Catholic high school seniors remain positive amid ‘roller-coaster’ school year

Rocio Madera

Senior year is supposed to be the best year of a high schooler’s education. Who knew that in 2020, it would also be the weirdest?

The coronavirus pandemic has forced thousands of high school students to miss proms, senior trips, and the chance to say goodbye in person to their classmates. However, many of those students at Catholic high schools choose to see this as a lifetime lesson and a reminder that only God is in control and that in spite of the hardships and disappointments, he is present.

The Denver Catholic would like to honor those students who didn’t have the chance to have a “normal” graduation, but still managed to get through the school year and make this an important achievement worth celebrating.

Isaac Ritzer

The COVID-19 pandemic is something very unfortunate that has impacted everybody in one way or another. For Isaac Ritzer, Senior House Capitan at Bishop Machebeuf High School, it’s just proof that God always provides. His four years in high school were a roller-coaster of emotions; however, there is nothing more important for him than the memories, relationships, and friends he gained and for which he’s very grateful.

Isaac grew up in a solid Catholic family, where he received a very strong faith formation, but several of his teachers at Machebeuf also contributed to this faith formation in a very special way by setting an example of how to live like Christ. It is a real treasure that he will carry on to the next chapter of his life.

“My faith is something that I have always been fully immersed in… I was never taught that Church is just a side thing and that the faith only matters on Sundays,” Ritzer told the Denver Catholic. “Instead, in the classroom and at home, I was taught to build my life around my faith, because it is the most important thing. Because of that, my faith will be something I consider with every serious decision I make, and it will always be an active part of my life.”

Photo: Alyssa Sierra Photography

As for his graduation ceremony, Ritzer said that even though he would’ve liked to have a normal ceremony, he is more focused on the positive side of it, such as the great memories he has with his classmates and the things he learned during his time at Machebeuf. Just like other high school seniors across the country, to make this end of the school year a memorable and unique celebration, his friends and classmates have come up with creative ways to celebrate.

“I actually went to a ‘drive by’ at a friend’s house for his graduation. Essentially, people drove up to the house, while staying in their cars, just to celebrate their accomplishments,” he said. “One thing that happened this week was that a friend of mine signed to run at Benedictine college. He invited me to the Zoom call for his signing. It was always awesome to watch his drive and competitive spirit, and it’s so cool that he gets to carry that with him into college.”

Ritzer shared with the Denver Catholic how grateful he is for the great opportunity he had to lead his class as their senior captain and shared a message with his classmates to whom didn’t have a chance to say goodbye but will always remember.

“It was an absolute honor being a senior captain this year and watching so many of you step up to the challenge,” he said. “You showed me every day what it meant to lead in so many ways. Thank you for being teammates, peers, classmates, companions, and friends. Thank you for being there to share the great moments and also to make the bad ones a little bit better. There’s so much I could say to each and every one of you, but to keep it short, thanks for the memories! You are like family to me. I love you guys!”

Rachael Perez

Rachael Perez, a senior at Holy Family High School, knows her graduation will be nothing like what she’d imagined. Nonetheless, she has faith and has decided to focus on the greater treasures she is taking from her years at Holy Family, such as the relationships she was able to build with her teachers, whom she said pushed her to be a better student, friend, daughter and sister and support others whenever they needed help.

“[They were] an excellent example of the faith and how fruitful a life with Christ can be,” Perez said.

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move mountains, and that’s exactly how Perez feels about the next chapter of her life.

Photo Provided

“I know there will be trials and great joys. God is there in both those times and all the moments in between,” she said to the Denver Catholic. “My faith has helped me so much and I’m so grateful for it. Because I have that faith, I’m really not scared or anxious about the future. Whatever comes next is what will be.”

Although Perez at times feels sad by the fact that her graduation ceremony has been “delayed,” the pandemic has taught her and many others the importance of adapting to new situations quickly and accepting what you can’t control. At the same time, she is aware that life must go on and she’s trying to adapt to a new “normal.”

When asked about the biggest lesson she’s learned from the pandemic and her senior year, she said, “I’ve learned not to take anything for granted. As simple as that. Everything can be gone in a split-second, so enjoy all that you can.”

“My class especially, we’ve gone through quite a bit and we know how temporary life and experiences can be,” she added. “It’s important that we all live in the moment and hug everyone as tight as possible — when it is safe and acceptable to do so.”

COMING UP: English Readings: Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Click here to watch the livestream

Click here to download this document as a PDF

Presider: Most. Rev. Samuel Aquila, Archbishop of Denver; Concelebrants: Most. Rev. Jorge Rodriguez, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, Priests of the Archdiocese of Denver; Deacons: Rev. Mr. Roberto Cuevas and Rev. Mr. Lorenso Tong Ngo; Master of Ceremonies: Rev. Mr. Robert Rinne

Entrance procession: Adela and Eduardo Escobar (El Salvador), Ana and Javier Artica (Perú), Monserrath Vera-Bravo and Juan Carlos Villegas (Colombia), Sandra and Alan Lemus (Guatemala)

Lectors: First reading: Mr. Chou Cha, (Hmong community); Responsorial Psalm: Sister Julian Okeke (Igbo, African Community); Second reading: Ms. Sunhee Theresa Ju (Korean community)

Altar servers: Shaun Raphael and Sybil Raphael (Pakistan)

Prayers of the Faithful: Mr. Ramon Baro Sanchez (Spanish), Mr. Dzung Nguyen (Vietnamese), Mrs. Kateri Williams (English), Mrs. Victoria del Campo (Spanish), Mr. Joseph Opoku (Twi), Mr. Justin Ling (Burmese), Ms. Angela Chang (Korean), Mr. Saleem Raphael (Urdu)

Procession of the Gifts: Mama Marie Marguerite Abizi and Mrs. Anne Attouah Koffi (African Catholic Society), Mrs. Sophia Michael (Pakistani community), Mrs. Shen Meh (Burmese community), Mr. Pao Cha (Hmong community)

Music: Mr. Hoang Tran (pianist); Mr. Huu Mai and Mrs. Tram Mai (Cantors); Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs Parish; Antonio and Gisell Chavez (Hispanic Community); African Catholic Association

Testimonies: Sharal Raphael (Pakistan), René Campos Cerón (El Salvador)

 

EUCHARISTIC LITURGY

ENTRANCE SONG

(Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs’ Parish)

KYRIE ELEISON / GLORIA

(Hispanic community)

COLLECT

O God, who manifest your almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy, bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us and make those hastening to attain your promises heirs to the treasures of heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
All: Amen.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading (Ez 18: 25-28) (Hmong)

Thus says the LORD:
You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!”
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed,
he does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.

The Word of the Lord,
R. Thanks be to God.

 

Responsorial Psalm (Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14) (Igbo)

R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not;
in your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

 

Second Reading (Phil 2:1-11) (Korean)

Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests,
but also for those of others.

Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The Word of the Lord,
R. Thanks be to God.

 

Alleluia (Hispanic community)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel (Mt 21: 28-32)
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”
The Gospel of the Lord,
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily: Archbishop Samuel Aquila
PRAYERS OF THE FAITHFUL

Priest: With the confidence of children, and with the hope that God always listens, we pray especially today for our brother and sister migrants and refugees, saying: R/: Lord, hear our prayer.

1. (Spanish) For all bishops in our Church, that he may be encouraged by our prayers and support to lead God’s people in building a culture that respects the human dignity of all migrants and refugees, we pray to the Lord.

2. (Vietnamese) For the American people who generously open the doors and welcomed us, and for all nations in the world that have accepted migrant and refugees: may the Lord bless them with peace and prosperity, we pray to the Lord.

3. (English) For the President of the United States and all government leaders: that the Son of God, who became human, and a migrant and refugee himself, will help them understand the great dignity of human persons, and support legislation that better protects vulnerable populations in our midst, we pray to the Lord.

4. (Spanish) For the hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters TPS recipients and their families and children, who have been living and working in the United States legally for many years, in solidary with them, let’s ask the Lord to move the authorities to allow them to stay and continue making our country a better place, we pray to the Lord.

5. (Twi) For migrants, refugees, and all other strangers in our midst, that they may find strength and hope in our concern for justice, and feel the warmth of our love, we pray to the Lord.

6. (Burmese) For refugees in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere who are experiencing great suffering, that God might bring them to a place of peace and safety, we pray to the Lord.

7. (Korean) For peace in the world and the end of all wars that create the refugee crisis impelling people to look for safety for them and their families in other countries, we pray to the Lord.

8. (Urdu) For refugees forced to leave their countries because of religious persecution and the need of freedom to profess their Christian faith, we pray to the Lord,

Priest: God the Father, you sent us your Son to save us. May He, who with his family lived a persecuted life as a migrant and a refugee, accompany all our brothers and sisters who have no home and no country. May He be their security, strength, and food on the journey, working through the hands and hearts of His disciples. In His name, Father, we pray.
All: Amen.

PROCESSION WITH THE GIFTS:

A tes pie Oh Divin Roi (African Catholic Society)

PRAYER OVER THE GIFTS

Grant us, O merciful God, that this our offering may find acceptance with you and that through it the wellspring of all blessing may be laid open before us. Through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen

EUCHARISTIC PRAYER II

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.
V. Lift up your hearts.
R. We lift them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is right and just.

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
For through his Paschal Mystery,
he accomplished the marvelous deed,
by which he has freed us from the yoke of sin and death,
summoning us to the glory of being now called
a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for your own possession,
to proclaim everywhere your mighty works,
for you have called us out of darkness
into your own wonderful light.
And so, with Angels and Archangels,
with Thrones and Dominions,
and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven,
we sing the hymn of your glory,
as without end we acclaim:

SANCTUS (Hispanic community)

The Priest, with hands extended, says:
You are indeed Holy, O Lord,
the fount of all holiness.
Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray,
by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall,
so that they may become for us
the Body and + Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the time he was betrayed
and entered willingly into his Passion,
he took bread and, giving thanks, broke it,
and gave it to his disciples, saying:

TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND EAT OF IT,
FOR THIS IS MY BODY,
WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.

In a similar way, when supper was ended,
he took the chalice
and, once more giving thanks,
he gave it to his disciples, saying:

TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT,

FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD,
THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT,
WHICH WILL BE POURED OUT FOR YOU AND FOR MANY
FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.
DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.

The mystery of faith.

Choir: (Hispanic community)

All: We proclaim your Death, O Lord,
and profess your Resurrection
until you come again.

Therefore, as we celebrate
the memorial of his Death and Resurrection,
we offer you, Lord,
the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation,
giving thanks that you have held us worthy
to be in your presence and minister to you.

Humbly we pray
that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ,
we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.

Remember, Lord, your Church,
spread throughout the world,
and bring her to the fullness of charity,
together with Francis our Pope
and Samuel, our Archbishop, with my your unworthy servant, and all the clergy.

Remember also our brothers and sisters
who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection,
and all who have died in your mercy:
welcome them into the light of your face.

Have mercy on us all, we pray,
that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
with blessed Joseph, her Spouse
with the blessed Apostles,
and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages,
we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life,
and may praise and glorify you
through your Son, Jesus Christ.

Through him, and with him, and in him,
O God, almighty Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours,
for ever and ever.
All: Amen.

 

COMMUNION RITE

(Each one will pray the Our Father in his or her own language)

Spiritual communion (for those following the livestream Mass)
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Amen.

COMMUNION SONG

(Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs’ Parish)

PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION

May this heavenly mystery, O Lord, restore us in mind and body, that we may be coheirs in glory with Christ, to whose suffering we are united whenever we proclaim his Death. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
All: Amen.

FINAL SONG:

Nyame Kokroko (in Twi, African Catholic Society)

TESTIMONIES

Sharal Raphael (Pakistan) and René Campos Cerón (El Salvador)

René Campos Cerón’s Testimony

(Translated from Spanish)

I am a young Salvadoran full of illusions and hopes. My family and I have been, for many years, victims of the Salvadoran gangs. In 2008 when I was 15 years old, my parents were threatened by the gangs, asking for a lot of money. (protection income).

Not being able to pay them, they began to threaten us with death, stalking us in the house at night. We had to flee to different parts of the country. We did this for five years, but they always found us.

Seeing that our lives were in greater danger every day, my father decided to come to the United States and we stayed in hiding with some relatives in El Salvador for a year. When my father arrived here, he got a headache and after 8 days he had to undergo emergency surgery.

In March 2014, my mother and I took to the road to reach the United States. My two younger brothers, 16 and 19 years old, and the oldest, 23 stayed in El Salvador. The youngest stayed with my paternal grandmother and the other two at the university.

When my mother and I arrived at the United States border, ICE grabbed us and we ended up in jail, staying there for several days. Then, they released my mother, but they took me to another jail for another month. Thank God they gave us shelter for 3 years.

In 2015 my younger brother, who was already 17 years old at the time, was killed by the gangs. They kidnapped him and as my grandmother insistently was looking for him, they threatened her also, that if she kept looking for him, they would kill her too.

With this reality at hand my other two brothers were also in danger, they asked the university for help so that they could give them scholarships to go study in Argentina. Their status is that of refugees until they finish their studies.

We are all very committed to the church. I, with the group of young adults from “Queen of Peace” and my parents as Coordinators of the Christian Family Movement, from whom we have received a lot of material and spiritual help. They have been able to help many couples who are going through difficult times in their marriage. I have helped many young people, trying to make them see that life is very beautiful despite everything that we are going through. I try to teach them that we must commit ourselves in our church, since we are the present in our church and not the future.

Pope Francis’s Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2020

Father, you entrusted to Saint Joseph what you held most precious: the child Jesus and his Mother, in order to protect them from the dangers and threats of the wicked.
Grant that we may experience his protection and help. May he, who shared in the sufferings of those who flee from the hatred of the powerful, console and protect all our brothers and sisters driven by war, poverty and necessity to leave their homes and their lands to set out as refugees for safer places.

Help them, through the intercession of Saint Joseph, to find the strength to persevere, give them comfort in sorrows and courage amid their trials.
Grant to those who welcome them some of the tender love of this just and wise father, who loved Jesus as a true son and sustained Mary at every step of the way.

May he, who earned his bread by the work of his hands, watch over those who have seen everything in life taken away and obtain for them the dignity of a job and the serenity of a home.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, whom Saint Joseph saved by fleeing to Egypt, and trusting in the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom he loved as a faithful husband in accordance with your will. Amen.