The Holy Spirit Makes All Things New

Introductory Remarks, Headmaster Derek Tremblay

On behalf of the soon-to-be graduates, their parents, and the faculty of Mount Royal Academy, I welcome you to the 2019 commencement exercises.

I keep looking back over previous commencements to make sure I don’t say the same thing. Sorry in advance if you have heard some version of this before. Mr. McMenaman did comment at the Senior Dinner that good teaching requires repetition.

Before we begin, there are two elements to this particular commencement that are unique. I can never recall a commencement that coincided with the Easter season, and occurred during the Pentecost novena. Liturgically, there is nothing more appropriate or fitting. The Apostles were a group of misfits, ordinary men. In fact it was the women who had to keep the Apostles in line; they stayed by Jesus as he ascended Golgatha, they found his empty tomb then hurried to tell Peter and John; and Mary, the mother of Jesus stayed in the Upper Room beckoning the Apostles to heed the word of her son: await the Holy Spirit.

This graduating class also features a similar dynamic: the ladies have been keeping the men in line since eighth grade.

Those who intend to discredit the gospel narratives will often point to the fact that the Apostles manufactured the resurrection story because they were so devasted by the loss of Jesus. But if you really look at the season of Easter, we discover that the Church founded by Jesus is full of foibles. These men have no rational grounds for making up the story of Jesus. What is clear is that a physical encounter with the resurrected body of Jesus inspired these men to leave their place of hiding and enter the public sphere in a profoundly courageous manner. There is no better example than Peter and Paul: Peter the beloved friend and betrayer of Jesus, who unified the early Christians by accepting the will of God to evangelize the Gentiles; and then Paul, the man who went from intentionally killing Jesus’ followers to become the zealous defender of Christ’s teachings.

If you wanted to concoct the biggest scheme in history to fool the human race, I don’t think you would start your campaign by recruiting uneducated and hot-headed men with no credibility, then appointing a mass murderer to become the primary spokesperson.

What changed the men and women of the early Church? They received a real and transformational force inside of them, better than any Avenger superpower, the very presence of God in the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit can make all things new.

Besides the timing of this commencement, there is also another providential sign. Two of these graduates will have started and finished their education at Mount Royal Academy. This is uncommon but it serves as the most reliable indicator of success. How do we measure success here? Have you grown in virtue? Is your intellect refined and clear? Do you desire to grow in holiness? And if we refer back to the moment of Pentecost, we see that these indicators of success are not always happening according to our plan, but more so God’s providential wisdom. His timing never fails.

Our keynote speaker is Ms. Katie Meehan. She served here for more than a decade, starting as elementary teacher, then going home for some years to start her family, and finally returning in a leadership role. I always knew she would be heading somewhere else to lead a school. Ms. Meehan just finished her first year as principal at St. Catherine of Siena in Manchester. Her family has always been passionate about Catholic education – her father founded Northeast Catholic College and served as President. She is here today because she formed quite a bond with this class and I can think of no better person to teach you our parting lesson.

St. Joseph Award, Headmaster Derek Tremblay

The junior high and high school faculty select one student from grades 6-8 and one student from grades 9-12 each year to receive the St. Joseph award. As our school’s patron, St. Joseph remains a faithful intercessor and model of holiness.

We have no words from St. Joseph recorded in the bible; only action, and action that is always determined by listening to the will of God. His selfless spirit and courageous virtue cause us to honor him as patron of the family.

The student who receives this award radiates the spirit of St. Joseph. This spirit is most evident by outward action, but originates in the inner sanctuary of the human heart.

St. Joseph sort of tugs at our hearts: we only see what he does but we often wonder – because he never spoke – what went on inside his head. How could he just get up and leave his homeland with his newborn Son? How could he possibly believe the angelic messenger who communicated God’s will for Joseph to remain with Mary?

In a similar manner, this student causes me to ponder: how does she do it? Her graceful demeanor is what we see. I have seen her each morning, in an unusual but wonderful circumstance. I watch the way she loves her siblings and speaks to them with such a saintly voice. I can only surmise how she does it; she does what she does because the spark of faith is truly alive in her heart. And for that reason, Nonah Dowsett is being honored with the St. Joseph award.

Semper Altius Award, Headmaster Derek Tremblay

The highest award bestowed on a graduating student is the Semper Altius award. In Latin, it means “always higher”. The student who receives this award models academic, moral, and spiritual excellence.

I am sure we are all familiar with the phrase, “you only get out of something what you put into it.” Here, the statement simply means mission buy in. Do you buy in to the mission? Do you understand what we are doing here? Do you want to be on mission with us?

I have honestly never known a student with more mission buy-in. It isn’t even worth noting her academic accolades and concrete contributions to the mission. We can’t really hide our inner selves from the world. Whatever is happening on the inside always makes itself known on the outside.

When I think of this student, all I can think of is the purity of her heart. It is a purity that I can’t quite comprehend. In a somewhat strange combination, this purity is matched with a determination to improve, but many of us may have missed that about her; we only see what she does. We don’t how much she desires to grow in holiness. There is no stagnancy in her soul; for those of us who hit the lukewarm spots, we can look to her for inspiration.

This purity and determination lead to the only logical consequence: she simply does not care about her own needs. Virtue comes almost effortlessly after we clean out our insides with such tenacity: that is what she taught me.

In all honesty, her and I had it out on several occasions. I wasn’t sure I made the best comments, but she kept coming around. That is not a very common experience in the life of any parent or educator. Sometimes we press harder, and they run faster the other direction. Jacinta seemed to find her way back to all the most unlovable parts of me, and I really don’t know what the future looks like here without her. I do know her purity makes her a person of integrity. She never wavers in what she was about, which clearly isn’t herself. And because of that, she is her most authentic self, about as real as it gets.

This year’s Semper Altius award recipient, Jacinta Hogan.  

Closing Remarks, Headmaster Derek Tremblay

Before we finally send you onward, I just wanted to leave you with a final suggestion. On Thursday, I commented on your impressive ability to detect those causal connections in life. God has established an order to reality, and once we accept first truths it leads to others. Your senior thesis presentations solidified that you have received an adequate formation in truth, and even your comments at senior dinner made it clear that you know what you have learned.

So how do we accept the truth? How do we make it our own?

The next step is not the easiest.

I think back to my own education. If certain truths didn’t line up for me, I would still be somewhere outside God’s sanctifying grace.

But the completion of that line is simpler that we think: Jesus asks us for a total gift of self. Fr. Biron referenced the loving gaze of the Father as this: God can’t take his eyes off us, that is the depth of his love.

If I could point back to the reflections of Jacinta and Erin, how do you respond to those who love you?

You give your whole self for the one you love. You hold nothing back. And you make it a forever gift of you.

How do you respond to the God who loves you and sustains this very moment of our existence?

You talk to him. You pray, and you make prayer a priority in your life.

What I have learned most about prayer is that it makes you real. You can’t fake it, and that is how you know your act of faith is genuine. You speak to God even when you don’t see him with your bodily senses.

I have two personal favorite prayers, the first we heard last night. Mary’s song of praise to God, the Magnificat. The Church always concludes the day the recitation of the Magnificat in the liturgy of the hours.

I am going to leave you with my second favorite prayer – Psalm 51, which the Church recites at the beginning of each Friday in morning prayer.

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
 In your compassion blot out my offense.
 O wash me more and more from my guilt
 and cleanse me from my sin.

 My offenses truly I know them;
 my sin is always before me.
 Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
 what is evil in your sight I have done.

 That you may be justified when you give sentence
 and be without reproach when you judge.
 O see, in guilt I was born,
 a sinner was I conceived.

 Indeed you love truth in the heart;
 then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
 O purify me, then I shall be clean;
 O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

 Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
 that the bones you have crushed may revive.
 From my sins turn away your face
 and blot out all my guilt.

 A pure heart create for me, O God,
 put a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not cast me away from your presence,
 nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

 Give me again the joy of your help;
 with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
 that I may teach transgressors your ways
 and sinners may return to you.

 O rescue me, God, my helper,
 and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
 O Lord, open my lips
 and my mouth shall declare your praise.

 For in sacrifice you take no delight,
 burnt offering from me you would refuse,
 my sacrifice, a contrite spirit
 A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

 In your goodness, show favor to Zion:
 rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
 Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
 holocausts offered on your altar.

Even William – our sage marriage counselor – got it right. Communication is the key to all relationships. Communicate with your Creator and I can assure you whatever circumstances beset you, you will achieve that inner sense of joy which no one can take from you.

Ladies and gentleman, let’s give one last round of applause for the Class of 2019.

President of Junior High Student Government, John-Paul Treece

For those of you who do not know me, which is probably not very many, my name is JP Treece.  I want to start off by saying, this year was great!   I can speak for all of us --- this was the best year yet, not just because we got out early or anything. 

First off, we would like to thank our parents for sending us to this school.  We know you sacrifice your time and talents to keep us here, and we are forever grateful!  You, along side Mount Royal, have helped us to prepare for high school and to be the best versions of ourselves. Finally, we are thankful to God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon our class as individuals and as a whole.  

This school year we learned the importance of community and teamwork. The community at Mount Royal is amazing!  We are practically one big family.  A small example of this is from this past week.  To celebrate the graduates, the seniors and 8th graders walked around the campus with their kindergarten buddies.  All the other students filled the halls and sidewalks, clapping, cheering and yelling at the top of their lungs for us!  

Another example is our class with Dr. Bellino.  I think we all learned a lot about teamwork.  Our class had a competition with the juniors’ physics class to build and launch a trebuchet, which is basically a giant catapult.  Our class launched the furthest and we won, but without teamwork it would not have been possible to whoop the other class…  just kidding guys, we love you juniors!

This year we also learned many lessons, even if they were simple, like to be more responsible with our work, to come in on time, and to be prepared for class.  All of the teachers helped us along the way with so many things, like homework, even though they didn’t have to help us, they still did and we are thankful for each and every one of them. 

Each teacher influenced us in different yet impactful ways.  Thank you to our teachers this year,  Dr. Bellino….. Ms. Hurd…….Ms. Lamontagne….Ms.McKenna…..Mr. Mihaly…..Mrs. Ouellette…….and Dr. Sansone, for your tremendous work and dedication in molding us into better people.  

We all had a fun year and we are happy that we are going to high school.  We will carry these lessons with us into our future years and we are now even more prepared for the road ahead of us because of this year. 

Thank you!

President of High School Student Government, Jacinta Hogan

I want to start, of course, by thanking God for this education, this family, this opportunity. This school started on a prayer and an idea and I can say that after 25 years under the guidance of Our Lady and St Joseph I am proud that I got to grow up within it. My class is happy to stand before you today as a sign of what this school has come to accomplish. 

But, getting to this point has taken a lot of people. So now all of us say thank you mom and dad. Your sacrifices behind the scenes and in the home are the foundation upon which all of us stand. Without you, we would not have gotten the gift of such an education.

Next, we thank our teachers and mentors. All of you up here and any who taught us before have helped us mature intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. The list we could create of every lesson each of you has shared with us would be too great, so I’ll keep it brief: there is a meaning behind everything. 

If it was showing every step on a math problem or not missing a single detail history short answer question, this it was a lesson on not cutting corners. If it was memorizing poetry or Latin declensions, then it was what Dr Kalpakgian called a mental workout. If it was learning all of the grammar rules and fulfilling the word count, then it was learning how to explain ourselves well. If it was participating in mass and rosary each week, then it was a lesson in beginning and ending everything we do in God. 

The list goes on and on, but each is just as important as these. I will forever be grateful for my time here, each of us will be. I’m going to leave you all with a quote. A few of us actually debated over who got to use it in the yearbook as the senior quote. And, yes it is the same quote that Erin just read. When we wrote are speeches and realized that we had used the same quote, we needed to find a solution. My mother suggested that we both keep it because it speaks to the impact that this quote had on our class. It is a lesson that we all remember and one that will hopefully always remain in the back of our minds in everything that we do. So, in the words of Dr Kalpakgian, before you do anything, ask yourself “what would those who I love and respect expect and want me to do now?” Thank you and God bless. 

President of National Honor Society, Erin Diebold

Good morning and thank you all for coming to to this ceremony to honor the class of 2023 and this year’s graduating class of 2019.  My name is Erin Diebold.  As many of you know, this year is an important and monumental one for Mount Royal Academy, this year being it’s 25th anniversary.  Many of you will also remember the incredible amount of work that was put into this school in its infancy.  There’s an old Irish saying that comes to mind when I think of the years that have gone by and those that are to come.  It is “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.”      

25 years ago this school was established by a few founding families, the Bockos, Bellavances, and Stouts, amongst others.  This was the “Builder” generation.  These families endured many setbacks and hardships, but they worked hard and persevered through everything so that their children could receive an education that was both academically and spiritually strong.  Mount Royal began in the Newport hospital, and then was moved to the old inn that some of us here today are familiar with.  In fact, 14 years ago when I began preschool here, the only building on campus was the old inn.  It’s funny the things kids remember, I don’t remember what specific classroom I was in, or the names of every classmate, but I do remember the fun times playing hide and seek in all of the hidden hallways and closets, having Mass and Rosary in the Great Room, and playing ping pong in the art-room. The “builder generation” worked hard and made sacrifices, so that their dream of this school could become a reality.    

The second generation is the generation that this graduating class is a part of.  We are the “growers” generation.  When we were in elementary school, Mount Royal Academy had a major expansion, which was possible through the generosity of the Broom family and other benefactors.  Mount Royal would not be where it is now without these amazing individuals.  Our generation has been taught the importance of hard work by witnessing everything the previous generation has done for us.  For example, Mr. Tremblay has coached soccer and basketball for the girls in this class since I was in 7th grade.  He has driven all across the state, even to the border of Canada for one game.  He has sacrificed time with his family to coach us, and for that we are extremely grateful. Mr. Tremblay, thank you for being our coach and on behalf of the girls varsity basketball team, I apologize for any grey hairs we my have given you.  I believe my class has lived up to our “grower generation” status, as in our sophomore year we transitioned to varsity basketball, and this past year we did the same for soccer.  We have benefited from the builder generation and we will not sit back and let the hard work have been for nothing.  This year we lost an amazing teacher, Dr. Kalpakgian.  He taught so many valuable lessons.  He once told my class that if we are ever in a situation that we are unsure of, we should just think, “What would those whom I love and respect expect me to do now?”  This generation has been taught by the builders how to achieve our goals, and we hope to make everyone whom we love and respect proud.

The saying, “Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves in three generations” implies that everything comes full circle; that the third generation squanders what has been made.  They do this because they have no memory of the hard work and sacrifices that were made to make this school possible.  However, I am confident that Mount Royal will not witness the completion of this cycle, and I challenge the class of 2023 to ensure that the school continues to grow.  I know that you will meet this challenge by staying strong in your studies, morals, and faith.  My class recently planted a maple tree as our senior gift, and I would like to ask the class of 2023 to care for this tree as you would our school.  Continue to do this and there will be a 50th anniversary and a 100th anniversary in the school’s future.

Hopefully the graduation of the class of 2019 does not mark the end of the 2nd generation, and graduating classes of the future will continue to treasure and recognize the work that the builder and grower generations put into the creation of Mount Royal Academy.  Graduation is a both happy and somber occasion.  It is sad to think that we will be leaving this amazing school, but it is joyful to think that we are taking the next step in our lives.  I believe I can speak for my whole class when I say that Mount Royal Academy has prepared us all for our futures, and we will miss this school dearly.  Thank you all for coming.  

Keynote Address, Ms. Katie Meehan

Good morning. I’d like to thank Mr. Tremblay and the faculty and staff for inviting me today. I’ve missed being here this year and am honored to be part of graduation. I hope the rest of you don’t mind that I’m gearing this to the kids, since this is their day and they are the only thing on earth that gets me voluntarily on a stage.

Eighth grade, congratulations on all your hard work. I was thinking the other day about your sixth grade year transitioning from elementary school and how every new expectation caused complete panic, and am so impressed with where you all are today. Sometimes eighth grade graduation gets downplayed when it takes place alongside high school, but leaving elementary and junior high behind you is an important milestone. Sadly, you are leaving behind recess and boys, you now have to learn to tie a real tie, but I know you’re up for the challenge of high school. A hallmark of your class has been your sometimes competitive but always consistent commitment to academics and I hope you hold onto that quality throughout the next four years. Congratulations, eighth graders.

Seniors, when Mr. Tremblay first asked me to do this, I was both honored to be part of your special day and at a complete loss at to what to say. Googling popular commencement speeches put me into an even deeper panic. Oprah and Bill Gates and Denzel Washington give inspirational “if you just make your bed every morning you’ll own a Fortune 500 company someday” kind of stories, and you know that’s not really my speed. Spoiler: I have no groundbreaking advice, no story that will bring a tear to your eye, basically nothing that you haven’t already heard. Alexis told me this should be less than five minutes and assured me that “nobody wants to hear smart things” so that took a lot of pressure off. Eventually I realized I should probably just say what I would say if we were sitting in the office together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is I most hope you take with you from your experience here. I know that at times you’ve felt this place was a huge drag, too constricting, too small, too many rules, and it would be so much more fun someplace else. But I also know that some of your best memories occurred because of that. Where else would you have stories revolving around whose contraband hoodie sent Mr. Tremblay over the edge that morning or whether Jerusalem cruisers count as school shoes or your inherent right as seniors to sit in the back at mass? Some of my favorite memories of your class come from all that togetherness too…junior year sculpture class, watching you figure out how to babysit the kindergarten that afternoon, and my Mother’s Day manatee mug.

Some of what makes Mount Royal special is that which you pushed against most:  people who care deeply about you, enough to call you out on your stuff and demand more of you as a person. Hopefully you walk away with the realization that you are capable of something great, and if you do it’s because of your parents and the people sitting behind me. As I was listening to the faculty speak at senior dinner, it dawned on me that you’d be hard pressed to find a more dedicated group of teachers than the ones you’ve been fortunate enough to have.

Since this is your commencement speech I feel obligated to provide you with some reminder along the lines that you are at the beginning of your story and it’s time for you to forge your own path and you have the ability to change the world…all of which I believe is true. But what I hope most for you is that whatever you do you do big and give generously. Life is wasted in doing things halfway. Always be all in and leave it all on the court. If it crashes and burns, that’s ok, but don’t waste your talents being paralyzed by fear. This is where I should quote the Bible or a saint, but I know it will be more meaningful for you in the words of Tony Stark: “Sometimes you gotta run before you walk.” Every one of you has a gift that’s meant to be used for others and the only way you will ever find true happiness is in giving of yourself unselfishly and in a big way. When you find yourself unhappy or dissatisfied with your life, look around you and find someone who needs your help and I promise things will be better.

Graduation is always bittersweet, I think. Obviously, we celebrate your accomplishments and all the possibilities ahead of you, but there’s also a loss to the school community when a group moves on. Each class has a personality of its own and, as diverse a group as you are, you have always stepped up for the school and the other kids, some in more obvious ways and others behind the scenes. For me personally, you’ve brought fun and laughs on some otherwise crummy days, impressed me time and again with your thoughtfulness, and given me some of my most rewarding experiences here. I want to commend you for all you’ve brought to this school: your leadership and your spunk and being the kind, funny, smart, helpful and generally wonderful kids that you are. I know I speak on behalf of the faculty when I say we love you, we’re proud of you and we’re always here for you. Congratulations, you guys.