"Be a 'super spreader' of the Gospel." – Rev. Gregory Thompson
On May 17 at 11 a.m. the Bishop O'Connell High School community celebrated the Class of 2020 in a new way. Instead of gathering in the auditorium for Baccalaureate Mass—and then continuing the celebration at a brunch nearby—families gathered on Sunday morning around their computers for a more socially distanced event. Nonetheless, the Class of 2020 Baccalaureate Mass still carried many of the senior traditions that define this hallmark graduation event.
The celebration began with a reading of the 2020 Baccaluareate theme, which was written and presented by senior Elise Williams. This was followed by the presentation of symbolic gifts from the class. These gifts, which represented their student experience, were announced and brought up by senior leaders of the Student Council Association (SCA): a cross representing their Faith, a yearbook and pom-poms representing School Pride, textbooks and notebooks representing Knowledge, sports jerseys representing Athletics, playbills, concert programs, an instrument and artwork representing the Arts, soup and a Superdance t-shirt representing Service, and a stone from the original wall of the school, and a facemask to symbolize all the moments shared that were Opportunities for Grace.
Rev. Gregory Thompson, school Chaplain, celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass. He shared a special Homily specifically for this year's graduates, in which he asked them to be a "super spreader of the Gospel."
But would not it be something wonderful if the Gospel could spread just as effectively as coronavirus infects people. The Gospel has the opposite effect of the coronavirus, it brings health to the soul and leads us to eternal life. As we celebrate your accomplishments as graduates of O'Connell High School, I think we would like your graduation to be a super spreading event of another kind. One that brings life, one that brings hope, one that brings joy to all who come into contact with you.
To be a super spreader of the Gospel will require that you rely on the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide you and fortify your resolve to not compromise your faith and your moral values. Jesus promises to His Apostles that He will never abandon them. "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you." This promise is for you and for me.
Senior members of the school's Praise Band, provided recordings of their praise and worship music that has become a hallmark of school Masses during the school year. As a special treat, senior David Green performed his original song, "I Walk Faithfully" during communion. (Listen to his recording HERE.)
Following Mass, Principal Carl Patton introduced the senior class president, Grace Clukey, who would usually have given her address to the senior class during the PTO-sponosred Baccalaureate Breakfast. In her speech, Grace reminded her classmates that their "20/20 vision never saw this coming."
None of us knew that random Thursday in March was going to end up being our last day here. We weren't ready to say goodbye, nor did we think we had to.
She continued reflecting on the memories and relationships that aren't diminished by these unforeseen circumstances.
At the Superdance meeting after school that day, it took three different people to deliver the news that the dance was cancelled because they kept choking up, and I'm not naming names, Mr. Buckreis. We were all disappointed about this first event to be canceled, but there was also so much love and support in that room.
During this time at home, we have had the chance to reflect on what is most important in our lives and what we are most eager to get back to when we are able. I now have a greater appreciation for the relationships in my life and I've realized how they have shaped my time here at O'Connell. The thing I have always loved most about O'Connell is the people and that's not going to change. These challenges can't take away the memories and relationships that we've already made here. Going back to my second realization while writing this speech - how none of us knew that Thursday in March would be our last day here - the more I think about it, it's actually kind of beautiful, because that means we are left only with the simple moments to remember. Moments like hanging out in the parking lot after school, singing together at all school masses, bus rides to away games and meets, late night rehearsals and practices, watching the sunrise on retreats, Knight Time in Mr. Britt's room, hanging out in the art hallway, or in Dr. Stabile's office, or Student Life. Those are the moments we are left with and the ones that have shaped our time here.
Mr. Patton then helped announce several departmental senior awards, including presentations from Campus Ministry, Expanded Services, Performing Arts and Athletics, many of which would have been part of a late-spring school-wide assembly.*
The event was wrapped up by Sister Catherine Hill, IHM, the school's Dean of Academics, who announced the Class of 2020 Valedictorian, Salutatorian and Praetor, and presented them with their gold stoles to wear proudly for graduation. Congratulations to Valedictorian Kendall McBride, Salutatorian Ashley Schmidt and Praetor Skye Ferris.
Graduation for the Class of 2020 is just over a week away. We hope you can join us (virtually) for the 60th Commencement Ceremony of Bishop O'Connell High School on Thursday, May 28 at noon.
*The senior strings program awards were inadvertently left out of the Baccalaureate video. Please view a short message from Mr. LaCrosse HERE.
Watch the complete event at THIS LINK or view below: