The 53 graduating seniors of St. Paul heard from someone who sat in their place several years ago as Deacon Eric Schild, a 1998 graduate, delivered the homily and graduation speech Sunday during the Baccalaureate Mass.
"I've seen many of you grow up," Schild told the graduates. Schild's youngest brother, Ryan, was one of the graduates and the elder Schild has kept in close contact with St. Paul as he attended college and seminary.
Schild reminded the young people that they now have the necessary foundation for a successful life, but advised that they use the church's teachings as "road signs along the journey of life."
He commended the graduates for their special senior service projects. "I saw a group of young people who were committed to ... serving others," he added. "We send you off with blessings," he said and reminded them they could always turn to the school and parish for love and support.
Valedictorian Kate Schafer also talked about the senior service projects. "Our service is a true mark we can leave behind and be proud of," she said. "This class will be here to help others."
She also talked about the challenges each will face after graduation. "No one said this beginning will be easy. We're going to take on more responsibility," she said. "Much of our senior year was about shifting to the future." Schafer added that the students are now "standing on the edge of something bigger.
"It's time to take our talents out into the world," she concluded.
In addition to earning the title valedictorian, Schafer was also awarded the Bishop's Cross, the highest distinction a Catholic high school can bestow upon a graduating senior. Andy Schaffer also was awarded the Bishop's Cross. Both seniors were leaders in the school and also volunteered outside of the classroom in many ways.
The Rev. Dave Cirata gave a special military blessing for the graduates headed into military service.
The church was filled with family and friends of the graduates and the service was also projected onto a large screen in the parish gathering space for overflow guests.
Kelly Brown, salutatorian, welcomed the crowd. Class officers Laura Roberts, president; Jennifer Bundschuh, vice-president; Julianne Gfell, secretary; and Schafer, treasurer, all had roles during the ceremony. Ryan Centers and Brad Frank led the class in the sign of peace portion of Mass and several senior girls also performed "My Wish" during the ceremony.
The school band played for the ceremony and the high school folk group also sang, accompanied by students playing guitars, flutes, violin, bass and drums.