GRADUATION HOMILY 2011 –
It was in June of 2006 that Bishop Burbidge arrived in North Carolina as our new Bishop. Your class was finishing the 3rd grade. He came to St. Peter’s Church soon. He came to St. Peter’s School as you were beginning your 4th grade. At that time, he articulated his hopes for what a Catholic School should be. He described the type of place he hoped St. Peter’s would be. He had five hopes. That the school would be a place of prayer and that our students would be holy and have a relationship with God. That it would be a place where our Catholic faith is taught soundly and where the students know what it means to be a follower of Christ. That the school would be a place that provided quality education and our students would learn with competence. That our schools be places where vocations to the priesthood and religious life are encouraged and our students understand the uniqueness of that vocation. Lastly, that the school be a place where our students understand that the Church is universal, bigger than a parish.
Students, you have been a wonderful class. You have fulfilled those wishes of our Bishop. I thank you for actualizing Bishop Burbidge’s five hopes. Thank you for making St. Peter’s School a place of prayer. You have been faithful prayer partners to the younger students. I asked one of your teachers to describe the type of class you are. The response was: “This is a special class. They are holy. They pray and are gentle with each other.” You have listened to the teaching of our faith and lived it. I thank you for that. Mrs. King said to me yesterday: “I asked this class a day ago what they received from St. Peter’s. Almost unanimously, there responses included things like – what it means to be a follower of Christ or knowing Christ is always there for you.” Our school is a place of quality education in history, languages, technology, mathematics – in all areas. One of your teachers described you as high achievers, excellent students, highly talented intellectually, athletically and even in singing. You have done well. I thank you for applying yourselves to studies. Certainly, the Bishop’s hope that our school be a place where priesthood and religious vocations are encouraged happens here. I want to emphasize that God has to be calling some of you to serve him by a life solely dedicated to him. I urge you to listen over the next years and give Him whatever He asks. What an honor if he calls some of you to full service as priests and religious. Lastly, the school should give us a sense of the wider Church. I know you have that sense by your service projects of food for the poor, the Giving Tree the soup kitchen and your great love of Blessed John Paul II and Bishop Burbidge.
Yesterday, I saw Mr. Hughes and Mr. Farris going over to the parish hall to have pizza with you. I know how much they have enjoyed you this past year and your cooperation and your goodness. I heard it from them. The teachers will miss you. You are a class that has been very liked and very appreciated. I thank you for being good, for being dedicated to Christ and for being loving toward each other. We are very proud of you. Your class has made us happy.
Dr. Nelson and the teachers and staff have my absolute trust and gratitude for making St. Peter’s a wonderful school. They have my gratitude for the wonderful service and love they show you and all the students. I thank them. But in an even more special way, I want to thank your parents this morning. They made sacrifices to send you here. They wanted you to be educated in a Christian context where you would come to know Christ, his teaching and his life. I thank them for caring so much and for the many sacrifices they had to make over years for you to attend St. Peter’s School.
The Gospel of today’s Mass is fitting. It is actually part of Jesus Farewell Address to his friends. Listen to his words:
“I also love you. Remain in my love. Keep my commandments so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”
He tells us He loves us. We are to cherish that love and live as He taught. Then our joy will be complete. May I just encourage you to continue to grow in appreciation of Jesus and His love. It is more important than anything. This is what will give you joy and peace. This is what will bring you inner joy and happiness. This is what we have wanted to teach you. We want you to be happy and have joy and to get to heaven. Only in Christ is that possible. If you forget Him you miss out on the best part of life. If you find Him and live for Him, you find everything.
Each of you chose a patron saint. I heard your beautiful speeches about each choice on All Saints Day. I was impressed this past week to see that each of you listed your patron next to your name and picture in the Year Book. Today, May 26th, is the feast of St. Philip Neri, the Apostle of Rome in the 1500’s, Demetrius Lee’s patron. Philip Neri was consulted by popes, bishops and rulers and was loved by the poor, the sick and the street people. He was always cheerful. He was always prayerful, always filled with joy. It was because he found and knew Christ. May all of you always remain in Christ and have the joy of the saints, the joy of Jesus which no one can take from you. “Remain in my love. Keep my commandments so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”