By Jesse Murray
At the beginning of the school year, teachers and students identify targets for the end of the year. We set content area learning goals and goals for student performance and teacher development. Most importantly, we revisit targets connected to our mission: forming disciples who learn how to seek the truth and grow in virtue.
We look at our alumni, those who just graduated and those who will be leaving our Catholic School environment to see what has transpired over their years within the walls of their Catholic school. Have they been transformed in a way that allows them to know themselves, to know Christ and to make decisions of how to most meaningfully live their life?
Last year, a Holy Rosary graduate shared her faith journey at graduation Mass. Her words and experiences are personal, yet represent the interactions of a class and a school full of students, parents, teachers and parishioners who actively place Christ at the center of their lives. Take the time to read through her speech to see the parental guidance, parish and school support, and diocese-wide activities that were embraced, prayed about and internalized in a way that transforms a heart and soul, growing closer to God each step of the way. She had been inspired and now inspires us.
From the mind, heart and soul of Justine Martin — Holy Rosary School Graduate 2016
(Speech to her classmates, teachers and parents)
I have been going to Holy Rosary School for nine years. It has been a long, hard journey, but I am proud to say I have made it, and the biggest thing I am taking from here is a strengthened faith. This past year has made a huge difference. My family has always gone to church every weekend. I have always gone to confession three to fourtimes a year. I have altar-served since I was nine. Going to and participating in church was just something that we did, until this past Lent.
But before I go any further, let’s go back to September and the 125th Anniversary Eucharistic Procession. I served in the procession by carrying the prayer book for Bishop [Paul] Sirba. It was amazing. Before the procession started, all the servers, priests, deacons, seminarians and Bishop Sirba were standing in front of the Cathedral. Bishop Sirba picked up the monstrance with Christ’s body inside. Everybody began chanting (after this, I fell in love with Gregorian chant). It was very moving. We began our slow and meaningful walk. After the procession, I had a strong urge to serve God, so I began more actively searching for my vocation.
Every Tuesday during this past Lent, my family went to XLT at the Cathedral. XLT involves Confession and Adoration. Once a week, I went to confession and spent a lot of time praying in front of Christ’s body. One Friday there was 24-hour Adoration. I went for three hours. It feels wonderful to kneel and pray in front of someone who gave everything for you. I talked with Father Peter Muhich a lot about my vocation. He told me to keep praying to God, asking “what would you like me to do? When everything is ready, tell me and I will say yes.” He said it would take time but to keep faith.
In the Bible, you can find many instances Christ simply asks us to believe in him — have faith and place our trust in him. I now do. When things happen, or as I look back, I realize that God has this all planned out. He puts us through things to make us stronger and to prepare us for better things. This happens frequently in our class. We go through things in life that push us to the limits, but we have to trust in God. One of my favorite Bible verses is from John 13:7. Jesus said, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but someday you will.” We might never fully understand what God is doing with our lives, but we have to have faith.
Every week, our religion class was visited by Father Eli Gieske, Ali Schissel or David Walsh (faith formation directors). David taught me that all things are connected, that God has everything planned out. Everything that happened in the Old Testament, everything that Christ taught, it all ties back together. One day when Ali was visiting, she told us about an experience she had while meditating at a youth conference. God showes her the state of her heart. That moment changed her. That night, before bed, I decided to give it a try. I sat in silence and try to imagine my heart in my hands. I searched, but could not find it. So I turned to one of my favorite songs, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United. I sat and listened to the words. I pictured them in my head. “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon waters wherever You would call me. My faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.” Then a part came that changed me — “My soul will rest in your embrace, I am Yours and You are mine.” At that point I saw myself fall off of a high cliff. But as I was falling, God’s hand caught me. I was saved from falling — just as Christ saves me and everyone from sin. Total relief washed over me, and I started sobbing. I have been saved. Christ gave his life for me, now I must live mine for Him.
My experiences at Holy Rosary School have changed my heart. I hope I have encouraged some of you to place your trust in Christ. I would like to end by saying “thank you.” You have all taught me so much — things I will not soon forget, like kindness, patience and forgiveness. Thank you for everything. I never realized how much I am going to miss Holy Rosary, but I will always have the memories, and my faith.
Justine does not walk alone. She is challenged, carried, supported and loved by many. She opened herself to this love, and now, as a disciple of Christ, openly shared it with her classmates, her parish and now our larger Catholic community. May we all be open to the Heavenly Father, in a way that transforms our hearts and strengthens us with the courage to share our faith with others!
Jesse Murray is principal of Holy Rosary School in Duluth.