By Christina Leslie |Correspondent
Preceded by the skirl of bagpipes honoring the school’s Irish roots, faculty, staff and students of Red Bank Catholic High School strode confidently June 4 into the main arena of the OceanFirst Bank Center on the campus of Monmouth University, West Long Branch.
Photo Gallery: RBC Graduation 2018
Photo Gallery: RBC Baccalaureate Mass 2018
Joyful family and friends witnessed the 215 members of the Red Bank High School Class of 2018 receive their diplomas, turn their tassels and mark a milestone in their education.
Pictures of classes, athletic events and camaraderie among the members of the class flashing on the electronic Jumbotron suspended high above the floor soon gave way to the school seal and motto, “Pro Deo Et Patria” (For God and Country) as school chaplain Father Ariel Robles delivered an invocation.
Earlier that day in the arena, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated a Baccalaureate Mass, joined by priests of the Diocese, including Father Robles and Msgr. Philip A. Lowery, head of school and pastor of St. James Parish, Red Bank.
Robert Abatemarco, principal of the Red Bank school, served as master of ceremonies of the graduation ceremony, expressing pride in the young men and women seated before him.
“It’s almost unfair that once we get to know them, we have to let them go,” the principal of 23 years said wistfully.
Abatemarco noted the 2018 class had been accepted to colleges and universities in 33 states, and earned a total of more than $31.4 million in scholarships and awards. They also had participated in thousands of hours of fundraising and community despite no school requirement to do so.
“They did it not because they had to, but they did it because they are Caseys,” Abatemarco said, using the nickname derived from Msgr. Joseph T. Casey, a retired Navy rear admiral and instrumental school figure in the mid-1900s.
In her valedictory address, Kaitlyn Elizabeth Wood said she would not give her peers advice, but rather issue them a challenge: reconsider, as did Holden Caulfield in the coming-of-age novel, “The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger.
“We must be the reader, not the protagonist, in our novel. It is up to us to analyze, digest and act,” said the young woman, who is slated to attend Georgetown University, Washington, in the fall.
Class salutatorian Lauren Elizabeth Walker asked her fellow graduates to examine what they loved about the thought of their future.
“‘If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it,’” Walker said, quoting entrepreneur and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “Make your goals too big, because if we are not failing, nothing has been achieved.”
Msgr. Lowery acknowledged he had celebrated the First Holy Communion Mass of some of the students and reminded them they would join the ranks of the nearly 15,000 alumni. “I send you off knowing that Jesus Christ is truly primary in your life,” he said.
Asking members of the Sisters of Mercy to stand for recognition in their longtime work with the school, Msgr. Lowery said, “They have been an integral part of our faculty.”
Class president Blaise G. Tamburri led the graduates in the ceremonial turning of the tassel to mark their last act as a Red Bank Catholic High School student, resounding cheers echoing through the arena.