Commencement Exercises

Class of 2020

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Class of 2020 told to have faith, trust in the future.

When the 70 seniors at St. John Paul II High School in Hyannis asked in November to hold their graduation outdoors, school administrators resisted the request.

Then COVID-19 came along and changed everything. The pandemic truncated the school year, canceling sports seasons and pushing teachers and students to their limits with remote learning. It also paved the way for the outdoor ceremony that seniors had hoped for, albeit with masks and social distancing.

“If we’ve learned anything these past six months it’s to appreciate the moments we have when we have them,” school President Christopher Keavy said during Monday’s ceremony at McKeon Park.

Keavy reminded the graduates that their high school careers were not measured by the past several months and that their accomplishments were plenty.

Rather than think of those few months as loss, he reminded them that nothing was taken from them but their expectations. He quoted a famous line from the Book of Job: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

“Hold expectations lightly,” he said. “Take the long view. Widen your view beyond the present moment.”

Class Valedictorian Marie Carney shared three lessons she learned from her teachers and coaches:

Be quiet.

Be quick.

Question everything.

Carney told her classmates to quiet the noise of the world, pay attention to what really matters and listen to God as they move through life.

“Focus on the moral decisions you make and align your life with the principles we were taught at JPII,” she said.  She said she learned to be quick from her cross-country coach, who pushed her to run faster and to do better.

“Being quick is about letting go of the past,” she said. “Being quick is about living in the present. It’s about trusting in the future, even though the future is uncertain.”

Carney’s final piece of advice was not to just accept what you’re told.  “Ask yourself, ‘What am I doing and why am I doing it?’”

Class President Claire LaLiberte led her classmates in the turning of the tassel.  LaLiberte plans to spend a gap year in AmeriCorps before studying environmental science at the University of Wisconsin. A trip to Ecuador changed the course of her life, she said.

“It made me realize how important a call to service was,” she said.

The Most Rev. Edgar M. da Cunha, bishop of the Diocese of Fall River, gave the final remarks and blessing. He urged students to rely on their faith to see them through challenges, even when they don’t know all the answers or the way forward.

“Build a successful life, but not just for yourself,” he said. “Take your faith with you wherever you go.”

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