Jun 6, 2014

Holyoke Catholic graduates praised for community service, academic dedication



Story and photos by Sharon Roulier

HOLYOKE – “God has taught us to love one another and to live righteously,” Holyoke Catholic High School valedictorian Breanna Pelski said in her graduation speech during the school’s 52nd Annual Conferring of Diplomas June 5 at St. Jerome Church.

As she and the 67 other members of her graduating class go on to attend college, Pelski said the students would have “the wisdom of God to help us.”

Pelski, who was captain of her school’s dance team, says she chose to make the long commute to Holyoke Catholic in Chicopee each day from her home in Ware after spending her elementary school years as a student at St. Mary School in Ware. She said her parents instilled in her the value of a good Catholic education. She plans to attend Albany College of Pharmacy to pursue a doctor of pharmacy degree.

Members of Holyoke Catholic’s Class of 2014 processed into the church for the 7 p.m. ceremony, held in St. Jerome’s each year since the school was formed in 1963 when three area parish high schools were merged to create the one school.

Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell presented diplomas to the 68 graduates, all of whom were going on to attend college in the fall. The bishop thanked longtime Holyoke Catholic principal Theresa Kitchell for her service at the school. Kitchell is retiring and moving to Tennessee. Roberta Lojko, of Ware, will take over as principal on July 1.

Kitchell recalled a meeting she attended, following the announcement in 2002 that the Holyoke campus of the school would be closing, during which there was talk in the media that the Holyoke Catholic “was not going to survive.”

“Boy, were they wrong,” she said.

Kitchell praised the recent graduates for the hours of community service, dedication to academics and participation in extra-curricular activities. She noted that these characteristics were a tradition at Holyoke Catholic, and were present in alumni of the school, especially this year’s Alumnus of Distinction, Colonel Timothy Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police.

Colonel Alben graduated from Holyoke Catholic in 1977. He told the graduates that he often recalls his years at Holyoke Catholic and the skills he learned, notably the art of writing and communication from Sister of St. Joseph Marlene Mucha, his senior English teacher.

Alben played one of the lead roles in the pursuit of the April 2013 Boston Marathon Bombers.

The salutatorian of Holyoke Catholic was Tyler Cox of West Springfield. Cox attended St. Thomas the Apostle Elementary School and is a parishioner of St. Thomas as well. Kitchell described him as “intelligent, serious and resourceful” and along with having the second highest average in his graduating class; he was captain of the school’s cross country, track and baseball teams. He also served in the Boy Scouts. Cox will attend Northeastern University in Boston and plans on majoring in mechanical engineering.

Iobserve will provide continuing graduation coverage, detailing the commencements of both Springfield’s Cathedral High School and Westfield’s St. Mary High School, which are both being held June 6.