Pastor’s Desk ~ May 19, 2024

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

Beginning next weekend, graduations and commencement ceremonies will take place all over the country, from Kindergartners in pint-sized caps and gowns, up to the doctoral level, and beyond. At the higher levels, graduates often add two-sided hoods, color-coded to the field of study – green for medicine, purple for law, brown for architecture. etc. At the doctoral level, caps and mortarboards are often replaced by 8-pointed tam-o-shanters, with academic stripes added to the sleeves. A graduation ceremony at a large and established university can resemble a kind of secular liturgy.

What is the difference, if any, between “graduation” and “commencement?” While often used interchangeably, they represent two distinct points on the academic timeline. “Graduation” is the time at which a student fulfills the requirements for the degree. Typically, the graduate applies for a diploma while still completing the requirements. “Commencement” is the term for the formal ceremony conferring the degrees and celebrating the accomplishments of the graduate. “Commencement” connotes new beginnings, either to further studies or work and life beyond the university. For those privileged with an appointment to one of our national military academies, “commencement” will include a several-year commitment to a branch of the military.

Many of our parish and school families will be celebrating graduations and commencements of various kinds in the weeks to come. Let us pray for them that they will see the hand of God working in their lives, both in the past and moving forward.

More locally, St. Vincent de Paul High School will celebrate its 106th, and final, graduation as our parish high school. Beginning this summer, it will pursue its future as an independent Catholic school. With the passing of years, SVHS has become more and more a parish school in name only. Our students now come from three counties, three dioceses, and roughly 20 feeder schools. This transformation has taken place over the course of many years.

Mike Marovich (the chair of the Diocesan Finance Committee) and I have worked for several months with representatives of St. Vincent College Preparatory High School, Inc. to transfer administration to an independent school board. There will be clear guidelines for maintaining the Catholic identity and teaching of the school, and a clear role for Catholic chaplaincy and formation. This will both honor the intent of donors who have supported our Catholic schools for decades, and provide for the spiritual needs of current and future students.

The agreements, while very near completion, are not yet signed. It is an enormously complex process, as a parish-school relationship of 106 years has many legal, moral and practical aspects to it. (Even something as simple as photocopier leases need to be considered.) There is no royal road to the future, only progress toward a shared goal: the development of our students and of the wider community. Time and again local employers have told me that they can always spot a SVHS graduate, by their poise, professionalism and readiness to apply themselves to the task at hand. This year, the students of our small but potent school have won the state football championship, as well as acceptances and scholarships to the finest and most elite universities and military academies in the country, including some notable Catholic schools. I congratulate them and ask you to join me in prayers that God will watch over them at every step of their lives’ journeys.

Blessings,

Fr. Bill Donahue