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Editor's note: Bishop Edward Burns is a new columnist to the Empire, appearing in the Sunday edition. His next column will run June 20.
This past week I received an e-mail from an old high school classmate of mine, Michelle Wilson. She married Mike Wilson soon after graduation. We are members of the class of 1975 from Lincoln High School in Ellwood City, Penn., located just north of Pittsburgh. Her e-mail indicated that there was going to be a planning meeting for our upcoming 35-year high school reunion, and that everyone was invited to help in the planning process. It amazes me that it's been 35 years.
All that the 1970s had to offer - the fashion (No, I never owned a leisure suit), the music and the issues of life - seemed very normal at the time. (I still fondly recall the 1969 Ford LTD that I drove to school every day. It was a classic jalopy that went from zero to 60 mph in a half-hour.)
Life at that time was filled with possibilities and opportunities. I e-mailed Michelle back and simply said, "Greetings from Alaska! Unfortunately I will be unable to attend the planning meeting for upcoming 35th high school reunion. Please give Mike and everyone else my best. Peace."
Her e-mail, as well as a recent Juneau event, brought back memories of my own high school graduation and times of transition in my life. The Class of 2010 Baccalaureate Committee in Juneau asked if I would be one of the keynote speakers. It was an honor for me to be invited and I welcomed the opportunity. At the baccalaureate service, ministers and clergy members who represented the various worshiping communities in town gathered with the members of the Class of 2010, their family and friends, as well as school faculty and staff as we offered prayers for the graduates. These young men and women are standing at the threshold of their adult life and it was evident to me that the members of the class of 2010 possess a lot of talent.
I was impressed by The National Anthem sung by Callie Cummins, Monica Yost and Gabrielle Larson. The JDHS senior ensemble sang a great rendition of "Amazing Grace." The student speakers - Alison deLaBruere, Caitlin Goettler and Cassie Orbistando - offered wonderful reflections. And, toward the end of the program, Monica and Callie gave a striking performance as they sang "The Prayer." It was a privilege for me to be included with Rev. Gary Leder of Auke Bay Bible Church and Rev. Tari Stage-Harvey of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church as the keynote speakers.
As adults, most of us have experienced the changes in life that come with graduation. It seems to me that many people in Southeast Alaska understand change and transition. This community is rich with Coast Guard families, seasonal workers, vacationers, legislators, people traveling through Southeast; there are a lot of people passing through in life. What I presented to the graduates on the night of the baccalaureate service applies to many of us, that is, when I come to moments of change is my life, it's a good time to ask the appropriate question: "What am I doing with my life?"
It's our goal to give a good answer to that question, and it is necessary to ask the right questions in life and seek the right answers. In doing so, we navigate our way through life's challenges by making the right choices and decisions.
Each of us have been blessed in many ways. With every change or moment of transition in life, we are afforded a chance to reflect on these blessings and use them to do what's right in life. It's also an important opportunity to take the time to evaluate where we are in life. In my address to the graduates, I said, "In order for God to complete his work of creation for you, the work of creating a good man or a good woman, He will send forth His Holy Spirit to re-create you, especially in moments of life like graduation. Seek the spirit of wisdom, seek the spirit of understanding, seek the great spirit of knowledge and continue to ask the right questions. Continue to seek out the right answers. Continue to do the right thing."
It is my hope that when the members of the Class of 2010 celebrate their 35th high school reunion, they will be in the midst of living out the fullness of God's special plan for them. May our Lord bless the members of the Class of 2010.
Edward J. Burns is the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau and Southeast Alaska. He was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI and was installed on April 2, 2009.