‘You’re each off on your own new journey’
Members of Bethlehem Catholic High School’s class of 2016 filed into the school’s packed auditorium to the familiar tune of Pomp and Circumstance and the cheers of their families and friends during the June 9 graduation.
Graduating senior Charlie Falteich gave the first student address, speaking on a theme common to speeches throughout the ceremony of personal transformation.
Beginning his four years at Beca as a student who did not consider himself very religious, Falteich stated that the ability to freely converse about religion with peers and faculty helped him strengthen not only his faith, but the faith of others as well.
He spoke of the decision to make Christ the center of his life, urging his fellow classmates to do the same.
“If you take only one thing away from my speech, just try to remember that God loves you and his mercy is infinite. He is always willing to strengthen His relationship with you as long as you are willing to do the same. Nothing that you do in this life will you be doing alone. God is always with you if you are open to His calling.”
At the conclusion of the first student address, the 173 students of the class of 2016 were recognized at the 90th commencement ceremony.
Despite the request for silence until all diplomas were awarded, families and friends could not contain their shouts of congratulations to their individual graduates.
Once all newly-graduated students returned to their seats, student speaker Julian Spigner began his address in the form of a break-up speech.
“Dear Beca, I think we need to talk. The past four years with you were nothing short of amazing, but sadly, I think it’s time for us to end things. It’s not you, it’s me. I just need time and space to move on,” he said.
Greeted with laughter from the auditorium, Spigner continued, echoing the self-discovery and strengthened faith mentioned by Falteich.
“Before you, Beca, I would pray just out of simple routine and not really have meaning behind what I was praying for. After my four years of Catholic education, I now know how to pray with meaning and thank God with praise.”
Following his speech, class of 2003 alumna Jennifer Scattene Harding took the stage to welcome the graduates to the community of alumni, challenging each individual “to serve others, to remain open to God and to stay connected to your alma mater.”
Recognizing that within a few months, these new alumni will be scattered across the country, Bishop John O. Barres used his speech to prepare students for the question they are soon to face:
“Wherever it is, you’ll have that moment in August. It’ll be a Sunday and your parents will have left you,” Barres said. “The question will be this: ‘Will I be faithful to the cosmic power of the Catholic Mass?’
He continued, “I ask you from the depths of your heart and soul to make that commitment tonight, to be radically faithful to the Catholic Mass, to be radically faithful to the body and blood of Christ.”
To conclude the speeches for the night, Principal John Petruzzelli listed the graduates’ cumulative achievements, spanning athletics to arts in addition to becoming acquainted with a dimension of faith that students did not know existed.
Taking inspiration from the Lady Antebellum song “I Was Here,” Petruzzelli left students with the message to go out and leave their marks on the world.
“And now it’s time. You’re each off on your own new journey, but you’re prepared for that journey. Go out and do something that matters, that clearly and distinctly says, ‘I was here.’ I have no doubt that you will, and I have no doubt you’ll do it well.”