On the morning of Friday, May 25, our eleven eighth graders graduated from Saint Theresa Catholic School. While last year’s inaugural class marked a season of firsts, this second class of graduates has left its mark. The day’s activities began, suitably, with Holy Mass. Our pastor, Father Eurel Manzano, appropriately underscored the felicitous coincidence of this Commencement Day with the feast of Saint Bede the Venerable. This Doctor of the Church, quite familiar to some but utterly unknown to others, serves as a most notable patron for this auspicious day. Father delineated the traits and accomplishments of Bede that render him a fine mentor to our young scholars: a Latinist, a careful historian, and a peacemaker in the midst of conflict.
During the hiatus between Mass and the Commencement Ceremony, the students and their parents repaired to their homeroom for the Book Awards. We began with Dr. Mark Newcomb’s gift of a hardbound copy of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning for each student. In his remarks to the students, our headmaster identified this text as one of the five most influential books of his entire lifetime. Dr. Catherine Bilow then honored individual students who have distinguished themselves in specific areas of our Humanities program: writing, poetry, oration, geography, history, vocabulary, and religion. These students were called forth to accept a special volume intended to support them in their high school endeavors. Hence, rather than sit on a shelf or in a drawer as would a trophy or a medal, these books will, it is hoped, be quite literally worn out in the honored student’s continued pursuit of academic excellence. Following these presentations, an informal photograph session ensued. In addition to the graduates’ standing with their parents, a group shot of the mothers, and then of the fathers, captured some precious memories of this day. Several of these students have studied here together since Kindergarten; their parents, obviously have developed strong bonds over the years.
We then gathered in the narthex of the Church at 10:30 a.m. for the Graduation ceremony. Led by the faculty in full academic regalia, our eleven candidates processed into the nave to Dr. Kevin Clarke’s organ processional. For the boys, this was one of the few school Masses at which they did not serve as acolytes. Rather than donning cassock and surplice, they wore instead dark suits and Marian-blue ties. Their counterparts were seven lovely “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes.” Once assembled in their places of honor, the class was addressed by Dr. Mark Newcomb. His message was a cogent reminder of the significance of the passing of time–Tempus fugit–with an exhortation to do far more than simply mark time. At the conclusion of his address, Dr. Newcomb introduced our speaker, Ms. Mary Pat Donoghue. As Director of School Services of the Institute of Catholic Liberal Education, and herself a former eighth-grade teacher and head of school, Ms. Donoghue’s Commencement Address developed the metaphor of our graduates’ classical education here at STCS as a journey. She described the journey, replete with signposts along the way, as a sure course, since the route is directed by our Lord, Jesus Christ, our Polaris, fixed and immovable in an ever-changing world.
After Dr. Newcomb announced Miss Sophia Pertez as Salutatorian of the class, he introduced Miss Mary Margaret Speed, who delivered the Valedictory; the message blended memory with mirth, a recapitulation of the journey this class has taken with its stirring, often unpredictable moments and turns.
Mrs. Francesca Rice, our assistant principal, announced the formal names of the graduates; each in turn came forward to accept his or her diploma from Father Manzano and to receive hearty congratulations from both Father and Dr. Newcomb. Subject-area teachers then took turns presenting certificates or medals honoring the top scholars in each of the academic disciplines.
Parish organist Dr. Kevin Clarke provided a stirring recessional, Charles Widor’s “Toccata” from Symphony No. 5, as the graduates, their families, and guests moved from the Church to the Community Center where an elegant luncheon awaited them. Our STCS office staff and a generous corps of volunteer parents had decorated the hall, adorning tables and chairs in shades of lavender and gold, the colors of the Class of 2018. During the meal, we enjoyed a pictorial revue, a slide program assembled by Mrs. Grimsley, using baby pictures and class composites to illustrate just how far these eleven graduates have come!