Commencement day

Bishop England High School, Charleston, and Cardinal Newman School, Columbia, recently held commencement ceremonies. Msgr. Robert Kelly, chaplain at Bishop England, sent a graduation message to the seniors, as he was unable to attend. Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, vicar general, gave the commencement address at Cardinal Newman.

Bishop England’s graduation was held June 6.

Here is an excerpt from his speech:
What you will take from Bishop England will be the friendships you have made here — friends you can keep forever if you work at it. What you will take from Bishop England will be the lessons you’ve learned in the classrooms and on the sports fields, in the corridors and at lunch. Lessons taught by your teachers and coaches, by your relationships, by your experience, by your successes and victories and especially by your failures and defeats.

I hope what you take from Bishop England will be a connection — a connection with Bishop England that will endure the many, many years of your promising futures. As you know, I love Bishop England, and you are now, and forever will be — part of the Bishop England family.

My own high school graduation occurred 58 years ago.

Those times and the times today share much in common, although they are indeed years and years apart. You are graduating into a world that knows war – a War of Terrorism, the war in Iraq. I graduated at the end of World War II, a few days before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The date 9/11 resonates in your hearts the way December 7, 1941, touched mine and my classmates.

You take for granted that you are “teenagers” with your own code of behavior, lingo, and so many books written about your particular stage of development. In 1945 the term “teenager” had just been coined. Before that 17 and 18 year olds were simply called adolescents. The teenagers of 1945 liked to listen to music and to dance and to have a soda or an ice cream at the malt shop. “Gay – meant “really happy.” Ecstasy wasn’t a drug – it meant “ even more happy.” If I heard someone say “24/7” it was a football score.

In 1945 Life magazine conducted a poll asking these newly named “teenagers” what they feared most. The number one response was “war”. Finishing a close second was acne. Even though the world has better skin care products today – have things really changed that much?

I did my own poll of graduating seniors. I asked many of you: what is your goal for your life ahead? The number one response was “to be successful.” Terrific! Fantastic answer! The second part of my question was to define “successful!” These answers varied greatly: to be rich; to be a CEO; to be famous; become president; have the biggest yacht; have a family.

On a sports team you have your captains and inevitable MVP’s. They can’t be what they are without the fans and the bench players – the trainer. In baseball, the closer – the relief pitcher. In basketball the sixth man – the deft passer. You need parental support, the coach, the media and the entire community. In other words all the parts come together to make that particular team successful.

Such is life. We need fishermen and trash collectors. We need engineers and manual laborers. We need spiritual directors, teachers, nurses and doctors. What’s a CEO without a great secretary? A surgeon without a competent nurse? The pieces we all play in this game of life are not what makes one successful. It is how we are as a person while we are playing that piece that makes the difference.

Whether you are a product of my era or if you are a 2003 graduate I propose to you that “a successful person is one who gives the most of his/her self while bringing out the best in others.”

When you return for BEHS reunions don’t worry about your bank accounts, age spots, extra weight or lack of resume. We are proud of you now – you graduated from a truly great high school. At future reunions we want to hear how you, with your intelligence, compassion and talents – have made this world a better place.

Welcome to the team of life. You play a vital part – whatever that part may be.

Your role will change many times throughout your life – in 58 years may you look back to this wonderful day and evaluate your success. Ask yourself “have I made a difference?” Be the best you – I know you will.

Msgr. Roth presented the commencement speech at Cardinal Newman on May 25.

Here is an excerpt from his address:
Many are the gifts God has given us! As we gather here today, to recognize the accomplishments of our graduates and to congratulate them on this landmark day in their lives, we celebrate. As the Scripture says, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”

For the past years you have worked to achieve your diploma. Now it is a reality. This is your passport to many opportunities. Hopefully for most of you, it will be a passport to college and perhaps to a university. You are now academically prepared to begin this voyage in life.

In all the euphoria of the day, the first thing we need to do is to realize who we are. You are a young people making dynamic steps in life.

To be where we are, was not entirely our doing. Almighty God allowed us to be born of families that cared for us and provided for us so we could come to this day. Our parents sacrificed their resources for us so we could have a nice home and a good Catholic education thus far. This takes a great deal of resources on the part of our parents.

Most of our needs have been provided for by our parents. Our room, our vehicle, our food and lodging, our clothing, our tuition, and above all our faith life are gifts they have provided for us.

Please do not be like the group of atheists who spoke with God one day and said, “We do not need you any more! We can do anything you can do. In fact, we can even create.” And with that, one of the atheists bent over and picked up some dirt and said “Watch this, God!” And God said, “Just a minute, Get your own dirt!”

Never get too big for your britches! Remember your beginnings! My dear young men and women, it is time to turn around and say “thank you” to Mom and Dad. These are your first benefactors. This time for us is a time to take the reins of the present in hand, so they can determine the road we want to take. It is a time for vision and direction. It is a beautiful time because we are heading in a direction that will more or less set the type of position we have in life. We are building our own ship and setting out on our voyage.

That being the case, we will need a crew and some experienced people to help us. We are never alone. Who could be there? Our most important person to be on board is our Lord.

Oftentimes college students forget our Lord. Please remember that he is the one who gives life and sustains us. Without God in our lives, our lives become meaningless.

Time passes and we do not get it back again. Time is precious. Jesus Christ must remain the center of all we are and do, and I do not say that lightly. Temptations to many things will beset us, and we need to be ready to handle these. God is the answer.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have been called to the side of a young person in the hospital, who is in crisis. Perhaps an auto accident, perhaps a sports injury, perhaps a sickness! It is real, and this is real life. So many have fallen away from the practice of faith, and many do not have any faith.

There is nothing to lean on. Life is only a few more moments for these students, and then it will be over. What have I done with my life? What have I done with my gifts? Where am I going? Parties and such do not mean much then. Faith alone stands out. I certainly hope that your life will not be this way and that you may have a long and healthy as well as a productive and happy life. Stay close to your God! Stay close to our Blessed Mother! Practice your faith and be faithful to it. It is your life blood.

Days will come in your life that you will never forget. Bishop Robert J. Baker, chose as his motto, Rejoicing in Hope! That is an excellent way of life. If we are Christ-centered, we will choose what is right, we will have hope. You have heard the saying, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast!” Let me tell you it does, it does, when based on Jesus Christ.

In your voyage through life and your continued preparation for your career, call on God and take control. Be enthusiastic! Never let sadness or depression weigh you down. You are above that! There is always help available. God is there! God is real! God loves you.

Someone asked me one time, what is the difference between a mud-puddle and a geyser? The answer is enthusiasm! With enthusiasm for the faith, with enthusiasm for life, with enthusiasm for good, you can and will learn. You will find a career that is fulfilling but, you must work for it. It is not free! Be enthusiastic for your self!

So often in life we take things the way they are. We do nothing to change them and improve them. We just trudge along. I call upon you to make a difference with your life. Make it worthwhile and make this world better for you and your families. Be enthusiastic!

Go the distance, and God grant you the enthusiasm that will lead you to happiness and success. God bless your parents. God bless your school. God bless Cardinal Newman. God bless you. And God bless America!