Bishop Lynch, members of the Board of Trustees, parents, relatives and friends. On behalf of the administration, faculty, staff and Sisters of the Holy Names, it is my honor to welcome you to the graduation of the Academy Class of 2013.
I began the day by attending the second grade First Communion Mass, and I am ending it with this graduation. I am certain that to you graduates second grade seems like a lifetime ago, but if you were to ask your parents, I’m sure they would say “it seems like only yesterday. Where has the time gone?”
I would like to speak to you for a few moments about time, specifically about the time you have spent here at the academy. Whether it dates back to pre-k or freshman year really does not matter. What does matter is that you have arrived at this point in time together as the Academy Class of 2013.
What does it mean to be an Academy graduate? How does one characterize the education you have received? I recently came across an excellent interpretation of what a good Catholic education should be in a book called Will There Be Faith by Thomas Groome, a theology professor at Boston College.
In the book, Professor Groome characterizes a good Catholic education as one of the Head, Heart and Hands. I think it’s an apt description of an Academy education. You have grown intellectually during your years here. But an education of the Head is more than just the accumulation of knowledge. It is the ability to think critically, to communicate clearly and to apply your knowledge to solve problems. It is understanding that you cannot always go it alone, that complex problems are best tackled as a member of a team.
There is a great deal of intolerance in the world today with groups of people being attacked because they are different in some way. An education of the Heart requires more than mere tolerance of others, it requires a respect and appreciation for all lives. An education of the Heart is one of love and compassion. It is one that takes its cue from the Gospel mandate to love God with your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.
Take what you know is right in your head and what you feel is right in your heart and put it into practice through the use of your hands. There are many instances in the Gospels where Jesus cures people by laying his hands on them. Throughout your time at the Academy you have, in a very real sense, used your hands to heal others whether it was serving at a soup kitchen, helping with construction and painting on a mission trip or placing shoes on the feet of a poor child in the Dominican Republic. Your actions, the work you have done with your hands, more than what you have said, allow you to show the world what is in your head and your heart, for actions do speak louder than words.
I read a story the other day about a 17-year-old girl name Jackie Mitchell, who in 1931 while playing baseball for a minor league ball club, the Chattanooga Lookouts, reportedly struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees.
Is it a true story? Well, there is quite a bit of debate about that but there is a good deal of evidence that it is. And if it is, what a good illustration of someone using her head, heart and hands to face a great challenge. In her head, she knew how to pitch. Apparently she threw two curve balls to the Babe that he swung through before catching him looking with a wounded duck of a fastball for strike three. In her heart, she had to believe she could do it, and once she had the ball in her hand she carried out her plan to perfection.
Now, I’m pretty sure, you won’t find yourselves pitching to major league batters anytime soon, but I know for a fact that you will face challenges, some of them considerable, during your lifetime. If you remember the lessons you have learned here and put them to good use, no problem is insurmountable; no challenge will be too great.
Soon you will go your separate ways. You will no longer be Academy students and believe it or not you may never see some of your classmates again. You will however be linked in a special way with them and the generations of women before you who have gone on to wonderfully productive lives using the education they received here – an education of the head, heart, and hands to make a difference in the lives of their families and the community at large.
As the class of 2013, you are about to join the ranks of the Academy alumni, and as such you will have many opportunities to give back to your community and your school. I hope you remember what you have learned here, the friendships you have made here and know that you will forever hold a special place in our hearts. Good luck and may God bless you.