Posts Tagged ‘Graduation’


Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

I can see the light at the end of the annual “spring” tunnel and so can many of our priests, educators, parish personnel and others engaged in the enterprise of spreading the Gospel in the five counties of the diocese. As I write this, I have four more confirmations scheduled, one cook-out tomorrow night with those few seminarians remaining in the diocese for the summer and the graduation exercise next Monday night for this year’s participants in the Lay Pastoral Ministry effort. I have two commitments outside of the diocese in the next three weeks including a meeting in New York of the Catholic Medical Mission Board on which I serve and an invitation to give the first Bishop Joseph Sullivan lecture as the keynoter at the annual Catholic Health Association Assembly in Chicago. I think I’ll make it! So allow me a few paragraphs to do some summing up of the year in review.

First, I wish to express my profound gratitude to many of you who through comments, e-mails, and letters, etc., shared with me your sorrow for Father Vladimir Dziadek and your concern for myself. No blog entry has achieved the number of comments as did the last posted here and with a single exception of one person who utilized two comment opportunities, all have embraced the twin themes of forgiveness and mercy. Father’s funeral in Poland is today (June 3, 2014) and my Mass this evening will attempt to connect spiritually with those with whom he had familial ties as they grieve his loss. St. Joseph parish under their new administrator, Father Carlos Rojas, is recovering very well with renewed energy and commitment from everyone and that is reassuring.

My annual rounds of the high school baccalaureate Masses (Jesuit, Clearwater Central and Tampa Catholic) and graduations (St. Petersburg Catholic, the Academy of the Holy Names, and Bishop McLaughlin High School) are now history. I have listened to four salutatorian addresses (St. Petersburg Catholic had a tie for this honor), three valedictorian addresses, five lengthy remarks from school principals, and way too many acknowledgments of my presence at the events which reminded me too much of the old days when the bishop was treated like royalty.  I have been impressed with the seriousness of the graduates this year in particular, with the love and admiration they hold both for their sacrificing parents as well as their teachers (quite often mentioned by name) and their references to their basic faith in God. At times it has seemed like a long desert had to be plowed through, arid and with little water of refreshment and regeneration as neither God nor faith nor Catholic nor thanks were extended to those who really deserved the recognition. Don’t know what is currently in the air, but it is refreshing!

There is not much left of summer vacation, even though it has yet to begin. Our seminarians are either in Guatemala or Honduras studying intensive Spanish, in Omaha at Creighton’s Institute for Priestly Formation studying how to be holier, at Tampa General Hospital in Clinical Pastoral Education learning how to listen, or working in parishes with everything from youth ministry to painting. By my count they have only nine weeks until they are back in the seminary, scratching their heads and wondering where the time as gone. Teachers and school administrators are closer to reporting for the new school year today than recalling Easter Sunday and their Spring break. Such is the rhythm of life these days. When I recall that my summer vacation started a day or two prior to Memorial Day and ended a day or two after Labor Day, that was a real summer vacation.

Priests too used to take a month (or if you were from Ireland where there are six weeks in a month) off but now they are lucky to grab a few weeks. There are less of us which means less priests to cover and the shortened summer has shortened most summer vacations for your priests. We seem to all have become prisoners of a new reality which is more occasions of shorter times off. My men work hard for the most part and it is generally acknowledged that few of them take care of themselves in the manner in which they should. Sad really but something of a sign of the times. I wish them the best and begrudge them little. Understandable when a trip home means lengthy and challenging travel such as to Ireland, Poland, India and Africa, the time away should be a little longer as there is no home for these men to go to recover from Christmas and Easter and the mad and merry month of May.

Despite it all, the wonderful work of sharing the “Joy of the Gospel” continues unabated throughout the summer months. Where there was once a full choir at a Mass, there may now be only a cantor and organist; where there once may have been a youth group, there may now be only trips to Cove Crest. The Church, like nature, abhors a vacuum and the Spirit whose coming we recall this coming Sunday leads and guides us. I intend to continue posting from time to time throughout the summer because my mind never shuts down but my episcopal clock is still working its way toward ecclesial midnight. Like Robert Frost, I feel “I have miles to go before I sleep” and with you, to continue to choose “the road less travelled by.” Have a great summer.





Sunday, May 16th, 2010

For centuries the Church has put “funny” hats on its bishops. In our case, they are called mitres and zuchettas (Italian word for the purple beanie). The mitre can be traced back to a certain headgear that was worn by Jewish High Priests but in Catholicism is evolved into a front and back of somewhat triangular shape and various colors. I thought of the mitre today as I presided (without wearing one) at the first of six high school graduations and/or baccalaureate Masses. But we bishops do not have a lock-on distinctive headgear. The traditional headgear of a high school and college/university graduate can be even more distinctive and occasionally troublesome. Of course, I am speaking of the mortarboard or cap worn at graduation ceremonies. The graduate has worked hard at various levels of educational activity for the privilege of wearing a cap and a gown at their graduation. Unlike bishops, they only have to wear them a couple of times in their lifetime and in some graduation ceremonies they can not wait to toss them into the air. Bishops can’t do that – they cost too much for one thing. But in the history of civilization, headgear has often been a sign of accomplishment or office.

The graduation season at the six high schools in the diocese began this Sunday afternoon (May 16th) and for all but last year, I have tried to be present to the graduates and their families at this special moment of achievement. Some of my brother bishops have chosen not to attend graduation or baccalaureate Masses for a variety of reasons but I see it as one last opportunity to accomplish several goals: to briefly remind the graduates that they are being sent to the world to among other things make Christ more present; that the education they have received is a sign of the love for them which their parents or guardians and the Church have as today it comes at considerable financial sacrifice; and, finally, that at least in our Catholic schools, administrators, teachers, and staff also make a big sacrifice to be present to them and help them. It all has to  be done rather expeditiously because the graduating class just wants to get out, get on with the parties and celebrations and get on with their lives. This afternoon I tried to remember who spoke at my high school graduation, who were the salutatorian and valedictorian. Couldn’t! Could not even remember who did it for my college graduation either. So the “who” of graduation day and the “what” he or she said is very transitory.

I did look at the graduates however and I do have the feeling that we have done the best we can for them to prepare them for their next adventure. At least at St. Petersburg Catholic I see them arrive in their freshman year and grow, physically, emotionally, spiritually and educationally. I can tell that their Catholic school experience made some difference. Our schools compete against a lot in the culture and world which teen-agers experience today. High schools do not always win that tug-of-war, but I still think we make enough of a difference that we must be committed to keeping the opportunity available for future high school generations. A sometime endless debate centers on whether or not, if one could have only one, would elementary or high schools be the place where one deposits the greatest investment. At the moment and I hope up to the time I leave, it will never be “either-or” but “both-and.” The elementary schools after all are the principle feeders for the high schools.

To all the graduates of St. Petersburg Catholic, the Academy of the Holy Names, Bishop McLaughlin, Tampa Catholic, Jesuit, and Clearwater Central Catholic, I offer my congratulations but I save my greatest good wishes for those loving parents and guardians and faculties and staffs who make this day possible annually.


Updated: Here are some photos of yesterday’s (5/16/2010) Graduation at St. Petersburg Catholic.

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