Diocesan News

Bishop Brennan Celebrates Mass With 900 Graduating Catholic High School Seniors

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Chloe Rojas, a senior at The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates, is looking forward to her graduation this spring and can’t wait for her college days to begin. She has not finalized her choice of college, but said she likely will be going to the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

In addition to feeling excited, Rojas is also feeling confident that she will be able to stay close to her Catholic faith even as she navigates her busy freshman year.

“I have a sister that lives in Florida and she goes to Mass religiously. So, I honestly don’t think it would be hard for me to continue my faith,” she said, adding that the University of Central Florida has a campus ministry that she is eager to join.

Rojas was one of an estimated 900 seniors from 14 Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn who gathered for a special Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn on Friday, March 22.

The purpose of the Mass was twofold — 1) It was an opportunity for the diocese to congratulate the students on successfully completing four years of high school and 2) to encourage them to hold onto their Catholic faith as they enter college, with all of the distractions that will be put before them.

Bishop Robert Brennan, who celebrated the Mass, said one way to hold onto one’s faith in college is to find a group of like-minded people to befriend. 

“Some of the advice I would say is to keep going to Mass and keep praying and surround yourself with people who do the same,” he told The Tablet, adding that students could also seek out campus ministries to work with on campus.

Before the Mass, the students heard representatives from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at Queens College who spoke to them about keeping one’s faith during their college years. FOCUS missionaries have a presence on campuses across the country.

Jack Mulholland, a senior at St. Edmund Preparatory High in Sheepshead Bay, doesn’t anticipate having any trouble living out his Catholic faith at Manhattan College. ”It’s a Catholic school, so it’s a very big part of the school and their whole curriculum,” he explained.

“There’s nothing more important to me than God and going to church,” Mulholland added. “And it’s very important to stay connected to it. I think everybody needs to do it.”

One of the reasons Rojas said she will strive to maintain her connection to her faith post-high school is because it was in high school that she found her strong sense of religion. “I feel like I hadn’t really found my individual faith journey until I went to high school and I was able to go out into the open and see things for myself,” she explained. Now that she found it, she is determined to keep it. 

In his homily, Bishop Brennan told the assembled students, “Life is hard. I know that. My hope is that your experience in Catholic high school gave you a powerful encounter with Jesus Christ.”

The years spent at Catholic high school gave the soon-to-be college freshmen a solid foundation, according to Deacon Kevin McCormack, superintendent of schools for the diocese.

“We obviously have provided the faith base but as I always like to say, we’ve provided a Catholic imagination that allows our kids to see the grace that abounds in everything they do,” he said.

The Mass also gave the students the opportunity to see themselves as part of the universal church, said Father James Kuroly, president and rector of Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary.

“I think one of the statements that are being made here, in a crowded cathedral, is that the church is alive and vibrant and that [the youth] have a very important and very special role within the Church, not just in the future, but right here and right now,” added Father Kuroly, who is also director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the diocese.