Looking back with pride and ahead to continued growth in her faith, Ascension School student Mariana Turpin joined classmates May 6 at the Eighth-Grade Graduation Mass for Manhattan Region Catholic Schools at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“Ascension really helped me develop basic social skills because we are all like a family here,” 13-year-old Mariana told CNY. “As I continued to learn about the Catholic faith, I developed a closer relationship with God and my friends through activities like this.” She will attend Preston High School in the Bronx in the fall.
Mariana listened attentively to Cardinal Dolan’s homily, in which he reflected on the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles on the conversion of Saul, who persecuted Jesus and the Church, to St. Paul the Apostle who spread the teachings of Jesus throughout the world.
In closing his homily, Cardinal Dolan shared a story of St. Teresa of Calcutta, who was asked by a reporter why she worked with so much joy when she was tending to the sick and poor.
“She said, ‘You want joy, think of the word joy,’” the cardinal told the students. “J stands for Jesus, put him first. O stands for others, put them second. Y stands for yourself and we come last. If you do that, you’ll have joy.”
Mariana received the cardinal’s message. “We all put ourselves first more than others, so I definitely need to work on putting Jesus and others before myself,” she said.
Cardinal Dolan congratulated the eighth-grade students from the 15 grade schools in Manhattan at the beginning of Mass and in his homily.
“This is always a happy occasion for me when I’m able to welcome some of our graduating eighth-graders from our splendid Catholic schools throughout the archdiocese,” he said. “These Masses are going on in all the different regions of the Archdiocese of New York. Today, we’re blessed to have the graduating classes from our Catholic grade schools in Manhattan, and you are all very welcome here. So we congratulate you, eighth-graders. We’re very very proud of you.”
Before the conclusion of Mass, Michael Deegan, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, thanked Cardinal Dolan for his continued support of Catholic schools.
“We want to thank you,” Deegan said. “It is not lost on us, Your Eminence, that after a two-week exhaustive trip to (Rome and) Eastern Europe, including Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine, one of the first places and one of the first things that you wanted to do was to be here this morning with our Catholic school children. You clearly are an ambassador of the Church’s work around the world and we thank you.
“There is no one who is a stronger advocate and passionate, devoted, loyal follower of Catholic schools than yourself.”
Sophia Almonte, 14, who was in St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the first time, has attended Immaculate Conception since she was in pre-K. The 14 year old recently moved with her family to New Jersey, where she will attend high school in the fall.
Speaking of her experiences at Immaculate Conception, she said, “It’s made me grow as a person. The teachers there are amazing. I’ve shared laughs there, sorrow, and I’ve learned everything from them and they’ve really prepared me for high school.
She added, “Msgr. (Kevin) Nelan is wonderful. I used to altar serve there. The church is such a beautiful community and they’ve really just helped me grow my connection to God.”
Victoria Ferreira, 14, is the student body president of St. Ignatius Loyola School, and said she’s grown in her faith at the school, which has prepared her to study the next four years at Marymount School of New York.
“It’s very exciting,” said Victoria of starting high school. “I’m ready to meet new people, have new experiences, but St. Ignatius has been my home, so it’s a little bit sad because I’ve been here since pre-K.
“I’ve learned so much at St. Ignatius, met new people, learned so many new lessons and I feel like I’m ready for high school.”