Seventeen years after he received the Christian Leadership Award at Lake Catholic’s 2002 baccalaureate mass, Fr. Lukas Laniauskas returned home to Cougar Country to celebrate the Class of 2019’s traditional pre-graduation liturgy, which took place at St. John Vianney on the evening of May 21.
“I loved my time in high school, so it’s a great joy and honor to share this occasion with the seniors of Lake Catholic,” Fr. Laniauskas said in an interview before the mass.
Now the Vice President of Mission Integration and Implementation at St. Ignatius College Prep, a coed high school in downtown Chicago of nearly 1,400 students, Fr. Laniauskas appreciates the pivotal role Lake Catholic played in leading him to the discovery of his vocation.
“Growing up, I always admired priests, and former school chaplain Fr. Dave Woost had a profound impact on me at Lake Catholic,” recalls Fr. Laniauskas. “It was inspiring to see him unite the student body around faith. Between Fr. Woost, Mrs. Bernot, Mrs. Jarosz, Mrs. Horvath, and Mr. Grgic, Catholic values ran through the heart of the school.”
At Lake Catholic, Fr. Laniauskas was involved in the performing arts, served as the editor of The Torch, and, unsurprisingly, was a student leader for the popular Kairos retreat. “If our students at Ignatius College Prep enjoy a high school experience comparable to what I had at Lake Catholic, that would be a success,” he said.
After graduating from high school, Fr. Laniauskas embarked on a winding path that eventually led him to his Jesuit priesthood. He first spent two years pursuing his undergraduate degree at Loyola University Chicago, where his major switched from psychology to philosophy to, ultimately, theology, which swiftly revealed itself to be his calling.
Fr. Laniauskas’s Lithuanian heritage gave rise to an opportunity with the Society of Jesus in Lithuania, where his pursuit of holy orders began in earnest. He subsequently returned to Cleveland to teach at St. Ignatius for three months, completed his degree at Loyola, worked as the chair of the theology department at St. John’s Jesuit in Toledo, earned his Master of Divinity at Santa Clara University while serving as the chaplain of the Berkeley (CA) Fire Department, enjoyed a stint as a deacon in Oakland, and was ordained at Our Lady of Perpetual Help back home in Aurora, after which he moved to Chicago to work in his current capacity at St. Ignatius College Prep. For good measure, he’s also working toward a Doctorate in Ministry, which he expects to complete next May.
When Director of Advancement Barb DiTurno approached Fr. Laniauskas about the possibility of celebrating this year’s baccalaureate mass, he accepted the offer immediately. “There’s definitely a sense of coming full circle,” he noted.
As for his message to Lake Catholic’s outgoing seniors, Fr. Laniauskas stressed that graduates should “treasure what they received at Lake Catholic. Reflect on the vocation God is calling you to, because He has big plans for everyone. We need young men and women to step up and bring Jesus Christ and His message to more people. Lean on your experiences at Lake Catholic to inform the decisions you make in the future.”