Class 2017 Commencement Address

September 6, 2017 - 10:10 am

Class of 2017 Commencement welcome made by Mr. Cary Dupont ’72, President of St. Paul Catholic High School

On behalf of the class of two thousand seventeen, the school board, administration, faculty and staff, we welcome you to this magnificent Cathedral of St. Joseph, the mother church of the Archdiocese of Hartford. In the presence of God, we are privileged to celebrate the 48th Commencement Exercises for St. Paul Catholic High School.

This is a very special graduation.  During the 2016-2017 academic year, we have been celebrating the 50th Anniversary of St. Paul Catholic High School.  It all began on the morning of September 7, 1966 when our founding principal, Rev. Edmund O’Brien and his small pioneer faculty consisting of seven Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, three Religious Teachers Filippini and three lay teachers welcomed 160 hesitant but excited freshmen onto our campus for the very first time.  They would go on to become the first graduating class of St. Paul Catholic High School on June 12, 1970, here at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

Like many institutions, we have experienced our share of peaks and valleys but our resiliency along this momentous journey is a living testament to the unique and determined spirit of those who call St. Paul Catholic High School home.

And that is clearly evident throughout this cathedral tonight as collectively we represent the spiritual leadership and guidance of the archdiocese, the parents and grandparents who for generations, now, have made the human and financial sacrifices necessary to send their sons and daughters to St. Paul; the faculty, staff and coaches who have dedicated themselves to serve these sons and daughters, as if they were our own, because they are; and the ultimate beneficiaries, our graduates, the 7,000 alumni who today are soaring from coast to coast across this country making a difference in all disciplines in this world.

Our anniversary motto “Honoring Our Past, Shaping Our Future” reflects the transformative power that belief has, the remarkable energy of collective teamwork, the sacrifice and committed passion in preserving Catholic secondary education in the greater Bristol region.  I’m pleased to say tonight, fifty years later, our tradition continues … gratefully and proudly never stronger.

On behalf of our St. Paul community, I wish to publicly thank Archbishop Blair and the Archdiocese of Hartford for their continued spiritual and financial support of our school.

This evening, I am honored to welcome a man who has had a profound impact on the life of St. Paul.  Archbishop Emeritus Henry J. Mansell’s support and unwavering confidence in St. Paul while he was the Archdiocese of Hartford’s chief shepherd is well documented and is an acknowledged factor in us reaching this milestone in our history.  His shared vision for the inherent greatness of our school is truly valued and humbly appreciated by all.  Archbishop Mansell celebrated our 50th Anniversary Opening Mass at St. Gregory the Great Church last September and appropriately is presiding over our commencement exercises tonight.  Join me in welcoming, Archbishop Mansell.

We remain grateful to Sr. Mary Grace Walsh, Provost and Dr. Michael Griffin, Superintendent of Catholic Schools and all at the Office of Education, Evangelization and Catechesis for their professional guidance and partnership.  Dr. Griffin, welcome to your first St. Paul graduation.

I’d like to acknowledge our co-chaplains, Fr. Gary Simeone, who also serves on the St. Paul School Board, Fr. Hector Rangel and welcome home seminarian, Matthew Collins ‘12.

I wish to acknowledge members of the St. Paul school board, including current chair, Thomas Kulig ‘85, whose son Evan is graduating tonight and incoming chair Dr. James Aseltine, for your dedication and expertise in helping set the strategic and transformational course we are on.

Finally, let me thank Mrs. Norma Kendrick, senior class advisor, Dr. Ezequiel Menendez, Director of Music, Archdiocese of Hartford, Mr. Junko and our select chorus and instrumentalist and members of the Knights of Columbus who are serving as tonight’s color guard.

Once again, I extend a warm welcome to all.

PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS to the Class of 2017

Mr. Cooper, dean of academic life, Mr. Wallace, dean of student life, Fr. Gary and Fr. Hector, other members of my administrative team, distinguished faculty and staff, thank you for your tireless efforts to deliver on our promise to be a truly great Catholic high school.  Your caring servant ministry … our “why” … is a passion of faith, mercy, and love, and I speak for many here this evening when I say, it does not go unnoticed … thank you!

I’d like to take a moment to personally acknowledge faculty members who will be leaving St. Paul at the end of this school year.

After twenty-two years at St. Paul, sending her three children through our school and most recently teaching in our religion department, Mrs. Forsa will be joining her husband in retirement.  It’s well deserved.

Mrs. Misiti will be leaving our math department after six years to return full-time to the private sector as a mechanical engineer.  Her daughter, Michelle, graduated last year from St. Paul.

Mrs. Janecko has recently accepted the position of Director of Religious Education & Youth Ministry at her parish, St. Peter Claver in West Hartford and Mr. Campbell has recently accepted a teaching position at Northridge School in Mexico City.  We thank and wish them all well.

To the Class of two thousand seventeen: congratulations!   All of us assembled here this evening are very proud of you, inspired by the growth witnessed during your high school journey.

According to Mrs. Kromidas, you are the last graduating class to be born in the twentieth century – for the most part in 1999.  How does that make you feel … older than you probably thought?  After living through the highly publicized Y2K problem and anticipated millennium bug, the rest of us were all just happy to still be alive back then.  Talk about fake news!

I have to say, Ben and Jordan, your reflective remarks were very thoughtful, impressive and heartwarming.  Let me take a few moments to share a few of my own personal thoughts, at times, tying together your insightful themes.

In preparing my remarks for this evening, I asked the faculty to share some words describing your class.  Here’s what they said: fantastic and awesome; works together well; transforming, willing and resourceful; passionate, empathetic, kind-hearted; spirited; builders and motivated leaders by re-establishing boys wrestling, and initiating girls lacrosse and golf programs; a fun-loving group that sought adventure; a group for which there has been much growth; great sense of humor, fearless, enthusiastic, confident; good conversationalist, persuasive when defending their ideas in making worldly connections; talented; boisterous, compassionate, eccentric; smart, energetic, kind and engaging, who want from life all that it has to offer; focused, technology savvy as no class before them has been; put a smile on my face; special ability to laugh with each other, they enjoy each other’s company; entrepreneurial spirit as they are innovative in their use of social media and technology to reflect their learning; driven; strong yet quiet leadership; individual achievement; concerned about each other as a class, social; innovative, ready to solve new problems in the world; they believe in a better world for tomorrow which is uplifting and reassuring.

Your defining moments over the last four years, from your success in the classroom, in the athletic arena, on the performing arts stage, and service initiatives is impressive. You have been accepted to over 125 colleges and universities across this country.  You were acknowledged by the CIAC with the Michael’s Achievement Cup for one of the most outstanding high school athletic programs in the state.  You experienced more than your share of the thrill of victory and occasionally the agony of defeat.  You won several individual nominations and were voted twice by the CT High School Musical Theatre Awards as the best high school musical in the state.

Weekly, you tutored youth at Cambridge Park, a nearby low income housing neighborhood, volunteered at your former elementary schools in conjunction with your senior service initiative and annually danced with your BARC friends. You marched in impressive numbers in Washington, DC to show your respect for life.  You donated thousands of canned goods and holiday toys for local families in need.  You contributed, with many others during your high school years, over fifty-thousand dollars, in support of our Haiti initiative providing hot lunches for the poorest of the poor at St. Pierre School in Jeremie, Haiti. And this only begins to scratch the surface of your time here.

In this cathedral tonight, we are graduating archdiocesan summa scholars, AP scholars, national honor society members, Hoby recipients, art:science winners, “Spirit of Broadway” awardees, scholastic art winners, a Mr. SPCHS, scholar-athletes, all-league and all-state recipients, Youth of the Year and Hall of Fame honorees, the NVL Female Athlete of the Year, league and CT state champions, with the possibility of maybe one more … good luck to our girls softball team tomorrow, just to name a few.

Tonight, we celebrate each of you, fully understanding that your journey did not come easy or without sacrifices and, in some cases, maybe not the way you planned.  However, the path that has led you to this point was not meant to be simple or easy, but instead it was meant to be enlightening.

While the effort and accomplishments are ultimately yours, they were not achieved alone, that’s why your family, friends, teachers and coaches … why we are all here this evening to share in your celebration.

For the decision to send you to St. Paul, for the early mornings and late nights, for the selfless sacrifices they have made, for the rides, for the laundry, for the unconditional love and encouragement they have given you, for the times that you may have taken them for granted, I ask you to please stand, turn to your parents, families and to everyone assembled here this evening and join me in thanking them for this moment.

I truly believe each of you is in a different place than when you first arrived, with a better understanding of the road ahead.  Trust that our five core values, as Ben and Jordan alluded to, have inherently become the living fabric of whom you are and will continue to be your personal roadmap as you venture forward.  For our journey together the last several years wasn’t just to prepare you for tonight but, more importantly, to prepare you for the rest of your life.

In reflecting on Ben’s remarks, I ask each of you are you content to simply look after your own interests or do you feel a sense of obligation to each other … to the human community in which you live?  I hope that you understand that while knowledge enhances the quality of one’s life, that the true purpose and fulfilling meaning of our lives rests in serving mankind.  We are called by God as educated people to transform others by our example.

This is what makes a St. Paul Catholic High School education different, what hopefully makes you different.  That is why you graduate from St. Paul with both a diploma and a servant towel … a reminder that the road you take is found not only in your mind, but in your hearts and in your soul.  That your thirst for knowledge be seen as a mission of service, and that you leave this cathedral tonight with a conviction of being a source of good and a living instrument for peace and justice in your own life and in this world.

I leave you with one final thought … one last Monday assembly reflection.

Make your bed every morning.  I see some of you looking at each other and saying, what did he just say?  Make your bed every morning.  When you go to college, make your bed every morning.  Actually, I’m seeing if you’re still with me.  So here we go.

St. Paul wasn’t created to be ordinary … nor were any of you.  St. Paul was created to be great … and so were each of you, created in the image and likeness of God.  But God also gave you a free will.  Ultimately, the choices that you make will determine whether God continues to recognize you as the person He created.  Like our school’s journey, believe in yourself, during both good and especially challenging times … know you are capable of more than you think … live your life with gratitude following your heartfelt purpose and passion, or as Jordan said, you’re why … and when you have a choice, take a chance, comforted in knowing anything is possible with God at your side, settling for nothing less than the unlimited potential for greatness that characterizes each of you.  Simply, in your own distinct way, allow Christ to be the light of the world shining through you.

Well done thy good and faithful servants … the time has now come for you to leave the comfort of the nest, to spread your Falcon wings and soar … following the exciting and diverse plans that lay in front of you.  May God grant you the courage, wisdom and mercy to continue to grow more fully in his humanity and as Tim read earlier, may He bless you with an abundance of the greatest gifts that life has to offer – faith, hope and love.

Leave tonight remembering, while over time, you may grow in ninety-eight different directions like branches on a tree … your roots remain as one.