At St. Theresa Church in the Bronx, Cardinal Dolan told eighth grade students, “Class of 2019, congratulations—you’ve done a great job.” The graduation Mass was for 660 students graduating from 19 Catholic elementary schools in the Northeast/East Bronx region.
“It’s especially appropriate that as you approach your graduation from grade school you would say, “Well, one great thing I learned in my Catholic school was to thank God—to thank God every day for all His graces and mercy—and for all the blessings that He’s given me,” the cardinal said in his homily at the Mass offered on Ascension Thursday, May 30.
“So how appropriate it is that you come to gather now for the greatest act of thanksgiving we have, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, to thank Him for the gift of your Catholic education. We’re very proud of you.”
Speaking about the hard work it takes to keep Catholic schools strong and successful, Cardinal Dolan told the students, “You make it all worthwhile. And for you— the Class of 2019—and with you, we thank Almighty God.” He expressed gratitude for the hard work and support of administrators and teachers in the schools, of parents and grandparents, and of pastors and staff of the region’s parishes.
“They sacrificed to get you to this spot,” said the cardinal, who noted he often meets people who gratefully tell him they attended a Catholic school in the Bronx or elsewhere in the archdiocese.
“And now you all are part of that legacy. So congratulations,” he said, his words greeted with applause.
Cardinal Dolan told the students that it was Ascension Thursday, and that as Jesus sent off his apostles to spread the Good News to the world after preparing them with his teachings for three years, so does he as cardinal, and their pastors and their educators send them forth to be witnesses for Christ.
“He’s the best teacher ever. We call Jesus the Divine Teacher,” the cardinal said, noting the importance of trusting in the Lord in times of joy and sadness during high school, college and beyond.
Jacob Opare, 13, was one of the eighth-graders attending the Mass. He is graduating from Our Lady of Grace School on Bronxwood Avenue. “I could take words from (the homily) to become a better person and follow in the apostles’ footsteps,” Jacob told Catholic New York after the liturgy. “I’m very grateful that the cardinal came here for the eighth-grade (graduation) Mass.” Jacob said he was also thankful to the educators in his school and to his parents for helping and supporting his academic pursuits.
In September, Jacob will attend St. Raymond High School for Boys in the Bronx, where he plans to play basketball as he did for Our Lady of Grace.
Another eighth-grader at the Mass was Angela Acosta, 14, from St. Theresa School. Angela said it was clear from the homily that the cardinal “appreciates everything” the schools, parishes and families of the students have done to help the young scholars reach this educational milestone.
“He helped us understand what everybody is doing for us, and how we’re going to make an impression in the world because of where we went to school, and how we should be proud of that,” Angela said. She participated in St. Theresa’s theater program, and in September she will attend Talent Unlimited High School, a performing arts school in Manhattan, where she will focus on dance.
Josephine Fanelli, principal of St. Theresa School, said the cardinal’s message “was enlightening…hopefully the students will go out into the world and be witnesses of our faith for all to see…I’ve told the eighth grade that it’s like going on a vacation now. We’ve packed their bags—we’ve given them everything that they need to go out into the world and succeed, and to be witnesses of Christ.”
Cardinal Dolan, toward the end of liturgy, thanked the students and others at the Mass, including the 14 concelebrating priests, most from the region’s parishes. Also attending were Michael Deegan, interim superintendent of schools in the archdiocese, and Linda Dougherty, regional schools superintendent for the Northeast/East Bronx.
Msgr. Thomas Derivan, pastor of St. Theresa parish, in closing remarks, told Cardinal Dolan, “Your Eminence, I know they all want to thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” the cardinal quickly said.
“So, we’re going to do it together,” the pastor continued, leading all into a loud round of applause.
Father John Figueroa, who was ordained by Cardinal Dolan the weekend before, gave the closing blessing.