Comparing the last weeks leading up to high school graduation to the Christian celebration of Pentecost, Rev. Father Martin Vallely called them both times of transition – turning points for Grade 12 students from the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board and for the apostles who, despite different circumstances, both faced uncertain yet promising futures.
Father Martin was presiding at a System-Wide Graduates’ Mass at St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral on May 10th attended by more than 700 graduating students from the board’s seven Catholic secondary schools.
“I want, on behalf of myself and anyone who has loved you, supported you and worked with you, either directly or indirectly, to wish you the very best as you prepare for what’s before you and to pray that God will always be with you to give you strength,” Father Martin congratulated the students.
Suggesting it wasn’t his place to give advice – “you’ll be getting lots of advice over the next weeks from your teachers and from your parents” – he did, however, encourage them to do what the apostles did in their time of transition: “remind themselves of who they were, and whose they were.”
“The apostles knew if they lost their identity, they would be lost forever,” he added. Remembering their time with Jesus “gave them an awful lot of comfort.”
And that is the purpose of Catholic education, said Father: to help people come to terms with the “living goodness” inside them.
“May you carry the goodness that has been planted in you into all the days, opportunities, and graces to come.”
The Graduates’ Mass is an annual tradition at the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board and is organized by the Student Presidents’ Council and a committee of teachers, chaplains and administrators as an opportunity for students to come together in celebration and to give thanks for the gift of Catholic education.
Calling it the culmination of their Catholic schooling, Abigail Machado, Student Council President at St. Jean de Brébeuf Catholic Secondary School and Student Representative on the Board of Trustees, suggested that Catholic education “goes beyond the standard curriculum.”
“It is an attitude and with it comes a strong sense of pride,” she said. “Every morning when we put on our uniforms, we acknowledge that God is active and present in the classroom, in the hallways, in our participation of the sacraments, and in all other aspects of our lives.”
In these final weeks of school and beyond, Machado urged students to “continue to show the world the values we have learned through Catholic education so that Jesus Christ may be known to others through us.”
Kyle Fernandes, Student Council President at Cathedral High School, repeated the challenge, reminding his fellow graduates of their responsibility as “soldiers of Christ … to keep the word of God alive in our hearts, minds and actions.”
“It is now our time to step out into the world and share the values Catholic education has instilled within us.”
In a final blessing for graduates, Father Martin prayed that “God’s blessing follow you all as you find new journeys to travel.”
“May you walk safely along the pathways of your dreams. May his gentle hand guide the decisions you will make and the passions that you follow.”
“May your hearts and lives always reflect his love and truth” and lastly, “May hope be a light within you that you carry into each new day.”
An estimated total of 2,200 grade 12 students are expected to graduate from the board's seven Catholic secondary schools this June.