June 11, 2020
2020 8th grade graduation commencement
Good evening graduates, parents and family members. Welcome to the beautiful commencement exercises of this very strange year. It brings me and our staff great joy to be able to see all of you tonight so that we can honor these wonderful young people as they cross the bridge into high school. The events of the past 13 weeks (that’s ¼ of a calendar year by the way) have caused all of us to take a deep look into how we live our lives, how we respond to situations beyond our control and how we treat one another.
For all of us, we have had to commiserate and celebrate the lows, the highs, the challenges and the opportunities that have come our way. I could spend the next several minutes sharing the woeful things that have been lost due to the pandemic here at school, in our community and in our world. I’d rather focus on the lessons that are being presented to us and see how we can learn from this opportunity.
I am going to use some letter grades to share some insight into 5 final lessons learned over the past 13 weeks for you graduates and your family members and for all of our friends viewing at home. I believe they are 5 lessons on why a St. Joseph education is a beautiful thing and how they relate to life-lessons.
The first lesson is Community: If ever it became apparent that we need other people, it has been the isolation that we have felt during this pandemic. The inability to gather together to share the sacraments, our lives, our stories, the monumental moments, the painful moments of suffering that some of us have experienced, and not being able to celebrate, to grieve or experience life in a normal way has left a mark on us. One that will last a lifetime. The Pandemic has provided a lesson for us to recognize how important our community is. If you have experienced the importance of community over the past 13 weeks, please wave your hand or honk your horn.
The grade that I am giving for this lesson is a C and that stands for Community Champion – I dare you to be one!
The second lesson is Opportunity: An opportunity has presented itself to us to test our resolve, our resiliency, our perseverance, our faith, our prayer life, our reliance on being spiritual while simultaneously being human. As you look back over the past 13 weeks, how have you capitalized on this opportunity? Our mission states that we work to inspire and empower all learners to rely on Catholic Virtue, Prayer and Service. The opportunity to be of service has been magnified over these past weeks. So, I have a question for you. Have you taken advantage of this circumstance to love your neighbor? Or, have you used the opportunity presented to binge on Netflix, Gaming, constant Social-Media posts and other self-satisfying habits?
No matter your answer, the good news is, it’s not too late to take advantage of this opportunity to show love of neighbor – each and every day. The challenge of this lesson still presents itself every day. The question is, what type of Love will you choose? Love of self or love of God & Neighbor.
If you are willing to take this opportunity to do show love of neighbor, please wave your hand or honk your horn. Personally, I will give this lesson an O for Optimism – it’s not over and I am optimistic that you will choose wisely. I dare you to do so.
The third lesson is Virtue: A list of virtues is displayed in your programs this evening. For the past 4-5 years, we have encouraged these virtues through our JP2 program. These virtues are calls towards saintliness. All of us have the opportunity to become Saints. A reminder for all: It is the way we live our daily life that determines how we spend eternity. How we interact with and treat others can bring us closer to God or farther from Him. I am encouraged, excited and energized by these virtues and this class of young people as I see the potential impact that they will have on their high school communities, their families and the world. 8th graders, always remember to grow in virtue, this is just a beginning list of those virtues:
Temperance – Self-control and being mindful of others.
Charity – Generosity, Giving of Time, Talent and Treasure.
Diligence – Carefulness in work, strong work ethic.
Patience – Forgiving, Resolve Problems or Conflicts Peacefully.
Kindness – Having empathy, being compassionate, taking a positive outlook and being cheerful.
Humility – Being selfless, respecting others, thinking of others first.
Over the past 13 weeks, these virtues have found a new way to be tested and formed at a new level and I am proud of our 8th graders for persevering and finishing strong! If you have seen one or more of these graduates demonstrating these virtues, please give a wave or honk your horn.
I give this lesson a grade of V for Victory! I dare you to live a Virtuous life!
Lesson number 4: Integrity – I love the challenge that this word requires. It is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Of all of the lessons that our school can provide, this is in the top 3. This life lesson can be practiced every day. I encourage each of you to examine how you have lived each day and as you say your night prayers and thank God for the gift of the day, examine how you have spent your moments, your minutes, your hours each day. Examine the choices that you made. Seek forgiveness for the choices that were self-centered and ask for wisdom to live tomorrow in a more Godly manner – a manner of integrity and love of others.
Would you be willing to live a life with greater integrity? I dare you to do so. Give a wave or honk your horn if you would!
For this lesson, I give all of us an I because it is Incomplete – we are not done yet and tomorrow is a chance for us to live with even greater Integrity and to take a closer step to heaven!
Lesson number 5: Divinity. If you would take a minute and look at your program cover. Stare at the image of Jesus knocking on the door. Recognize that he wants to come into your heart and have a personal relationship with you. Note also, that there is no doorknob on that door and the only way into your heart is if you open the door and let Him in. I dare you to answer the door. I dare you to live a life that embraces everything that our faith teaches. I dare you to continue to grow in your knowledge of faith into your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s 90’s and 100’s if you are blessed to live that long. Know that our culture, our society and many around us think it is taboo to live that life of faith and to have a personal relationship with Jesus, but if you answer the knock on your door every single day, you will spread more faith, more hope and more charity than you ever thought possible. Some people in high school may look at you and think you are different and I hope that they do. I hope they see someone that is a person of conviction. A person of morality. A person of integrity. A person that is not afraid to challenge the selfish tendencies that our society promotes. My friends, you were made for a time such as this and you have an opportunity to live your life in a way that God made you to live. The choice is yours. I’m not asking you to wave your hand or honk your horn for this lesson. Rather, I ask you: How will answer the call?
For this lesson, I give a grade of a D – I DARE you, no I double-dog dare you to live a life of holiness and have a personal relationship with Jesus – each and every day! I Dare you!
So, there is our series of COVID life lessons.
C is for Community Champion
O is for Optimistic Opportunity
V is for Victorious Virtues
I is for Incomplete Integrity
D is for Divine Dare