Cardinal Dolan celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for nearly 4,000 seniors from Catholic high schools across the archdiocese April 3-4.
At the Eucharistic Liturgy for the Class of 2019 April 4, Cardinal Dolan reminded the assembled students that “these are days of gratitude,” referring to “the sentiments that are in your heart now and which are going to be rolling around in your heart and soul for the next two months as you prepare for final exams and for graduation, and for departure from the high school that you’ll soon call alma mater.”
“We thank Almighty God for what He’s done... these last four years, as you look back, you can see His blessing, you can see His presence…You know He’s gotten you through some jams…and…to the end of the road that you had set four years ago.”
The cardinal also expressed gratitude to God for inspiring all those who have contributed to the legacy of Catholic education in the archdiocese, those who have made Catholic schools “so successful, so flourishing, so strong.”
Before Mass, Abraham Castillo of St. Raymond High School for Boys in the Bronx told CNY, “It’s a blessing to be down here, being that we’re moving on to the next chapter of our lives.
“It’s a great bonding moment,” he said. “We get to be here with the whole graduating class.”
Abraham, who is St Raymond’s valedictorian, hoped to glean a talking point or two for his upcoming graduation valedictory speech. “I still have to come up with that speech,” he said with a laugh, conceding he would simply “speak from the heart.”
A member of St. Benedict’s parish, the Bronx, Abraham will attend Fairfield University in Connecticut on a full academic scholarship in pursuit of a degree in electrical engineering.
Aziel Arias, a senior at Cardinal Spellman High School, the Bronx, expected the Mass would help prepare her for a bittersweet goodbye to the school she cherishes as she begins a new chapter with the study of culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. Her school has shown her “how to be humble,” she said, and expanded her worldview.
Chase Cohen of St. Joseph Hill Academy on Staten Island shared her sentiments with CNY after the Mass. “It was amazing. I’ve seen the seniors go each year” to the cathedral Mass and now “I’m finally here.”
Celebrating the liturgy alongside her peers who attend Catholic schools in the archdiocese was affirming to her. “I’m very grateful that my parents put me in Catholic school,” she said. “I would be a totally different person” if they hadn’t.
Chase said religion class particularly interests her, and the study of different religions this year “helped me look at my own religion in a new light.”
A member of St. Clare parish on Staten Island and an alumna of the parish elementary school, Chase plans to study international relations and diplomacy.
After Communion was distributed, Cardinal Dolan prayed, “…grant these your servants, the Class of 2019, grace and mercy in the years ahead. And may they ultimately glory in the fullness of eternal life in heaven through Christ Our Lord.”
Kevin McGarvey of Iona Preparatory School in New Rochelle offered words of gratitude before the recessional hymn. He received sustained applause from his peers.
“Catholic schools show their students how to be leaders, both in school and outside of the classroom, not only when told to but when no one is watching,” he said.
“Just as in a church,” Kevin said, Catholic schools “are one body, one family. Every man in this room is my brother, and every woman in this room is my sister…”
In closing, he encouraged his peers “to spread the Catholic social teaching wherever you go.”
Cardinal Dolan, before the dismissal, referenced Catholic school teachers in the archdiocese who are now saints: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.
“Congratulations,” he told the seniors. “I love you very much. I’m proud of you and grateful to God for you.”
Olivia Sherry of John F. Kennedy Catholic High School in Somers sang alto in her school’s choir during the Mass. “It’s nice that all of the Catholic schools in the archdiocese got to come together and celebrate a Mass together as we’re all going to be going our separate ways,” she said.
The cardinal’s words of guidance about the “need to carry our faith into college really resonated with me,” added Olivia, a member of St. Patrick’s parish in Yorktown Heights who will attend Clemson University in South Carolina as an education major.
Before the Mass, Father Joseph Espaillat, spiritual director of the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, spoke to the seniors about why and how they should hold on to their faith as they begin life after high school, and gave some pointers for doing so. Father Espaillat is also pastor of St. Anthony of Padua parish in the Bronx and director of the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Center in the Bronx.
Father Christopher Argano, director of vocations for the archdiocese, followed with an address about discovering the various ways Christ is calling the seniors to serve Him and the Church.