Trenton Catholic Academy Upper School graduates process into St. Anthony Church May 31 for the celebration of the Baccalaureate Mass and commencement exercises that followed. Joe Moore photos
Trenton Catholic Academy Upper School graduates process into St. Anthony Church May 31 for the celebration of the Baccalaureate Mass and commencement exercises that followed. Joe Moore photos

By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent

The word family seemed to personify the graduating class of Trenton Catholic Academy as the Hamilton school students gathered together one last time.

“This class has really come together and is so focused on teamwork and service,” TCA senior class guidance counselor Lisa Ford said. “They are truly a family.”

Photo gallery from Trenton Catholic Academy's Baccalaureate Mass and Graduation

The 59 graduates and their families gathered in St. Anthony Church, Hamilton, for a Baccalaureate Mass and commencement exercises May 31, the Feast of the Visitation.

Mass was celebrated by Msgr. Thomas N. Gervasio, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, and vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Trenton. He reflected of the Visitation and encouraged the graduates to be confident and courageous in life. He also referred to Pope Francis in his homily when he said, “remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord.”

Many in the Class of 2017 began their journey together as first-grade students in TCA’s Lower School, when it opened its doors in 2005 following the consolidation of Trenton’s elementary schools. One of those students, valedictorian Chiebuka Okpara, spoke to this fact.

“I have been at this school since I was in first grade; I grew up here, so it’s really hard for me to say goodbye,” Okpara said in his commencement speech. “I made so many memories and met so many incredible people that I feel like I have a second family; I feel truly blessed. Now I need to accept the fact that this experience is over. But it doesn’t have to be over. Deep down, inside each one of us is a piece of TCA.”

He encouraged the graduates to keep in touch with each other despite heading to different colleges throughout the country. Okpara plans to study biomedical engineering at The College of New Jersey, Ewing.

Salutatorian Nasir Dowling, also a graduate of the Lower School, echoed Okpara’s sentiments.

“We should continue to keep in contact and believe that in our senior year, we truly embodied the status of the best class at TCA. … We came together and did things as a unit. I ask all the graduates to look at the person next to you because that person became your brother or sister this year,” said Dowling, who is going on to study business/accounting in Villanova University, Villanova, Pa.

In her remarks, JoAnn Tier, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, also spoke to the treasure of family, saying, “These graduates have been recognized as people to invest in. They have been awarded $3.6 million in college scholarships and grants. You will receive your diploma tonight, tangible evidence of your merits and achievements.”

“Msgr. McCorristin, the original Iron Mike, knew the value of an education, and more specifically, of a Catholic school education,” she said of the school’s founder. “He was singularly committed to guiding students to become faith-filled responsible leaders.”

“He built the school you call home, and his memory continues to leave an imprint of sacrifice and hope for future generations,” she continued.

Leaving that imprint on future generations is what Trenton Catholic Academy is all about, said Sister of St. Joseph Dorothy Payne, TCA president.

“We exist for systemic change,” Sister Dorothy said. “The graduates are now a part of an important group, an even larger family – the Iron Mike alumni – and that holds a great responsibility.  I know this class will continue to serve others and members of the community in the future.”