Seniors at the four Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Charleston took steps into the future during recent weeks. Nearly 300 students received diplomas at graduation ceremonies around the diocese.
Here is a look at those ceremonies and some of the achievements of the Class of 2006.
At St. Francis Xavier High School, six graduates received their diplomas in a ceremony held at the Opera House May 26. The guest speaker for the commencement was Cheryl Coleman, a member of the high school’s board of trustees and a nurse at Tuomey Hospital in Sumter. The diplomas were handed out by Bishop Robert J. Baker and St. Francis Xavier’s principal, Dianne Trapini.
The graduating class, although small compared with others in the diocese, garnered a total of $555,000 in scholarship offers. Two graduates received special honors during the ceremony.
The valedictorian was Adriel Dizon, son of Gene and Gena Dizon of Sumter. Adriel plans to attend the University of South Carolina at Columbia in the fall and wants to major in biology. He was a recipient of a Palmetto Fellows Scholarship and was also awarded the Valedictorian Scholarship from USC.
Salutatorian was Katie Caputo, daughter of Joseph and Jan Caputo of Sumter. Katie plans to attend Clemson and major in visual arts. She received a Palmetto Fellows Scholarship and a merit scholarship to Clemson.
At Cardinal Newman School, 48 seniors received diplomas at a ceremony held May 27 at the Township Auditorium. Twenty of those students were honor graduates. The valedictorian was Mary Learner, and salutatorian was Ben Fisher.
The keynote address was offered by Father Theodore C. Ross from the Athenaeum of Ohio in Cincinnati. Father Ross is considered an expert on the life of Cardinal John Henry Newman, for whom the school is named. His address used Newman’s own words to convey the importance of responsibility and a continued focus on Catholic values and the love of God as the graduates begin their lives after high school. He explained how the values Newman espoused — which included putting faith in God and the relationship with God above all else, and blending that relationship into all parts of life — were embodied in the Catholic-based education the students received.
“You might say Cardinal Newman succeeded because of its patron, Cardinal John Henry Newman … Using his example, this taught you your priorities,” he said. “Listen to what he says about life’s difficulties: ‘I will trust God whatever, wherever I am. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. He knows what he is about.’ ”
Fifty-eight students graduated from St. Joseph’s Catholic School. The ceremony was held at St. Mary Magdalene Church on May 27.
St. Joseph’s does not rank students in the traditional way, so no valedictorian or salutatorian was named, according to Barbara McGrath, director of admissions for the school. Instead, top graduating seniors receive awards. Those awards were given out at “Deo Gratias,” a special year-end celebration held prior to commencement.
The Outstanding Christian Athlete award was presented to senior Carolyn Powers. The Father Fox Award, which is given to the graduate who displays outstanding “Christian charity and compassion,” went to Caitlin Rinz. The award is named after the priest who first celebrated Mass regularly at the school. The Redemptoris Custos (“Guardian of the Redeemer”) Award, given to a student who excels in scholarship, was presented to Sally Cade Holmes.
St. Joseph’s Class of 2006 received more than $3 million in scholarships and grants.
Bishop England High School had the largest graduating class in the diocese with 187 seniors. Graduation ceremonies were held in McAlister Field House at The Citadel on June 2. Ellen Heath was the valedictorian, and salutatorian was Andrew Bellebaum. Graduation awards and their recipients included: The O’Brien Ring, Justin Runey; The Manning Ring, Anne Reed; The Croghan Cup, Eleanor Hoffman; and The Kelly Leadership Award, Andrew Bellebaum.
The Class of 2006 was offered more than $5 million in scholarships, according to Principal David Held.
The commencement address at Bishop England’s ceremony was given by Sister Julia Hutchinson, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the diocese, who focused on “Catholic Schools: Unique by Design, and the Unique Qualities of the Class of 2006.”
She told those gathered that there is one “short answer” as to why Catholic schools and Catholic students are special.
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the difference … the effort to make that Gospel come to life in the lives of our students,” she said. “We are at our best when education includes both a religious and an academic mission, when we are teaching and learning so that faith comes alive and hopefully grows, present in our worship but also present in our lives.”
Sister Julia described the 2006 Bishop England class as “loyal, spirited, compassionate, concerned for others’ welfare.”
“The testimony of some of the teachers who know you describe you as splendidly different, not by design, but by decision, your decision,” she said. “Spread to a waiting world, to a needy world, the grace of your splendid difference!”