St. Bernard’s student takes Catholic values to new school

| Maggie Lee | January 19, 2011 | 2 Comments

Lutheran academy welcomes senior’s pro-life activism

Grace Thompson, who previously attended St. Bernard High School in St. Paul and who is now a senior at Concordia Academy in Roseville, stands in the school’s prayer chapel Jan. 13 with some of the students helping her organize pro-life efforts at the school. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Grace Thompson has found a way to keep St. Bernard High School’s traditions and values alive at her new school, Concordia Academy.

When St. Bernard in St. Paul closed last year, Thompson and 44 of her classmates decided to spend their senior year together at the Lutheran high school in Roseville.

But they didn’t leave their Catholic values behind. Thompson is applying her enthusiasm for her faith to organize Concordia students to attend the March for Life at noon Saturday, Jan. 22, at the State Capitol. She saw it as an opportunity to share her Catholic values with others around an issue that’s close to her heart.

“Being pro-life has always been something I’ve been super passionate about,” Thompson said.

Thompson first got involved with the annual pro-life march while attending St. Bernard’s School, which had a history of bringing a large group of students to the event and helping with the prayer service that takes place prior to the march at 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Concordia students don’t have a tradition of participation in the event, but Thompson is working to change that.

A new tradition begins

Thompson pitched the idea to one of her teachers at Concordia, Dean Dunavan, who agreed to help her bring in pro-life speakers to address students during chapel services at the school.

“I thought it was great,” Dunavan said. “I’ve been teaching here for 12 years and I can’t recall one of our students asking, ‘What are we doing about the pro-life march at the Capitol?’ The more she’s talked about it, the more other kids are saying, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’”

Dunavan said Concordia Academy supports the pro-life cause, but it took Grace and other former St. Bernard’s students to energize their classmates on the issue.

“They’re very bold when speaking about the sanctity of life,” he said.  “There hasn’t been somebody to spearhead that on the high school level here. I was thrilled.”

Sharon Wilson, the archdiocese’s Respect Life coordinator, is helping Grace line up pro-life speakers to address Concordia students and encourage student involvement. Wilson and Thompson first met when Thompson represented St. Bernard’s High School on Wilson’s Youth Advisory Board.

Wilson said she is impressed by Thompson’s initiative.

Becoming more ecumenical

“Grace is dynamic, she’s involved.  She’s a natural leader and wants to organize,” Wilson said.

Wilson helps coordinate the ecumenical prayer service held at the Cathedral of St. Paul, an event which is sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Life.

Although all denominations are welcome, Wilson acknowledges that most schools that attend the service are Catholic.

“We haven’t had a connection with other schools,” Wilson said. “We didn’t have outreach because we didn’t have someone like Grace to organize.”

Concordia Academy has more than 400 students. With the influx of St. Bernard’s students, this year’s graduating class of 140 will be the largest in its history.

The student body reflects a mix of Christian beliefs and faith traditions, which often are discussed during religion class. Dunavan, who teaches theology to seniors, said he believes the students have learned a lot from each other.

“We have kids who had no idea about the Catholic faith or why Lutherans do this or Baptists do that,” he said. “They’re finding they have more in common than they thought.”

Thompson and Dunavan plan to continue promoting the pro-life cause at Concordia after the Jan. 22 event. Dunavan, who has attended the march with his wife for years, sees the current efforts as just a beginning.

“We’re forming a group of people who are passionate about this,” he said. “It’s not political — it’s about their faith, their love for the Lord. We’re at a beginning point of educating kids in an intentional way.”

While Thompson is committed to her new school, she still identifies with St. Bernard’s High School and what it stood for.

“[The march] was such a big part of St. Bernard’s,” she said. “People saw our blue and gold and knew who we were. I want the same thing at Concordia. The values we represented every day at St. Bernard’s are just the same here at Concordia.”

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Category: Respect Life