Monday night we held the Baccalaureate Mass and graduation ceremonies for the eighth grade from our regional school. While some of you might have been there, I realize that many of you were not. I share with you some (abridged) thoughts from my homily that evening:
It struck me today that I have delivered over thirty graduation speeches/homilies as a priest to date. It’s always quite an awesome opportunity for me. Realizing that you will probably forget what I say to you fifteen minutes after this evening’s ceremonies are over, I hope and pray that you will actually remember something that I say to you tonight.
1. You still have a lot of education ahead of you. Eighth grade graduation is an accomplishment but, unfortunately, you might not even be half way through your formal education. When I was where you are today, I still had twelve more years of school to go before I was ordained a priest. Sorry for giving you the bad news but you most likely have many more years of education ahead of you. Never stop learning, in and out of the classroom.
2. Set realistic goals and expectations for yourselves. When I was young we were encouraged to be anything that we wanted to be. I was told that I could even be the President of the United States someday. While this was encouraging, it was not realistic. There have been not quite fifty presidents since the United States was founded, out of its many millions of citizens. Aspire, rather, to be the mayor of your town, or a Member of Congress, or something that is more realistic. Some of the students that I taught in high school played against and knew Mike Trout. Unfortunately, not everyone had or will have his level of talent and the opportunities to be a professional baseball player like him. Set a goal that you will be able to achieve.
3. Don’t forget where you come from. You are now a graduate of St. Joseph Regional School. Don’t ever forget that. Take that with you through life. There may be a time in your life when you are able to give back to your school or community. Sadly, I think of someone like Lewis Katz who recently died in a plane crash. Mr. Katz, who was from Camden, was known to have given back to that city from his financial resources and tried to help others from what he had. He didn’t forget where he came from.
4. The world doesn’t owe you a living. Neither does your country or your school or your church or even your own family owe you a living. Rather you owe the world something. Make something of yourselves. God has given you life and breath. Do something with your life—make a contribution to this world—that will give honor and glory to Almighty God.
5. Finally and most importantly, try to love Jesus more each day. Incorporated into attending a Catholic School is the opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ as part of your formal education. There is nothing more important or more valuable than developing a relationship with Jesus through prayer. All of the degrees or awards that you may receive in life mean absolutely nothing if we do not one day share eternity with God in heaven. Try to love Jesus more and more each and every day of your life. He will help you and guide you with the many decisions that you will have to make in the future. More than that, He loves you with a tremendous, unconditional love. There is no more valuable lesson to learn in life than that.
Fr. Ed Namiotka