Parishes pray with and for their graduating faithful
By Georgiana Francisco, Correspondent
From pre-school graduates all the way on up to those receiving post-graduate degrees, a number of parishes from around the Diocese took the opportunity to recognize those parishioners who were awarded diplomas this year.
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Such was the occasion during a June 18 Mass in St. Isaac Jogues Church, Marlton, where graduates of all ages were asked to stand after receiving Holy Communion and receive a special blessing. After the Mass, the graduates and their families were invited to enjoy refreshments in the community center.
Meghan Wallace, a recent graduate of The University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, said she thought it was “great” that her parish had recognized the educational accomplishments of their 2017 graduates.
“It was really cool to be asked to stand for a blessing and acknowledged at Mass today,” Wallace said. “It’s great not only to be able to celebrate Father’s Day with my Dad, but also to be recognized for my accomplishments by our parish.”
Melanie Blaszczak, coordinator of youth ministry for both St. Isaac Jogues and St. John Neumann, Mount Laurel, Parishes, was delighted to create an event that celebrated recent graduates.
Noting that since June 18 was also Father’s Day, she dubbed the dual event “Dads and Grads,” then told why she thought a graduation observance was important.
“Every part of one’s life should be celebrated,” Wallace observed, “including those who are taking the next step in or after an educational journey. We wanted to recognize our parish graduates in some way, even though we were also honoring Father’s Day, and everyone seems to be enjoying it.”
Father Christopher Colavito, parochial vicar in St. Isaac Jogues Parish and chaplain of Holy Cross Academy, Delran, was enthusiastic about starting an annual celebration of graduates in the parish, “especially because they are going down a new aspect of their faith journey.
“We need to remember that Christ has given us all that we have, all our talents and educational abilities, so we have to remind ourselves that Christ is at the center of everything, even our education and that he is helping us make right decisions,” he said.
While Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Trenton, is proud to have nine parishioners graduating from high school this year, Father Cesar Rubiano, pastor, said that a number of them were on hand to be recognized during the parish’s regularly scheduled Thursday evening Mass on June 22.
Telling of how the idea to recognize graduates evolved, Father Rubiano said that last year, a mother had requested a Mass to be celebrated for the intention of her daughter who was graduating from high school. As word spread and more parents started requesting Mass intentions for their sons and daughters, it was decided to designate one Mass to pray for all graduates.
The Mass is not only about showing gratitude to God for the graduates but for their parents as well, said Father Rubiano. “It’s a great opportunity to remind students that God is a part of their lives.”
In his homily, Father Rubiano said he encouraged the young men and women to “trust more in God” and to remain faithful to the Church and their Catholic faith. He also exhorted them to stay away from “trouble that could sometimes be appealing and pleasing,” such as substance abuse and reminded them that in the end, “nothing can give them what they wanted other than the Lord.”
St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, held a special Mass, awards ceremony and barbecue for graduates on June 11.
One award recipient was Brianna McNally, who graduated from Seneca High School and is a member of the parish youth group. McNally was presented with the Diocese’s St. Timothy Award which is given to young people who serve as examples of love, faith and virtue and have provided outstanding service in youth ministry.
McNally was one of 25 teenagers from throughout the Diocese to receive a St. Timothy Award.
Another parish to honor its graduating parishioners was Sacred Heart Parish, Riverton, where at the end of all Masses the weekend of June 24-25, the graduates received a special blessing.