‘Be prepared for the unpredictable’: Bishop Connolly graduates urged to keep faith in God as they enter adulthood
Originally published on www.heraldnews.com.
By Charles Winokoor
FALL RIVER – Bishop Connolly High School’s Class of 2020 rode off into the sunset Friday night.
Even before the hour-long 51st commencement ceremony came to a close, darkness had begun to descend upon the elevated track field in the rear of the school where members of the Class of 2020 collected their diplomas.
The coed Catholic school, like a string of other high schools in and around Fall River, delayed and rescheduled their commencement exercise this year — once it was clear that the COVID-19 pandemic would not allow for a traditional, indoor ceremony.
It also meant that students spent the last third of their school year at home utilizing internet-based remote learning.
Bishop Connolly seniors in late May managed to mark the end of the school year by taking part in an unofficial event billed as a “Senior Send-off Parade.”
Individual families attending Friday night’s graduation ceremony, which got under way shortly before 7 p.m., sat six feet apart from one another. Not a single person could be seen without a face covering.
“This a perfect setting. It was worth the wait, wasn’t it?” said Fall River Diocese Bishop Edgar Moreira da Cunha.
Da Cunha praised the graduating seniors for their “perseverance, persistence and hard work.”
He also thanked parents for “entrusting your most precious possessions to our school.”
He stressed that faith in God during these “uncertain times” will be the key to enduring whatever may arise in the coming years.
“One thing is certain,” the Brazilian-born da Cunha said. “God will be with us. And our prayers will nourish our faith. We need God, our families and one another.”
He also offered the following piece of advice to the Class of 2020: “Be prepared for the unpredictable.”
Student body president Carley Medeiros said the coronavirus pandemic, ongoing national street protests in the name of social justice and “the wide political divide” leading up to the general election in November “provide an opportunity for change.”
Medeiros, who also sang the National Anthem at the start of the commencement exercises, noted that she and her fellow grads this year will be eligible for the first time to vote in a presidential election.
“I urge you to sign petitions, volunteer in your community, and protest for what you believe in, not what you believe others want of you.”
Medeiros also said that the concept of “eudaemonia” she learned while a student, emphasizing “happiness with right order,” will serve her well in life.
Valedictorian Christopher Dupuis, a member of both the National Honor Society and debate team, who also was active in various school sports, said he recently found inspiration in the most unlikely of places.
Dupuis said he saw an Instagram ad for a necklace with an inscription that read, “Remember to live.”
“I know it’s cliché and cheesy, but it is a message of which we should all be reminded,” he said.
Dupuis referred to his mother as “the best person I have ever met” and said she had impressed upon him the importance of showing kindness to others.
He also said his father, whom he called his “best friend,” had provided him with the “guiding principle [to] try your best in everything you do.”
“Be a leader in your own way, and push yourself to help others, which will only benefit you in return,” Northrup said.
There were 62 students in this year’s graduating class — boys in red dress and girls in gold — that included a boy-to-girl ratio of 60:40.
Bishop Connolly High finally became a coeducational Catholic school in 1980.
One member of this year’s senior class, Riley Thomas Gavriluk, died last December. When his mother came onstage to accept her son’s diploma the students gave her a standing ovation.
School President Myron paraphrased American poet and writer Henry David Thoreau that “friends cherish one another’s hopes and are kind to one another’s dreams.”
Myron told the 2020 graduating class that during their journey through life they always will be welcome “to come back to your second home.”
The Legacy Class of 2020 included 10 such pairs.
Joan Medeiros, a Class of 1985 graduate who now works as vice prescient of commercial lending for Bristol County Savings Bank, delivered a satirical anecdote intended as a metaphor for the surreal aspect of this past school season.
She referred to a fictional letter written by a teenage boy named Joshua breaking the news to his father that he and his older, pregnant, heavily tattooed and facially pierced girlfriend are eloping and plan on having more children.
“Don’t worry dad, we can take care of ourselves,” by growing marijuana so that they in turn can buy cocaine, the letter states.
The punch line, Medeiros said, is that the son reveals at the end of his letter that none of it is true, and that he only wanted to illustrate that there are worse things in life than a bad school report.
“In some ways this year was like that school report,” Medeiros said.
She also drew a comparison of the enormity of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 to the current set of conditions besetting the country.
“Faith, family and friends,” Medeiros said, in her view are “the three most important f-words.”
She also stressed the importance of “the value of a Catholic education.”
Friday night’s commencement began with a handful of traditional songs played on the bagpipes by veteran bagpiper David Cameron along with drummer Kate Zanello, both of whom led a procession up the hill to the athletic field followed by the Class of 2020.
The pair closed out the evening by playing “Ode to Joy” leading guests and school administrators through the middle of the audience and back down the hill to the rear of the school building.
Families and graduates then followed the group and lingered for a while in the twilight taking photos and saying goodbye.