Jun 6, 2014

Cathedral High Class of 2014 lauded for perseverance after 2011 tornado



Story and photos by Rebecca Drake

SPRINGFIELD – Brilliant sunshine surrounded St. Michael’s Cathedral, here, this morning.

But it was no match for the bright spirits of the 74 members of the Cathedral High School Class of 2014 who received diplomas during the school’s 130th Commencement exercises.

In her welcoming address, salutatorian Molly Sullivan advised her classmates to remember the importance of faith as they face the challenges that may lie ahead. “”Our Lord is alongside us, helping us,” she said.

As the last Cathedral class to attend the original school building on Surrey Road, she said the 2014 graduates remained united and strong.

Sullivan (right in photo at right) praised the efforts and support of all those who helped the graduates throughout their high school years: parents, family members, administrators and teachers. “It was truly a community,” she said, noting that “all greatly contributed to our success.”

Concluding her address, Sullivan said the educational experience at Cathedral High School has prepared the students “to assume responsible citizenship in the global community… to be people working toward establishing the beautiful and peaceful world that God created.”

“Cathedral High School will remain a part of each of us forever,” she said. “Always remember that you are never alone.”

Sullivan will attend Elms College in the fall and plans to study nursing.

In brief remarks to the students, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno made reference to the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion being marked around the world this week.

“In a smaller way, here at Cathedral, you faced a tumultuous 2011, with the tornado, but you persevered,” he said. He also thanked Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell for his perseverance and patience in planning the rebuilding of the school on the Surrey Road site.

“A new Cathedral will rise very shortly,” Mayor Sarno said, to applause. He also told students, “It’s not the building that defines a school, it’s the spirit.”

Valedictorian Alexis McCrae (pictured at left) invoked the motto of the Class of 2014, “Together as one,” as she gave the farewell address, saying, “Together as one, we survived the tornado… Together as one, we have been through thick and thin… and we remain together as one.”

McCrae said the June 1, 2011 tornado, which devastated the school’s Surrey Road campus, “defined the rest of our experience at Cathedral.”

“In our sophomore year, it was as if we started school all over again,” she said, in reference to the school’s temporary location in the former Memorial School in Wilbraham.

McCrae, who is now headed for Western New England University, also expressed gratitude for the support of the school’s staff and faculty, and, especially, for that of the students’ parents.

“We were given the glorious opportunity to attend Cathedral because of our parents,” she said.

As he prepared to offer the final Benediction, Bishop McDonnell encouraged students to cherish and share their memories of their time at Cathedral – including the tornado and its aftermath – as a testament to the endurance of the school.

“It will be the spirit of Cathedral that goes on, the spirit future generations will come to know,” the bishop said.

Before blessing the students, Bishop McDonnell lifted up the pectoral cross he wore around his neck, explaining that it was given to him by the recently canonized St. John Paul II and repeated the words St. John Paul II often quoted to young people: “’Be not afraid’ – because God is with you.”

After the solemn blessing, “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen,” the bishop paused briefly before his final words to the graduates: “Go Panthers!”

Click here for a photo gallery of today's graduatIon ceremony: http://www.iobserve.org/index.php?mact=Gallery,m6e73e,default,1&m6e73edir=Cathedral-High-School-Graduation-2014%2F&m6e73ereturnid=51&page=51

Iobserve’s graduation coverage will continue with the commencement exercises of Westfield’s St. Mary High School, which is being held this evening. A special news report featuring the graduation ceremonies of the Springfield Diocese’s four Catholic high schools will air on the June 21 edition of “Real to Reel” at 7 p.m. on WWLP-22NEWS.