Summary1,000 graduates, friends, and families traveled from across the U.S., Canada, Guatemala, Qatar, and the Philippines to recognize the achievements of a remarkable band of homeschooling students and parents.
It’s two o’ clock in the afternoon, Saturday May 26, and the scores of vehicles parked around Skyline High School in Front Royal, Virginia, bear license plates from around the continent: Ontario, Texas, California, New York, Louisiana, and 25 other states.
Inside the school, in a packed auditorium seating 950 people, are 123 graduates of the Seton Home Study School, class of 2018, and their families and loved ones who have come to witness this rite of passage.
The festivities celebrating this graduation began the previous afternoon under bright blue skies, when many of these students and their families gathered at Seton. Here were tours of the school, bouncy houses for the little ones, horse and burro rides, a tent for the participants in the chess tournament, and a refreshment tent boosting popcorn, snow cones, soft drinks, and 180 pizzas.
Seton employees mingled with parents and their children. Students who had communicated online through Catholic Harbor or Seton’s Chess Club met one another, sometimes for the first time, and became acquainted face-to-face. Others engaged in a lively game of soccer.
That evening, many graduates and their parents attended a reception at Christendom College, where they again visited with teachers and counselors from Seton, exchanged homeschooling stories, and traded phone numbers and email addresses to keep in contact with one another.
A Day of Gratitude
Then came Saturday. Following Mass, the graduates and families gathered at the high school. After donning caps and gowns and going through a practice run, the graduates processed into the auditorium.
Deacon Gene McGuirk, head of Seton’s counseling department, delivered the invocation, followed by Mary Ellen Barrett, an editor of Seton Magazine, who welcomed everyone to this event, saying “a day like this fills us with gratitude” and reminding the graduates to “take a moment to look at the people in front of you, your parents.”
For the first time in the past twelve graduations sponsored by Seton, two current graduates addressed the gathering. Maria Miller from Sandwich, Massachusetts, credited Seton and her parents with teaching “what is noble and good” and that it was now “time to be a light to others.”
Kyle Fletcher of Rockwall, Texas, drew a laugh from the crowd when he mentioned the rigors of a Seton education, then went on to praise Seton’s approach to religion, partially crediting the school with his decision to enter Holy Trinity Seminary at the University of Dallas this fall.
Dr. Mary Kay Clark then gave a rousing address, saying at one point “I am looking at some of the very best teachers in America. I am looking at some of the very best parents in America.” Much of her speech focused on the need for more individuals like Saint Paul in our fallen world, Catholics who can take punishment and even death while loving their enemies and remaining true to their Faith.
Commencement speaker Mr. H. James Towey, President of Ave Maria University, a former White House adviser, and a personal friend of Saint Mother Teresa, delivered his address with wit and grace.
He spoke of the good God can do through small deeds, reminding students that “greatness isn’t goodness,” and advised the new graduates “never to give up” in endeavors important to them. Mr. Towey concluded by urging his audience to make prayer in their lives “a first resort, not a last resort,” using as his example the prayer life of Mother Teresa.
Deacon McGuirk then handed out the diplomas and closed the commencement with a benediction, blessing both the students and their families.
But the day was not yet over. Proud families gathered around their graduates in the school hallways and lunchroom, snapping pictures in a space arranged by Seton and enjoying a delicious spread of sandwiches, shrimp, fruit, cheese, and other delightful dishes. Afterwards, many graduates, their friends, parents, and siblings, attended a dance in the school’s gymnasium.
During her address, Dr. Clark mentioned that the promise of “a new springtime for the Church,” a phrase much used during the Pontificate of Saint John Paul II, may yet be fulfilled by the prayers and deeds of all Seton graduates.
Looking at the shining faces of these young adults on this commencement day, one can only agree with Dr. Clark.
Congratulations then to all of our graduates everywhere!
Catholic Harbor, Seton Home Study School’s gathering place for its high school students, has become a tremendous hit. This online student-moderated site allows students to interact with one another safely in such forums as Literature and Creative Writing, Sports, Debates, and Spiritual Life.
Enthusiasm for this latest Seton innovation ran high among the graduates who attended the commencement ceremony at Seton this past May.
Annie Romito of Ohio credits Seton with helping her develop her composition skills, grinned when asked about Catholic Harbor. “It’s really nice to interact with other kids that way,” she said.
Her friend Regina Peters of Massachusetts, who will attend the University of Massachusetts to study ecological biology, quickly agreed with Annie. “I like being able to meet new people,” she said, “and the Harbor lets me do that.”
Other students also credited Catholic Harbor with introducing them to new friends and offering a fun, safe way to meet them.
If you haven’t yet checked out Catholic Harbor, give it a look-see.