This one is for the Class of 2020, especially those graduating from the 44 Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of New York.
You might notice that the members of the Class of 2020 across the nation have been receiving a lot of attention in recent weeks. A former president of the United States has delivered a commencement address, as well as a talk-show queen for the ages. A well-known actor-director even held a prom for you.
In this section, you’ll see our attempt to bring you the words of Cardinal Dolan, taken from a video greeting he made especially for your class.
Why are all these important folks trying to bring their personal touch to your graduation exercises? Well, I suspect you know the answer to that question. You’re a smart bunch, after all. The statistics say that nearly all of you Catholic school graduates in the Class of 2020 will move on to post-secondary education.
You are also the class that has missed the last few months of its senior year, and at least some of the special times that go along with that. We know what’s kept you from going to school grounds. It’s the same thing that’s kept us from our workplaces, Sunday Masses, kids’ birthday parties, baseball games and a million other things.
Your lessons have been accomplished remotely, to be sure. And we’ve all had to learn to do things in new ways, whether we’re 17, or 37, or 57.
We are holding you up right now, in our thoughts and especially in our prayers, even if we don’t know a single one of you personally.
How can I say that, nearly four decades removed from my own high school years? It’s because I am one of you, a graduate of a Catholic high school not so very far from here, on Long Island.
It puts me in a unique position to understand where you stand right now. Not just me, but millions of others like us who came up through the Catholic school system, in which I am proud to say I learned for 16 years, from first grade through college.
If I can leave you with a couple of Catholic school thoughts to guide you, one would be to understand yourself as a child of God who wants only the best for you. Nourish that gift, and it will pay dividends in every area of your life.
For those who come from modest family backgrounds, as many graduates do, that fact does not define where you will end up. I was the same as you in that respect. My parents did not have much to give my sister and me in the way of material luxuries, but they somehow found a way to provide a Catholic school education, as thousands and thousands of parents here in the archdiocese continue to do.
Out of that beginning, I became the first in my family to attend college, and the first to graduate from college, St. John’s University in Queens.
I didn’t take a straight line to the top; very few people do. There were some bumps along the way, and a few things that just didn’t work out, for one reason or another.
We’ve all taken a pretty good shot here in this coronavirus epidemic, especially those of us who live here in downstate New York. Many families have lost loved ones and friends. I can’t promise that you’ll never experience another calamity or personal struggle.
I do have a good feeling that the arc of your life will rise. If New York is going to make a comeback, it won’t be without the Class of 2020. It will be thanks to you, and to others who will lift us up.
Thanks to our friends in the archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools office and in the high schools themselves who helped the staff of Catholic New York to produce this graduation section.