the past four years, and especially during times when I’ve doubted or questioned God’s plan for me, I can look back and confidently see the way he has ordered and directed every moment of my high school journey.

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

Starting a pro-life club at Anoka-Ramsey Community College where I have taken dual-enrollment classes during the past two years is something that has been extremely challenging but also very fulfilling. We’ve faced numerous challenges from students, faculty and our administration, but it has been life-changing for me to learn what it means to stand up for something you believe in, even when it’s hard, and starting this club is something I’m proud to leave behind.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would discuss unity in the Church with Pope Francis. At a time when so many individuals feel as if the Church has failed or alienated them, I think it’s incredibly important to build relationships both within the Church, but also with other Christian denominations and traditions. We need to live out ecumenism and focus on the radical, life altering-truths we share with all Christians, whether they be Catholic or Protestant.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

Some of the most powerful weeks of my life were spent at the DLITE program through Dunrovin Christian Brothers Retreat Center running summer camps for kids from inner-city Chicago and Minneapolis. I encountered a kind of brokenness that I never had before, as many of them come from incredibly challenging situations at home, but I also saw God work powerfully in both the staff and campers when we opened ourselves up to the incredible potential God has for each one of our lives.

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

Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” — all 700+ pages of it — was a very thought-provoking exploration into the way that man seeks to satisfy his endless desire to live a life of purpose and meaning. To me, this is the core of the human experience, and to see these themes explored from an atheistic perspective reiterated the fact that every person, Christian or not, ultimately desires something great and meaningful, something beyond himself.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

Joe Hall, the leader of my youth group, passed away when he was 26 after battling incredibly intense cancer. Even as he approached death, he exhibited to us, in a very raw and personal way, what it means to stake one’s life on Christ even when life is painful and doesn’t make sense. I have one of his quotes hanging by my desk: “This is hard for me right now . . . but, you’re still God, and I still love you, I still follow you. You’re still my first and you’re still my everything.” I plan on bringing that with me to college.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

Young adults most of all seek a Church in which they will be engaged in relationships; we need to understand our role as part of a larger body of people and must come to realize that we play an irreplaceable part in the Church. My involvement in the Community of Christ the Redeemer (a charismatic, covenant community of lay people based in West St. Paul) has been incredibly influential in not only keeping my faith grounded, but also in helping me to understand the way in which I am meant to advance the kingdom through working and living with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

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

St. John Paul the Great is someone I find absolutely fascinating! I find the fact that his many years as a philosopher, playwright and youth worker gave him such a deep insight into the human person — world-changing knowledge he brought to the Vatican. I’d love to hear more about his Polish roots and the role he played in the downfall of communism, because the way he affected politics and public policy through an underlying transformation in society and culture is absolutely fascinating.

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

I’d remind myself that high school passes so quickly, and that sometimes relationships — with both family and friends — are so much more important than another hour of studying or another extracurricular activity. Too often, I underestimated the power of community and the importance of building strong, uplifting relationships with those around me.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

I hope to one day graduate from medical school in order to work with women facing high-risk pregnancies and prenatal genetic disorder diagnoses. Ultimately, I seek to change America’s perception about life and women’s health care in three areas — in my own practice, among medical students and in the larger scope of public policy. While I know I’ll face incredible challenges as a Catholic in this medical specialty, we can’t let it be dominated by secular ideals and philosophies any longer.


CeliaSmithmierCelia Smithmier
Benilde-St. Margaret’s, St. Louis Park

Smithmier attends St. Thomas the Apostle in Minneapolis. Her parents are Don and Annie Smithmier. She plans to attend Boston College.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

Perspective. In high school, it is very easy to become self-centered and lose perspective on what’s really important, when in reality many people fight for much more than that every day. High school has taught me that I am blessed to have the problems I do, that it is our moral obligation as human beings to use our resources to help those without, and that I should appreciate everyday all that I have, who I am, and the world around me.

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

Keeping balanced: between school, sports and friends, there’s hardly any room to take time to sit and reflect.  I’m proud of the fact that I stayed (mostly) balanced throughout high school and was able to find room to do things I love.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would discuss how we as Catholics should judge less and love more. I believe that love is the foundation of the Church, not a strict set of rules for us to follow, and I believe that is the center of who Jesus was, what he stood for and what he intended for us to do.  Therefore, I’d want to discuss equality for all and willingness to accept those who are different from us, just as Jesus did.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

My most significant faith experience happened when I was really overloaded one night and was having a complete mental breakdown. In a moment of panic and needing to unload, I texted a friend saying, “I’m really stressed right now” and listed off everything I felt. And she responded in such a way that I felt something beyond anything I’d felt before; in that moment, I knew there was something bigger than myself, some reason why I was there, some greater plan behind it all. And I got on my knees and prayed.

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

“The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night Time” by Mark Haddon had a big impact on me. The book transformed the way I saw the disabled and disenfranchised, especially those with mental disorders, and provided me with a deeper insight to what they endure in today’s society. By teaching me this lesson, it led me to judge less and to treat people who are mentally different from myself just as I would treat anyone else, instead of being condescending toward him or her, as so many others are.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

My great-grandma.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

Advocate loving acts more and instructive rules less. As society develops, so does religion, and what was considered acceptable centuries ago isn’t as applicable to the world today. Though we should appreciate the roots of the Church, judging by them leads many people, especially young adults, astray. Therefore, to advocate for and promote loving acts, such as community service and acceptance, will keep the young community engaged, as that’s what being a good neighbor is truly about.

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

I would want to talk with Robert Frost. Though I’ve always been a bookworm, I was never fully able to get into poetry until I read Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” From that day forth, I’ve never been able to quench a thirst for literature. Frost’s perspectives on the world are simplistic yet beautiful, and I would love to talk with him about how he sees the world.

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

Speak up and be confident; the world is big, but it isn’t as scary as you think.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

Form meaningful relationships, help others and do something I love.


GuadalupeAquino-CruzGuadalupe Aquino-Cruz
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Minneapolis

Aquino-Cruz is a parishioner of Ascension in Minneapolis. Her parents are Jorge Aquino and Maria Estela Cruz.She plans to attend Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

When I started high school I was dealing with a lot of difficulties outside of school. Because of this, I fell far behind in my school work. I put in a lot of effort to catch up, and since that time have challenged myself to strive for success and stay on top of my work. We all face challenges in life, but we need to keep going to reach our goals. When I walk across the stage at graduation in a few weeks, I know it will all be worth it. Never give up!

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

I am particularly proud of the fact that I will be the first person in my family to graduate from high school. I’ve worked really hard to keep up with my school work and look forward to graduating from Cristo Rey.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

If I had an audience with Pope Francis, I would like to talk to him about immigration. As a child of immigrant parents, it makes me proud that the leader of our Church has visited Mexico to inspire people to persevere and not give up. I am thankful that he has taken a strong stance on the rights of immigrants and has hope for a better future for all of us.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

At the beginning of ninth grade, my dad had a heart attack followed by a stroke. It was very difficult for our family. He spent one month in intensive care and we didn’t know if he was going to make it. During that time, I saw him commit more fully to his faith and putting himself in God’s hands. Our Church community visited us and was a big support to us. This experience made me admire my father and brought me closer to God. After he recovered, we both became more involved in our Church community, giving catechism classes and attending Mass regularly.

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

“Enrique’s Journey” by Sonia Nazario had a big impact on me. It tells the story of a boy from Honduras who travels to the United States to escape the violence of his hometown. It helped me to better understand the life of my parents before they came to the United States.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

As I mentioned before, my dad is my spiritual role model. Through him, I have learned how to live my faith by praying every night and being thankful.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

It’s important to have more activities specifically for youth. This helps young adults learn their faith and how to make good decisions in life.

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

I would like to have a conversation with Archbishop Oscar Romero. He taught people to act without fear and to work for change. I was immediately drawn to him and what he did with his life because he was from El Salvador and so is my dad. Like Romero, I see great injustice in our economy and the divisions between the rich and the poor and hope to do something about it some day.

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

I would tell myself to be more involved in church activities and be more active in my church community. I was in confirmation classes at that time, and I would tell myself not to just go through the motions, but to really learn about my faith and help others to live their faith. Don’t follow your dreams, lead them.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

First, I hope to be a leader in my community and speak out for people who are treated unjustly. Second, I hope to finish my two-year degree in automotive engineering and be an inspiration to other women to break down gender barriers in the workplace. Third, I hope to make my parents proud and support them financially after all they have done for me.


GuadalupeIguaneroAndradeGuadalupe Iguanero Andrade
Totino Grace, Fridley

Andrade attends Ascension in Minneapolis. Her mother is Martha Andrade. She plans to attend Iowa State University in Ames.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

The greatest lesson I learned in high school was to “bless it and release it.” That was taught to me by my campus minister. Everyone will come across some problem in their life and not know what to do. One should always ask themselves if what their next choice will help or improve the situation. If it is not going to improve or help the situation then one should bless it and release it. Even if you have to bless it a million type before you’re ready to release it.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would discuss with him about ways in which we could improve poverty. Poverty is a huge issue. There are so many countries who have many disadvantages, and in my lifetime I hope to see the poverty in our world decrease.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

The most significant faith experience happened to me during the end of my junior year of high school.

I took up the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It was life changing. Jesus works in mysterious ways but It was there that I learned that those who one may see as unfortunate have the richest spirits on this planet.

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

During my sophomore year, I got the chance to read “To Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee. That book truly shaped the way I think. There is a quote in the book that reads, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. . . . Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” That has always stuck with me specially as I go out and do service work. I make an effort to put myself in people’s skin, and it truly does make a huge difference.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

My spiritual role model is Mr. Andrew Blake [Totino-Grace director of campus ministry]. If I could be the tiniest bit like him I would be blessed! Mr. Blake gives without expecting to receive anything in return. He is a compassionate person who drives people to reach the potential they have in them. I would not be the senior in high school that I am without the guidance of Mr. Blake. I am endlessly grateful to him for being such a big part of shaping who I have become in these past four years.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

After talking with Mr. Andrew Million, one of my campus ministers, he gave me great ideas of how to keep young adults engaged. It is very important for the Catholic Church to invite young adults to participate in the Mass and other events that the Church puts on. Such as Bible studies or youth groups for young adults. Providing opportunities for discussion and letting them know that they have a voice. It’s important for young adults to also find other young adults in the Church that they can relate to.

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

I would want to have a conversation with Louis Zamperini. I think he was an amazing   person and everyone can take something away from Louis Zamperini’s life. He not only showed resilience his whole life but is a figure of forgiveness and compassion.

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

I would tell my 14-year-old self that throughout high school, and even after high school, one should never be afraid to remove toxic people from your life. It can be challenging to cut ties with a friendship or relationship that does you no good but it’s the smartest thing to do. It is so important to fill your life with people who will drive you to be a better person everyday and enrich your spirit.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

I hope to major in biomedical sciences and international studies. After that, I would like to be accepted into medical school and become a pediatrician; I love working with kids. I hope to travel to Third World countries doing work there and give my resources to those most in need.


DanielDegolladoDaniel Degollado
Highland Park High School, St. Paul

Degollado attends St. Francis de Sales in St. Paul. He plans to attend Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

I have learned that working hard pays off. I have learned that my faith is more powerful than I think. It drives me to be a great leader in my community and to help myself and others to be successful.

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

I received a full-ride scholarship to Augsburg College. This is one of my proudest moments in high school because it shows me and other Latinos that it is possible to go to college as an immigrant. I made my family proud, probably more than I think. I owe this to a lot of people, but especially to God.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would discuss two things. I would like to talk to him about the diplomatic intervention he made about the issues between the United States and Cuba, and how he made these countries start to discuss diplomatic relations once again. This gives us as humans an example of the power of the pope and the Catholic Church. I would also ask him about his plan on having a new system of global government to tackle climate change. I love that Pope Francis has all these concerns and that he is making a change.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

I came from Mexico in 2012 as a non-believer. I grew up in a Catholic family, but I never took seriously my religion. I would say that my life was dark and cold. A year passed, and when I was in church, I decided to confess my sins. It was the first time after five years. I would say that by then, my heart felt heavy and hard. After I confessed, I started to cry. It was a sensation that I have never felt before. I felt loved. I asked my priest what was happening, why I felt this euphoria. He said that Jesus had just touched my heart. After that, I stopped being arrogant, and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I was renewed, and I started to be more involved in the Church, when before, I didn’t even want to go.

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

“Rediscover Jesus” by Matthew Kelly. I have been reading this book with two other classmates in a club we have in school about religion. This book has taught me how to love, live and work with Jesus. It also has opened my mind to new way on how I can strengthen my faith.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

My spiritual role model is Pope Francis because he has done things that have changed the way I see the Church. The youth love him. For me, this is a different pope. He has a way to connect with everyone; he even made an Instagram account to post messages of love and faith. He chooses humility over luxuries. He called the Church to be more open to gays and lesbians and to not interfere with their lives, but more spiritually. He is concerned with climate change and the war in Syria. He is my role model, not just in my Catholic faith, but in everything.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

The Catholic Church has to change the image it has. Some non-Catholics from my school think that the Catholic Church is closed-minded and judgmental. We are seen as a more exclusive organization than a welcoming and loving place. We need to create a more inclusive environment for the youth. That is what Pope Francis is calling us to do. For the youth that are already in our Church, we are in need for activities that can open our hearts to Jesus. Youth groups are very important because they are the base of the Church, therefore it needs to be taken more seriously.

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

I would talk to Mahatma Gandhi because he is a very inspirational man, not just for me, but for the entire world. I would like to know where his ideals came from. What inspired his non-violent revolution? I see a strong connection between Gandhi and God. Every time we talk in church about mercy, I think about how Jesus died for us. Gandhi did the same thing. I would like to know his point of view of the Catholic Church.

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

You are on a good track. Keep working hard, and you will be compensated. I would say this because I am not trying to change anything that I’ve done. Everything I’ve done is what makes me, so I don’t feel the need to change myself. I love myself.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

Have a family: I want kids and a wife. I want them to live this beautiful life of ours and to be successful in life.

Work for others: Even though I already work for others in a way like volunteering, I want to have a bigger impact in others’ lives. I want to work in an organization that helps other people with their problems, an organization that helps Latinos to get oriented in order for them to achieve success. To let them know that language is not a barrier.

Be an example: I want to be an example for all of those who surround me. I want them to look after me when they need help or anything that I can help with.


HaileyHultsHailey Hults
Centennial High School, Circle Pines

Hults attends St. Joseph of the Lakes in Lino Lakes. Her parents are Dave and Cathy Hults. She plans to attend the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

The greatest lesson I learned in high school was time management. Even though I learned it the hard way, I learned how it had an important part in being successful.

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

The thing I am most proud of accomplishing in high is the fact that I raised over $5,000 for a girl I babysat after she found out she had a brain tumor.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would discuss with him how he had the courage to become who he is. In my opinion, those [popes] before him were much more strict. I would like to know he had the courage to break the mold and show more understanding.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

The most significant faith experience I had during high school was the mission trip I went on the summer after junior year. I got closer with God, my fellow volunteers and myself.

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

“Balzac and the Little Seamstress.”

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

Denise Walsh, youth minister, is a spiritual role model for my Catholic faith. She has so much love in her heart and is so passionate about helping others.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

The Catholic Church can have more group activities that aren’t structured like a class to keep myself and other young adults engaged in the life of Church.

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

If I could have a conversation with a historical figure it would be Susan B. Anthony because she became my hero the minute I learned about her and what she did for women’s rights.

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

I would tell myself to be myself. God made you the way you are for a reason.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

The first thing I hope to accomplish in life is to simply be happy, the second is to become a special education teacher and the third is to someday become a mother.


NickHeithoffNick Heithoff
Holy Family Catholic High School, Victoria

Heithoff attends Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minnetonka. His parents are Rob and Beth Heithoff. He plans to attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

What is the greatest lesson you learned in high school?

I learned many lessons throughout high school, but the greatest lesson I learned is that you need to become responsible for yourself. In order to get everything out of high school, you need to have yourself taken care of first. I’ve learned that once you have control of yourself, it opens up many more opportunities where you can help others.

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

One thing I am proud of accomplishing in high school was being a student-athlete and being involved in different things. For example, there was a day of the year where I took a couple tests, played the guitar in front of the school and played a basketball game that night, and I felt accomplished because I was able to share my talents with others. I believe that is a very important thing to do.

If you could have an audience with Pope Francis, what would you discuss with him?

I would talk to him about how humble he is. He avoids receiving special treatment because he wants to be treated no greater than anybody else, and I am inspired by that. I would want to discuss his views on equality because he is known for his acceptance of all people, which is something that I want promote as well.

Describe the most significant faith experience you have had during high school.

My most significant faith experience in high school was praying with Father Bob White before every football game. Our entire team would take a knee and join hands as father would say a prayer over us right before we would go out and play a game. He reminded us that adversity in football prepares us for challenges we will face later in life.

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

The book that most changed the way I think was “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Its lesson reminded me that it is always important to be honest, and it is important to be modest as well.

Who is a spiritual role model for your Catholic faith?

A spiritual role model for my Catholic faith is Pope Francis. Of course, everybody’s Catholic role model should be the pope, but mine is Pope Francis because of who he is. His background and ethics align exactly with what I see my faith as.

What can the Catholic Church do to keep you and other young adults engaged in the life of the Church?

The Catholic Church can preach toward serving others more than it already does. It is important to be involved in your individual parishes, but it is also important to be aware of those around you in need, and giving your time to help the poor is very rewarding and can keep young adults engaged.

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

If I could have a conversation with a historical figure, it would probably be Jesus. It would be this because I want to know how I should act, and I’m just curious to see what his attitude was like.

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

I would tell myself to know that everything will be OK. I’ve learned that stressing out about stuff isn’t necessary because it will all have to get done at some point, and also stressing out about homework and sports makes you forget about what is really important in life. One busy night shouldn’t make you forget about how much you love your family and your faith.

What are the top three things that you hope to accomplish in your life?

The top three things I want to accomplish in life are raising a happy family, having a job that helps protect future generations and the environment, and I want to travel to many places to be able to experience all the beauty that God has given us.

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Category: Graduation