After Last Year’s Cancellation, Interfaith Baccalaureate Tradition Returns

Students who gave their testimonies included Leah Laska-Sandleman, Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center; Jaden Milbrodt, La Canada Presbyterian Church; Kayley Bond, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Lonnie Blanchard, St. Bede the Vulnerable Catholic Church; and Seema Kayali, Islamic Congregation of La Canada Flintridge.

The La Canada Flintridge Annual Interfaith Baccalaureate Service – for graduating seniors from local high schools and their families – was held under the oaks at La Canada Presbyterian Church last Thursday, with approximately 250 people in attendance.
The keynote address was given by Chris Erskine, a prominent local author who also has a son graduating this year.
“Let me tell you: I have so much respect for this graduating class,” said Erskine to the grads. “You’ve had a turbulent 18 years, born after 9/11, raised amid political turmoil and now a pandemic. You could be cynical, and without joy.
“But you are funny and inspiring. Thank you for that. Seriously. Thank you for your resilience. Your laughter. Your heart.”
“Did you know that when you place sunflowers in a vase, sunflowers turn toward the sun? Just as you’d expect, right? But when placed in a dark room, in a sunless environment, sunflowers will turn toward each other,” Erskine added. “That’s what you did the last year — you turned toward each other. I hope you will continue to do that.”
Other highlights included five students – Lonnie Blanchard, Kayley Bond, Seema Kayali, Leah Laska-Sandleman and Jaden Milbrodt – giving their testimonies, all from different faith traditions. The audience also enjoyed a recorded version or “Hear My Prayer,” sung by the La Canada High School Choral Artists. The benediction was given by the Monsignor Antonio Cacciapuoti of St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church.
The LCF Interfaith Planning team members are listed in the program (photo).
“I think Baccalaureate is the most meaningful of all the traditional graduation celebrations,” said Christie Frandsen, chair of the Baccalaureate Committee. “We had to cancel our event last year due to the pandemic, but we found a way to do it safely this year, outdoors, everyone masked and safely distanced, but that special spirit of love and faith was stronger than ever. We have seen, over the past few months, just how suddenly the basic structures of our lives can fall apart: school, jobs, social interaction, even our health. It has been devastating.
“Baccalaureate reminds me that there is one foundation that cannot be shaken and that can carry us through these rough times: our faith in God,” Frandsen added. “That faith is strong and vibrant in the lives of these young graduates. And that’s why I love Baccalaureate.”

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