Students in Catholic high schools across the Diocese may be experiencing graduation season in a new way this year, but one thing will remain constant – the words of comfort, faith and wisdom they will hear from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

“Yes, this year’s celebration is not the way you expected your graduation to be, but nothing can take away the meaning of this moment and the joy you should feel,” Bishop O’Connell says in his Baccalaureate Mass homily taped May 12 in St. Dominic Church, Brick. “You’ve made it! And we are all so proud of you!”

Traditionally, Bishop O’Connell celebrates Baccalaureate Masses for a number of Catholic schools each graduation season. Due to this year’s COVID-19 restrictions, the Bishop celebrated one special diocesan Mass, customized videos of which are being sent to Catholic high schools in the Diocese to be used on their media sites. The Mass video can also be viewed on diocesan media.

In his homily, the Bishop stressed that though students, school staff, coaches and parents could not be together physically, they are still never far apart because of the Catholic faith, which unites all.

“You are about to graduate from high school, my young friends,” Bishop O’Connell preaches. “Throughout your lives, the Lord has spoken to you often, as he did to his own disciples: through your parents, your teachers, your friends and your Church. … Now it is up to you. Yes, we will all continue to be a part of your lives, and we will continue to give you advice. Now you must take responsibility for the things that are most important in life.”

He continues, “Know that the Lord will remain with you always and will help you take your faith deepened in the experience of Catholic high school into a happy, healthy and wonderful future. And continue to believe that the Lord is with you always.”

The special diocesan Baccalaureate Mass, which was celebrated without a congregation, was recorded by the diocesan Department of Multimedia Production. Concelebrating were Father Scott Shaffer, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River; Father Garry Koch, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, and Father Christopher Dayton, parochial vicar in St. Rose of Lima Parish, Belmar. JoAnn Tier, superintendent of Catholic schools, served as the reader, and Father Jason Parzynski, chaplain in Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, served as master of ceremonies.