By David Karas and Rose O’Connor | Correspondents
“What are you going to do with your life?”
The question, posed by valedictorian Theresa McGuinness, fell silent on the sea of blue and white. It is likely a question the young graduates had heard many times before, and one they may not have had a ready answer to.
Fortunately for them, they had plenty of sources of advice as they celebrated their graduation.
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Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, celebrated the graduation of its 306-member senior class during a June 9 commencement ceremony in Sun National Bank Center, Trenton, but not before celebrating a Baccalaureate Mass together as a community for one last time the evening before.
When chaplain Father Joseph Jakub celebrated the Mass in the school auditorium, he reflected on his first encounter with the Class of 2013.
“I’ve always had a great fondness for this graduating class,” he said as he addressed the seniors in his homily, “and I say that because four years ago when you entered Notre Dame for the first time, I entered Notre Dame for the first time with you.”
“I remember how nervous you were on your first day of school. You came here and had all sorts of questions that were going through your mind,” he said recalling the anxious freshman as they entered the doors of Notre Dame High School for the first time in 2009.
“Now we come four years later and you stand here a different person. You stand here today with a new sense of confidence. And you have that new sense of confidence because how you have excelled in your academics, how you have excelled in your athletics,” said Father Jakub.
Recognizing that a graduation not only signifies an end of one journey but also a beginning of another, Father Jakub acknowledged the uncertainty of the future and the seniors’ natural response to that uncertainty.
“But even though you have this new sense of confidence you still also stand here with that nervousness. You stand here with that nervousness because you are still not sure what that next chapter of life may hold for you,” he said.
“But you know, you really have all the tools you need to excel. And you have all the tools you need to excel because of what you’ve been given at Notre Dame,” said Father Jakub. For the last four years, you have had great teachers who have pushed you to learn more to accomplish things on your own that at one point may have seemed impossible to do.”
He referenced the Second Vatican Council document, “Gaudium et Spes,” which he summarized “is only in the Mystery of Christ that the human person makes sense.”
“When you know who you are in Christ,” he elaborated, “when you know you are made in God’s image and likeness, when you know you (are) loved by God – when you know those things then you begin to understand in a deeper way.”
The school’s principal, Mary Liz Ivins, also had plenty to say about the graduates and their future callings.
“Each member of our beloved Class of 2013 has God’s work to do. They have something to do that no one else can accomplish in this world. And so although we may want a time to embrace, we must accept that in order for them to be about their father’s work, it will soon be time for them to depart from our embraces.”
During her valedictory address, McGuinness touched on the central role dreams play in life.
“Dreams are an integral part of who we are,” she said, reminding her fellow classmates not to let the judgments or criticisms of others to stand in the way of them achieving their goals.
Salutatorian Conor Peyton, before offering advice to his class, reflected on his time at Notre Dame and one of the things he realized there: “some of the best friends I ever asked for.”
He urged the graduates to remember past experiences for the lessons they hold, whether positive or negative.
The annual commencement ceremony also featured the traditional service presentation, in which representatives of the class present a poster with accomplishments in community service to Father Doug Freer, diocesan vicar for Catholic education. This year, the students performed 16,350 hours.
In his message to the graduates, Father Freer offered some strong advice.
“Find where you are going to be happy, (and) joy filled,” he said. “Think about where God is calling you.”
For Richard Ward, Jr., seeing his son, Richard III progress through his high school years at was gratifying.
“I would say it really helped him to grow,” he said. “He matured at ND, and had a wonderful experience.”
But he wasn’t the only happy parent in attendance.
“We are so grateful to the school,” proud mother and parishioner of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, Carol Porter said of her daughter, Madhura Berman, as she and her husband, Bob Berman, considered the past four years. Berman has been selected to study film in a prestigious program at Purchase College, State University of New York.
“We feel that she got a beautiful education and her faith was strengthened. She was well prepared for college,” she added.[[In-content Ad]]