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placeholder GRADUATION:
Special section

to graduates from
Most Rev. Michael
C. Barber, SJ and
Rev. Larry Young

Becoming superintendent a homecoming for Kathleen Radecke

FACE gala puts spotlight on
the future

Diocese's only
middle school graduates its
first class

Tribute to the
Class of 2017

Graduation Awards

Year by year,
St. Theresa students learn to serve

SJND students
study, explore and volunteer in Thailand

New chapel a sacred space for worship
and reflection

Clean water
advocate named Carondelet alumna
of the year

BOD students, programs excel
in year

Moreau grad
named National
Merit Scholar

Saint Mary's
of California

Holy Names University

Bishop O'Dowd
High School

High School

De La Salle
High School

Holy Names
High School

Moreau Catholic
High School

St. Elizabeth
High School

St. Joseph Notre Dame High School

Saint Mary's
College High

Salesian College Preparatory

Notre Dame
alums honor
Father Hesburgh

CEO credits faith
with his success


Sister Regina Marie Novacek, OP

placeholder June 12, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA
Tribute to the Class of 2017

Here are some of this year's outstanding graduates of the Catholic high schools in the Oakland Diocese. The Catholic Voice salutes them and all graduates of the Class of 2017.

Bishop O'Dowd High School, Oakland

Nicolas Riani

College attending: University of California, Los Angeles

To study: Economics

What book changed your thinking? Reading "Slaughterhouse Five" opened my eyes to the way in which people can be dehumanized. In the book Kurt Vonnegut describes how all parties in World War II had to be dehumanized in order for the other side to kill them. I learned the message that all human beings are valuable and we can't forget that.

One accomplishment? I'm proud that I was able to lobby my congresspeople for more humane immigration, criminal justice and education policies through O'Dowd's trip to the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in Washington, D.C. I want to do everything that I can to achieve more humane policies.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? I think that if the Catholic Church wants to keep young adults engaged, they need to exemplify the values of young people. Speaking for myself I value the happiness of people over moral purity. I believe that the primary goal of the Church should be to lift up the disadvantaged through service, solidarity and activism.

Sophia Yau-Weeks

College attending: University of California, Berkeley

To study: Psychology

What book changed your thinking? A book that I read in high school that changed the way I think is "The Woman Warrior," by Maxine Hong Kingston. This book is a memoir which details the perspectives of different Asian women and the ways in which they express their unique voices. It inspired me to embrace my Chinese-American feminist identity and to be unafraid in sharing my opinions.

One accomplishment? I am proud that I was able to be a small group leader on a Kairos retreat this year.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? I think that the Catholic Church can engage young adults by applying traditional values to more tangible and impactful actions. I personally do not find God through going to Mass but instead find a sense of spirituality through service work and immersion into different communities.

Carondelet High School, Concord

Sophia Colello

College attending: Stanford University, Stanford

To study: Archaeology and Art History

What book changed your thinking? Reading "Hamlet" this last semester inspired me to more closely examine the impact I have on the people I come in contact with and the legacy I leave behind through them. Through Hamlet's struggles with fate, the great complexity of small events has gained new significance for me and prompted me to appreciate the unpredictability inherent in life.

One accomplishment: At Carondelet, I committed myself to exploring the educational and extracurricular opportunities with which I was provided. In doing so, I grew to realize that I have a passion for studying and educating others about ancient cultures. Many students graduate high school unsure of the path they want to follow, so I am proud and grateful to have found direction and meaning for my life at a young age.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church can better engage young people through more informal spiritual events. I have found that people my age feel more connected with the Church and with God following spiritual retreats or service events rather than during Mass. In connecting the life of the Church with their personal lives, more young people will become invested in, and committed to, the Church.

Olivia Conte

College attending: Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York

To study: Marketing and Broadcast Journalism

What book changed your thinking? As part of an AP Literature assignment this year I read a collection of short stories by James Baldwin. One of these stories, "Sonny's Blues," led me to realize that the true foundation of characterization is determined not by one's environment, but by how they react to it.

One accomplishment? I'm proud that I was able to serve both the Carondelet community and my local community during high school. Being a Peer Counselor and a Jefferson Awards Students in Action Leader helped me to discover a genuine passion for volunteering and service.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Attending an all-girls Catholic high school for the past four years has shown me how much women can bring to the Church. While there is biblical evidence of men being the leaders of the Church that should not prevent the Church from modernizing this teaching to be inclusive of all genders.

De La Salle High School, Concord

Christopher Behring

College attending: Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

To study: International Business/Minor Political Science

What book changed your thinking? My junior year, I read "Under the Banner of Heaven," by Jon Krakauer. This novel focused on the ideologies of Mormon fundamentalists and where they originated from. I have a better understanding of why people believe what they believe and I try not to judge others too quickly.

One accomplishment? My proudest accomplishment in high school has been the way I've matured and grown in these short 4 years. I am a better person and have identified my goal of eventually becoming the best husband, father and man that I can be through the teachings of De La Salle and achieving the role of Eagle Scout.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church can continue to place value in the education of the "WHOLE PERSON" in schools and develop men and women with strong moral values.

Connor Menefee

College attending: Saint Mary's College of California, Moraga

To study: Biochemistry

What book changed your thinking? The book that most changed the way I thought is "The Glass Castle," by Jeannette Walls. "The Glass Castle" is an autobiography following the life of Jeannette Walls, chronicling her childhood to the present day. Through Walls' tumultuous childhood, this book has taught me that no matter how many hardships one faces, one can still stay strong and prevail.

One accomplishment? I've become more aware of God's presence in my everyday life, thanks to my school's faith-based curriculum — especially the Kairos retreat program.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? One way the Church could keep young adults engaged is to promote the youth group and to sponsor more outreach programs for young adults to participate in. More specifically, youth groups should focus on the interests of young Catholics and show young Catholics the many ways in which God is at work in their lives.

Holy Names High School, Oakland

Catherine Bither

College attending: Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York

To study: Neuroscience and French

What book changed your thinking? "1984," by George Orwell has most changed the way I think because of the parallels between Orwell's dystopian setting and our own world today. I believe connecting current events to historical and even fictional events and their repercussions is among one of the most important things students can do. "1984" encouraged me to do this.

One accomplishment? I am proud of the service I performed through an internship at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Office last summer. By helping to administer psychotherapy to cocaine addicted veterans, I not only impacted the lives of several veterans, but I learned a great deal about my aims and myself.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? I feel the Church must encourage spirituality instead of devotion to religious rules and laws. By encouraging spirituality, the Church allows young people to explore their own and others' beliefs and forms young people into independent thinkers, active members of society, and engaged members of the Church if they so wish.

Melissa Cervantes

College attending: St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota

To study: Undecided

What book changed your thinking? "Americanah," by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was my favorite book I read in high school. This book challenged me to think about my identity and who I truly am.

One accomplishment? I am proud of taking honors and AP classes in high school and of being involved in my school community.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church can offer opportunities for young adults to take part in retreats to get us engaged.

Moreau Catholic High School, Hayward

Mikayla Cree

College attending: Saint Mary's College of California, Moraga

To study: Economics and Global Studies

What book changed your thinking? "Daring Greatly" most changed the way that I think because it presents the idea that, contrary to popular belief, to be vulnerable is not to be weak or cowardly, but rather that vulnerability is courageous and propels you on a path toward greatness.

One accomplishment? I am proud to have grown as a servant leader while working on Student Government, where I have had the opportunity to work on student events and activities to improve campus life and the sense of community at my school.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? To keep teenagers active in the Church and their faith, I suggest that the Church focus on the core of Jesus' teachings, to love our neighbor and love God. All teenagers, and people for that matter, relate to this teaching because they want to know they are loved and want to have loving, fulfilling relationships. All of the other missions and traditions of the Church are very important and valuable, but because the teenage years are such a crucial stage in the development of faith, it is especially important at this stage to get on the level of the teenagers and present them with teachings that they relate to and value.

Mitchell Leus

College attending: University of California, Berkeley

To study: Public Health

What book changed your thinking? Toni Morrison's "Jazz" had a profound effect on my thinking. "Jazz" explores what Toni Morrison crafts as "the mystery of love," one of life's greatest mysteries. Reading this novel has made me a much more introspective person, and I value the precious relationships and friendships I hold more.

One accomplishment? In high school, I was one of a few students to spearhead the development of our school garden, Basil's Garden of 'Eatin, named after our founder, Blessed Basil Moreau. Our garden is prospering with numerous vegetable beds, fruit trees and picnic benches, and it makes me happy to think the school has a project that students can continue to care for even when I'm gone.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Social media is a great platform for the Catholic Church and its people to stay connected. Many times, what young adults and I need is a simple reminder that Christ is there. Quotes and wise words from Pope Francis from his Twitter have definitely brought me to that necessary mindfulness.

Saint Elizabeth High School, Oakland

Christian Luis

College attending: University of California, Davis

To study: Music

What book changed your thinking? "The Alchemist," by Paulo Coelho, changed my thoughts about pursuing goals. I've learned that there are multiple paths you can take toward achieving goals. Choosing one path is a struggle in itself. Success is attained by having confidence in choosing your path while trusting your ability to persevere through adversity.

One accomplishment? I am proud of leading my school's music ministry group for the last three years. At one point I was the only person who participated when no one else would. I have had the pleasure of seeing this group grow in both number and talent. I've never been more satisfied.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? "… everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason… The Eucharist… is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak." — Pope Francis. An inclusive Church would engage youth in the Catholic faith.

Emily Romero

College attending: University of California, Berkeley

To study: Undecided/Social Science

What book changed your thinking? A book that changed my way of thinking is "The Lost Boy," by Dave Pelzer. Pelzer's story about his traumatic experience as a tortured child and how he overcame adversity has shown me that with supportive individuals and a strong will to succeed, one is able to achieve goals.

One accomplishment? Reaching my goal of becoming Salutatorian is the accomplishment that I am proud of achieving in high school. It is an amazing feeling knowing that my hard work is recognized. It was not only an accomplishment, but a blessing for my parents whose sacrifices have pushed me to this point.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church should instill the Catholic Social Teachings through retreats and community service events that are intriguing to the youth. I believe young people would attend and gain something special from the experience. These events would motivate the youth to be connected to the Church for years to come.

Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School, Alameda

Anna Victoria Serbin

College attending: Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

To study: Molecular and Cellular Biology

What book changed your thinking? "Oedipus Rex" has stimulated me to question fate's existence. I may have wondered about this concept previously but reading "Oedipus Rex" has really brought this thought to the surface. Although I have attempted to use philosophers' concepts for clarification, I continue to wonder if my actions can affect my destiny.

One accomplishment? Interning at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute last summer was life changing. I immersed myself in laboratory research but I also cherished attending conferences and lectures and interaction with a hospital patient through adorable letters. My experience has validated my desire to pursue the sciences in college.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? As Catholics, we are often called to serve those who are struggling and in need of guidance. By interlacing Christian morality with projects interesting to young adults, the Church can fill itself with those who are "aware" of societal issues and willing to assist in curbing them.

Emily Stehr

College attending: Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire

To study: Government, Sociology or Education

What book changed your thinking? I am fascinated by the role "The Awakening" played in the origins of modern feminism. Tracing the rise of the movement through the eyes of the quietly yet radically courageous Chopin has fostered my deep gratitude for the work of the early feminists in shaping the world I live in today.

One accomplishment? This year, I finally worked up the courage (or insanity) to audition for a role in the Spring Musical Dance Ensemble — despite my tone-deafness, inflexibility and absence of an acting-inclined bone in my body! I am proud of my willingness to challenge myself in such a profoundly new way.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church and its institutions must reconcile doctrine with contemporary social progress by recognizing that the foundations of all Christ's teachings are unconditional love, tolerance and compassion. Additionally, youth need more women represented in church leadership so more among us can see ourselves in those called by vocation to serve.

Saint Mary’s College High School, Berkeley

Emma Homertgen

College attending: University of California, Berkeley

To study: Political Economy

What book changed your thinking? "Into the Wild," by Jon Krakauer, was the most influential book I read in high school. While I was frustrated with McCandless regarding his decision to stray from society and find a home in the Alaskan brush, I soon understood the power of solitude, as it can deepen and strengthen the spirit.

One accomplishment? I am proud of the relationships that I have developed at Saint Mary's. From daily hallway high fives and smiles, to engrossing class discussions and failed hushed conversations in the library, I can gladly say that I have transformed what was once a new place into a home.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? I hope that women will have the opportunity to play more permanent and impactful roles in church leadership. Having women fill these positions would present a more accurate reflection of the wider community, while providing role models for young girls and all people.

Seth Howell

College attending: University of California, Los Angeles

To study: Undeclared — Engineering and Applied Science

What book changed your thinking? "Outliers," by Malcolm Gladwell, definitely transformed how I think, specifically about success. The book taught me about life's unpredictability and that hard work is not the only determining factor for success; rather, multiple forces, primarily chance, guide our lives' outcomes. All we can do is try our best.

One accomplishment? I am proud of achieving a broad depth of experiences and of being able to explore a wide range of subjects and interests by actively participating in the community. High school afforded me the opportunity to learn about other peoples' experiences and create my own identity and self.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Emphasizing that unconditional love is the core message of Catholicism, and Christianity in general, is the most significant message to the life of the Church. Making that love relevant to the lives of young adults by embracing and welcoming all people and perspectives is the best way to engage us.

Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond

Christopher Hernandez

College attending: University of California, Los Angeles

To study: Astrophysics

What book changed your thinking? Reading and analyzing the biblical "Book of Job" was a journey filled with several questions and few answers. Although many focus on the theme of suffering, this book allowed me to identify God's role in my life. My relationship with God strengthened as I learned to trust in Him.

One accomplishment? As the son of Mexican immigrants, I'm humbled to have the opportunity of pursuing a higher education. Before, I didn't know a single word of English. However, I am presently able to say that my efforts have allowed me to be accepted into the best institutions in the nation.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Identifying a sense of community has become increasingly challenging for adolescents. I believe that the Catholic Church's involvement in the lives of young adults, through the provision of emotional and spiritual counseling, would allow individuals to participate more and feel welcomed at their local parish.

Carlyn Wisherop

College attending: University of California, Los Angeles

To study: Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics

What book changed your thinking? "The House of the Spirits," by Isabel Allende is probably the best book I've ever read. Not only was the story captivating and moving but it also highlighted the need to uplift and empower women.

One accomplishment? I am most proud of being accepted to my dream university. I'm also quite proud of passing chemistry.

What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church should continue to espouse the words of Pope Francis: "When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our neighbors and everything around us."

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