Seniors who attended the Baccalaureate service at Saron Lutheran Church.

Seniors in a nice baccalaureate sendoff

Staff Writer
Jennifer Edwards
More than 20 graduating seniors attended a non-denominational baccalaureate service at Saron Lutheran Church Wednesday evening. 
The service was largely conducted by the students after words of welcome and prayer from Pastor Kyle Sidlo and youth Pastor Curtis Rieck, who read from the Dr. Seuss book Oh, The Places You’ll Go.
Four seniors from the Big Lake High School choir program, accompanied on piano by Mary Ebanks, sang All Praise To You My God, This Night.
Connor Johnson was the first student up. He chose a passage from Exodus about Moses and the burning bush.
“I bet Moses didn’t just wake up one morning and think to himself God was going to change his life that day,” said Johnson. “But he did position himself to hear from God. When he did, he moved closer and sure enough, God spoke to him and changed his life.”
“Be like Moses and go after God,” he said. “If you seek him you will always find him.”
Abby Domyahn said that as children of the 90s the seniors remembered VCRs and the transition to DVDs. Now on the threshold of young adulthood, facing a world much, stranger, darker, madder and better than they had imagined, they felt scared to death but excited at the same time.
“No matter what, someone is there watching over you,” she said. “God is there, bigger than this world. If God is for us, who can be against us? Nothing is a surprise to God and we can know we are not alone, even in our darkest moments.”
Live for the little things Abby advised. Take the time to appreciate a beautiful sunrise or sunset and the people who care.
“There is always a place you can go,” Abby said “A safe harbor, where everybody knows your name.”
Brooke Maruska sang, accompanied on guitar by Beau Lastavich. There was another scripture reading, then senior Scott Valerius took the podium, recalling the favorite movie of his childhood, The Lion King.
“I watched mine so often I wore it out and my grandmother had to buy me another one,” he said. “The story of Simba tells us there is a time to be young and a time to grow up. Now is the time for us to grow up. We need to seek out good friends. Wise friends.”
The best friend is Jesus, who died for our sins and took our punishment on himself, so we could be saved, Valerius said.
“He helps us live more loving and forgiving lives,” he said. “The waves keep coming but God keeps calling to us. When things make me mad or sad, God offers chances to come to him with another wave of love and grace to carry me to shore. This is his promise and I believe that.”
Teacher Ryan Prom spoke for the faculty, welcoming the Class of 2014 with a verse from Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for your welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”
Prom said he was graduating from college with his teaching degree at about the time the seniors were being born. He remembered the students five years ago as they were graduating eighth grade and the middle school, anxious about how things would be in the high school.
“You were the first ninth grade class to have the high school to yourselves for the first day,” he said. “You paved the road for the future.”
The next three years passed quickly, Prom said.
“Many of you have the next stage of your journey mapped out,” he said. “Never forget where you come from and the  people of Big Lake. Never forget that God will always be there with you.”
Melissa Trutna played the piano while the congregation sang On Eagles Wings. Christian Ropte made everyone laugh when he recalled getting dropped off for first grade and crying because he missed his parents.
Crying In The Bathroom
“I never though I’d be meeting the people I would graduate with 12 years later,” he said. “I met friends that day I will have for the rest of my life. It has been a journey.”
Ropte recalled Reading Rainbow days and the school’s Accelerated Reading program.
“I never read Harry Potter but I took every test anyway thanks to the movies,” he said. “Just remember when you thought it was terrible to go to school compared to how your feel now. everything changes. In middle school you would have a girlfriend for two weeks and break up. Then you would be in the bathroom crying, “I love them.”
“We have overcome family issues, car accidents, so much. I can’t wait to be sitting at our 25th reunion looking back on everything that comes after this,” he said. “I remember all the terrible hair cuts I have had and all those awkward moments. Our lives are just beginning. We have so much ahead of us.”
Pastor Rieck commended the parents for the accomplishment of raising their children to become high school graduates.
“You have truly done great things,” he said. ”In the love you gave to them you will see as time goes by more and more clearly a picture of yourself.”
Curtis read an article by Erma Bombeck which likened the students to a kite, flying high, soon to be flying off alone.
“Keep in your prayers the parents of students, who, for whatever reason are not going to graduate, Pastor Rieck said. “And may God offer you comfort in this time of transition.”
 Grand Knight Doug Watercott from Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church offered a pastoral blessing on the students. 
Senior Morgan Turk led in a closing prayer before the class exited the sanctuary to the tune of the class motto, Hakuna Matata from The Lion King.
Big Lake resident Carol Longley recalled other baccalaureate services from years gone by.
“This isn’t the first,” she said. “But they haven’t had one for a long time.”


Mike Zdychnec, Executive Program Director for Healthcare Management at MN School of Business. (Photo by Ken Francis.)

JEN SCHUMACHER (far left), applauds as 15-year-old Matthew Trutna wins the 2015 Team Liam 5K Saturday. (Photos by Jennifer Edwards).

Kathleen R. Huber

DANCERS FROM JENNIFER’S DANCE CENTER will be performing at Disney World in Florida in October. Pictured (front row, left to right), are Grace Esselman, Lillian St. Jean, Sophia Gerou, Kailey Buchta, Rowan Payne and Hannah Oakes. Middle row are Amelia Cameron, Brianna Anthony, Jacqie Bengtson, Gianna Mitchell, Alex Dillion, Abby Yanke and Rose Curtis. Back row are Tori Ramert, Alexis Erickson, Sophia St. Ives, Tiana Link, Rachel Royseth, Kristian Kunkel, Brooklynn Bengtson, Nicole Bengtson and Kendall Luoma. Not pictured are Haylee Oakes and Melanie Miskowic. (Submitted photo).

FIVE GIRLS FROM MARY OF THE VISITATION CHURCH’S YOUTH GROUP helped Gail Stanley (not pictured) of Big Lake pack her belongings for a move she was taking to Princeton last weekend. The girls are (from left to right): Bridget Buchholz, Jasmine Johnson, Michaela Manifold, Brittney Kostek and Josie Berger. (Photo by Bill Morgan)
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