Prayer and celebration

May 15—Joey Malueg carried the staff topped with a gold cross in front of him as he led his blue-robed classmates out past family and friends. He occasionally glanced up at the cross.

Once out of the worship area, they hurried into a room just off the entrance to Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Catholic Church. The 11 graduating seniors — a twelfth was home sick — circled up in a huddle with arms across each other's shoulders. Heads down, they swayed. Someone laughed.

Wednesday night was a time of prayer and celebration for the Prince of Peace High School Class of 2024 as the namesake parish hosted a Baccalaureate Mass.

In his homily, the Rev. Paul Appel began talking about laurels, the crown of leaves signifying accomplishments.

"The thing about that laurel is that the greenery will fade and eventually it will fall apart and rot and mean nothing," he said. "It's a reminder that even though we have accomplished things what's more important is then what you do next."

He encouraged them to use their education to meet challenges on a daily basis, to build on their accomplishment of graduating high school.

Appel also offered advice on the necessary balancing of three pillars of society.

"For the last few hundred years, our society has been on a path to seek to separate the many aspects of what we call classroom learning, which would be religion and politics and the sciences," he said. "You see all those three things walk hand in hand ... they serve as a check on one another. But in the modern world, we want you to view them as separate as possible."

That causes society to fray as conflicts for dominance arise between religion, science and politics.

"Each of those three avenues of study can become in their own way monsters," he said.

But in concert, morality and religion, a firm understanding of right and wrong, will help guide decision makers to best serve those entrusted to their care, rather than being corrupted by power and enriching themselves, he said. Similarly, science and empirical data also have a place in good governance and plays a role in faith.

He talked about the promise of science and related a story about engineering crops to grow in difficult situations and saving many lives. It's about seeing a need and acting, but with the caution to ask whether something that can be done should be.

"Scientists must have a moral foundation and an understanding of how God is acting in the world in order to be a benefit of society," he said.

Religion benefits from science and politics.

"Just like politics, just like science, the morality needs to be presented to the people in a way they can actually use," he said, referring to finding real world applications for Gospel lessons, building empathy to identify problems and to be helpful.

"So wherever your path in life takes you, I hope that you will look at these three things and understand that these three pillars that make up human society must walk hand-in-hand and guide one another so that instead of creating monsters, we can be here creating the Kingdom of God," Appel said.

The Prince of Peace commencement ceremony will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 19 at the church.