Cardinal Dolan, addressing graduating high school seniors from across the archdiocese, assured them “our Catholic schools—and you’ve just seen some of our best—we’re not in the business of just helping you get into college, we’re not just in the business of helping you get a good job. We’re in the business of getting you into heaven.”
The cardinal celebrated the Eucharistic Liturgy for the Class of 2022 May 18 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“What we want to do at this great prayer of the Mass this morning is thank Almighty God for the gift of your Catholic education, and to thank all those great people that make it possible,” said the cardinal in opening remarks.
“Seniors, congratulations,” he said in his homily. “Are we ever proud of you. Do we ever love you very much. And do we ever share in the hope and promise that all of you feel as you take this very important step in graduating from high school and moving on to the rest of your life.”
The cardinal counseled the graduating seniors to “stay close to God, stay close to Jesus—He’s the vine, we’re the branches.”
He then cited three ways for them to do so: through prayer, Sunday Mass and “good friends who share your convictions… who bring out the best in you…who also believe in God and who want to stay close to Jesus.”
“Not all of our friends have to be Catholic or even Christian,” the cardinal added.
He asked the seniors to ponder Jesus’ words, “‘What does it profit us if we gain the whole world and lose our soul?’
“We have an immortal soul, we have the breath of God within us…We have the spark of the divine. We have a sense of timelessness and eternity, deep down within us. And that, of course, is the prize.”
Words of Gratitude were delivered by Angel Miguel De Jesus Madera Santana, who introduced himself to the congregation as “a proud graduating senior of Cardinal Hayes High School,” the Bronx, for which he received rousing cheers and applause.
Angel, who belongs to St. John Chrysostom parish, the Bronx, where he is a graduate of the parish school, said, “We are so blessed to be here, celebrating all we have endured and miraculously accomplished by the grace of God.”
He credited the perseverance he and his peers have had amid the coronavirus and said he believes “that if the Class of 2022 has been able to make it through this pandemic, we can make it to the end, for nothing is impossible with God on our side.”
Angel acknowledged all those in their Catholic schools who have made it possible for them “to feel safe and supported throughout these past couple of years,” including the presidents and principals who “made it their mission to guarantee that our education was up to par with the foundations of academic success, strengthened through the Catholic faith.” He also thanked all the parents and Cardinal Dolan.
Rico Pantoja, a senior at All Hallows High School in the Bronx, spoke with CNY on the steps outside the cathedral after Mass.
“I’ve never been happier in my life,” he said of his upcoming graduation. “It was an amazing experience. We came a long way, even with Covid and quarantine and all. I’m glad we did it, Class of ’22.”
Rico, who belongs to Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Harlem and is a graduate of the parish school, said he plans to major in business administration at Long Island University.
“I believe Catholic school kept me structured and focused on my academics, more than any other school would have,” he said. “Being close to God keeps me hopeful that everything is going to be OK.”
Senior Susan Salgado of Notre Dame High School in Manhattan said her “main takeaway” from the Mass “is to keep God in our lives and just be faithful…especially as we go out and explore the world.”
Her classmate, Sarah Mouakkassah, described the Mass as “very beautiful.” She expressed gratitude as her graduation approaches and was happy the schools could gather “at the same place for a common cause of just love and celebration.”
Senior Melanie Polanco of St. Jean Baptiste High School in Manhattan appreciated that “the cardinal said lovely words that helped encourage us.” She plans to attend NYU and major in biology.
St. Jean Baptiste High has been a comfortable place where she has been able to grow and prosper and still be her own person, she said.
Senior Chris Arminio of Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains is a parishioner of Resurrection in Rye. He plans to major in finance at the University of Georgia. He said the pandemic has proven the importance of facing adversity and working through it. “If you put your mind to something, you can really accomplish anything.”
Michael Deegan, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, delivered welcoming remarks before Mass. “While we know that your schools will be hosting and sponsoring senior graduation Masses and baccalaureate Masses, we are all here today in this sacred space as a reminder that we are all part of something greater than ourselves, bigger than our own schools.
“We are part of the Church and part of the Catholic school system of the Archdiocese of New York.”
The cardinal offered another Mass for seniors May 16 at the cathedral.
The Prayer of the Faithful included petitions for all students, particularly the graduating Class of 2022, and the intercession of patron saints of all the Catholic high schools and religious orders as well as of “two great Catholic teachers here in the archdiocese who are now saints—St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.”
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