The annual Mass Cardinal Dolan celebrates for the Catholic high school seniors of the archdiocese at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is always one of the highlights of the school year.
Over the years, the cardinal and each of his predecessors as archbishop of New York have spoken about how grateful they are to gather at Mass with the graduates. In most years, it takes two Masses to be able to accommodate the graduates of the 44 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese.
This year, two students and an adult chaperone represented each school at the April 29 liturgy, while most of their classmates viewed the Mass on television or via livestreaming back at school.
“This morning, we’re smaller, but we’re just as grateful and just as happy,” said Cardinal Dolan at the beginning of his homily to all the graduates.
“Know how proud we are of you,” the cardinal said. “How much we love you, and how grateful we are to Almighty God for the gift you are to His Church. This annual Mass…gives us a chance to congratulate the Class of 2021, but also to praise God for the gift of our Catholic schools.”
The cardinal went on to express gratitude to Michael Deegan, the superintendent of schools in the archdiocese, and his staff; priests from Catholic high schools, some of whom joined him in concelebrating the Mass; members of religious orders; school presidents and principals; faculty members and staff; board members and benefactors; and most especially parents, grandparents and godparents, “without whom this enterprise could not go on.”
Addressing the graduates directly, Cardinal Dolan said what they all recognized—that their senior year has not been an ordinary one.
“In some ways, you might be a little down, or confused, or disappointed, because of the crisis through which the entire planet is going.”
Then the cardinal offered the students another perspective for their consideration.
“Something tells me this experience has been one of the best lessons from your Catholic high school education,” he said.
They have learned, the cardinal said, that “God is with us. If we put our trust in Him, put our confidence in Him, we are going to…come through this.”
The journey through the disappointments and setbacks of Covid-19 has also placed this year’s Catholic high school seniors on a different path, one that has taken them from Me to We to Thee, the cardinal said.
The students may initially have been tempted to say, “Oh, poor me. We don’t have everything we usually have,” the cardinal said.
But they learned that they do have what matters—their friends, their Catholic high school, their community and their Church.
And that leads them to Thee, or Almighty God. “He is the one who is always with us. He keeps us together,” the cardinal reminded the students.
Speaking to the seniors in the cathedral, “and to the 5,277 Catholic high school seniors graduating in the coming weeks,” Michael Deegan said the students were “not only part of your school community, but also a part of something so much larger than yourself…and that is the Church.”
“We hope you stay close not only to your high school, but also to your parish church and to God himself.”
The students heard from one of their own, Sarah Mastoros, a senior at Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island, who delivered words of gratitude on behalf of the Class of 2021 after Communion. (Other students served at the altar and did readings.)
“This past year has been very difficult for people in many ways,” she told her classmates. “The death of a loved one, the loss of a job and financial difficulties are just some of the problems Covid-19 forced people to face.”
“Through all of these hardships, having hope and taking solace in our Catholic faith have been the forces that bring people out of the darkness and into the Light,” Sarah said.
A Catholic school student since kindergarten, Sarah attended St. Teresa’s School and St. John Villa Academy before Notre Dame Academy.
Her three siblings are also Catholic school kids, and she thanked her parents for the sacrifices they have made to make that education possible.
“I am very proud to say I go to a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of New York, and I hope to use the foundations of my education in my college years and beyond,” she said.
She concluded with thanks to her teachers, saying that she has been “inspired to study education” and looks forward to one day educating her own students “in the Catholic principles I have been very fortunate to learn.”