Promptly at noon on May 28, Bishop O'Connell celebrated its senior class with a virtual graduation ceremony. These 60th Commencement Exercises had many of the hallmark O'Connell traditions—the congratulatory speeches by administrators and the Bishop, salutatory and valedictory addresses, a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria by senior chorus members, the reading of every graduate's name, and, of course, recognition of legacy members of the class of 2020. What was obviously different, though, was the physical location of the graduates, their families and their teachers. But, no matter the geography, the sentiment was very much the same, and it was a proud day for the Bishop O'Connell class of 2020...Congratulations!
Head of School, Sister Lorraine McGrew, IHM, was first to address the 267 members of this year's class:
Seniors, class of 2020, soon to be the newest graduates of Bishop O'Connell High School, congratulations. Value the friendships you have formed, the lessons you have learned, the strong community you have shared in over these past four years. Wherever you go, whatever you do, stay connected in some way to O'Connell, to its tradition and its legacy. Go out and do good. Stay close to God. Continue to learn. Grow in wisdom. Offer service. Use the gifts and talents you have been given. Become all that you can be.
As is tradition at O'Connell, the student with the third highest honors in the class is named as the Praetor for the graduation ceremony, and has the job of introducing speakers. It was Skye Ferris who had that distinction this year.
She introduced the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Arlington, who shared his congratulations and encouragement to the class of 2020:
As we take note of your accomplishments in this virtual way, the challenges of the past two months make earning this diploma ever more significant. In light of the fact that some uncertainty remains on the horizon, I encourage you in your prayer lives to continue asking the Lord to send forth the Holy Spirit to guide you through future uncertainty.
Having been formed in Faith and educated well in our diocesan high schools, you are called now to continue your preparation by further developing the gifts and talents God has given you, so you can use them in service to Him and others.
Salutatorian, Ashley Schmidt, reflected on this class's experience over the past four years:
Everything we did we did together—whether it was painting our faces blue to support the football team, blowing up a million balloons to decorate the gym for Superdance, or singing "Take Me Home, Country Road" at the top of our lungs to bring us to victory in the pep rally. Together, we have made our high school journey what it was, and as a class, we have accomplished so much.
Class valedictorian, Kendall McBride, was tasked with looking at the road ahead for the class of 2020:
When I realized I would be presenting this speech, I realized my task was to address what the future holds for us graduates. The fact of the matter is I do not know what the future holds for us. For one, the impacts of a global crisis are still unfolding. We are living in such an unprecedented time, where I cannot look to the past to provide a sufficient answer. Secondly, we are at the stage of our lives where there is a vast world of possibilities. No one can predict what is to come for us, not even ourselves. Yet, these considerations should not intimidate us. We should be excited by the road not yet taken. We should be excited by the limitless opportunities ahead of us. We should be excited that our actions are going to mean something significant not only in our lives, but also in the lives of others. We should be excited by the unknown: our future.
Seniors Grace Rafferty and Pauline Oteyza performed a moving rendition of Ave Maria, accompanied on the piano by fellow classmate, Mark Brown.
Principal Carl Patton and Dean of Academics, Sister Catherine Hill, IHM (class of 1966) announced the senior awards before the reading of each graduates name began.
Another O'Connell graduation tradition was upheld, with a slightly new twist, given the current circumstances. Legacy graduates—students whose parents (or grandparents) are alumni of Bishop O'Connell—would usually have received their diplomas from their parents during the ceremony. This year's program included a special video recognition of all 28 legacy graduates and their alumni parents and grandparents.
In case you missed it, the graduation ceremony is available to view in its entirety HERE or at the link below.
Congratulations, Class of 2020!
"The world you are inheriting is a world which desperately needs a new sense of brotherhood and human solidarity. It is a world which needs to be touched and healed by the beauty and richness of God's love. It needs witnesses to that love. The world needs salt. It needs you - to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world." - Saint John Paul II (World Youth Day 2002)