The 302 members of the Bishop O’Connell High School Class of 2022 head out into the world “looking to the future with fresh eyes” after having “accomplished something remarkable,” salutatorian speaker Caroline Raymond told her classmates June 2 at commencement ceremonies held at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
“The community of Bishop O’Connell is truly special,” she said, noting that her class had provided more than 6,000 hours of service over the past year, caring for “the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Raymond was among speakers who extolled the virtues of a Catholic education and the shared experiences of those who have lived it.
“Life is full of blessings – just look around,” said her fellow class member, Matthew Brown, who delivered the valedictory.
“Everyone in this room has endured much to get here,” Brown said. “You sacrificed temporary pleasures as you worked slowly toward a long-term goal.”
O’Connell head of school Bill Crittenberger used his time during the commencement exercise to laud the “brilliant, beautiful and Christ-centered” members of the graduating class.
It was a group transformed into a band of brothers and sisters who served as a “critical bridge” through the COVID era, leading by example with “positivity, mojo, love for one another and swag – yes, lots of swag,” Crittenberger said.
“We love you and feel deeply about you,” he said during a program that was also livestreamed to hundreds watching across the country and, in some cases, around the globe.
Rev. Michael Burbidge, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, told the soon-to-be-graduates – clad in deep-blue caps and gowns – they had earned the right to celebrate.
“You persevered,” he said. “Rejoice in this accomplishment.”
But at the same time, Burbidge advised, “make sure it’s not in vain, that it’s all worth it.”
“Be a faithful follower of Christ,” he said. “Stay strong and steadfast in faith. Never compromise who you are and what you believe.”
Members of the Class of 2022 received more than $29 million in college scholarships, and five graduates are headed to service academies: Kylee Coleman and Eric Olsen to the U.S. Air Force Academy; Job Grant to the U.S. Naval Academy; and Beatriz de los Heros de Uriarte and Luke Olsen to the United States Military Academy.
The ceremony was the 62nd in the school’s history. A total of 32 graduates were children of alums, while 44 received a Global Studies certificate, recognizing the equivalent of another full semester’s worth of work outside the classroom.
Rev. Gregory Thompson, the O’Connell chaplain, asked students to thank the “parents who have sacrificed so much,” while Brown told his classmates that the best way to honor the efforts of their teachers and others who supported them on the journey was to “translate their lessons into good works.”
“This world is a scary place,” the valedictorian said, pointing to a host of seemingly intractable woes. “It will be up to our generation and those that we raise to solve them.”
After diplomas were bestowed, principal Frank Roque spent a few minutes taking the 2022 graduates on a trip back to his own high-school days, recalling his decision to take an introductory-Latin course in his senior year, something to do to pass the time before graduation.
The instructor was a no-nonsense 80-year-old who foisted an hour’s worth of homework per night onto her students – seniors included.
“She changed me for the better,” Roque said. “I loved being in her class even though I didn’t get good grades. We hit it off. She filled me with joy. I was not that lovable, yet she did. She changed me for the better.”
The teacher died unexpectedly not long after his graduation, and one of her colleagues phoned Roque at home to tell him both of her passing, and how much he had meant to her as a student.
The students of today should work hard to foster relationships, even offbeat ones. “Bring joy to somebody else – hopefully many others,” Roque said. “That would be the greatest gift.”