Celebrating Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School and Corporate Work Study Program's Class of 2020 at a Baccalaureate Mass that was livestreamed from the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center’s St. Ursula Chapel on May 27, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory encouraged the graduates to remain close to Christ and to their faith as they begin their next journey.

“Your parents sent you to a Catholic school because they believed that this was the very best environment in which to cultivate the virtues that they shared with you at home,” the archbishop said in his homily to the graduates of the Takoma Park, Maryland school. “We believe that in addition to the academic subjects that Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School has so successfully imparted, the values of our Catholic faith will always be of superior importance for your futures.”

As the 95 Don Bosco Cristo Rey class of 2020 graduates head out to different colleges and communities, Archbishop Gregory shared his hopes for them.

“You shall soon inherit the world that we leave you as a legacy, with the unfinished tasks and the too many mistakes that we have made along the way,” he said. “We ask you to cherish the triumphs that we may have achieved as well among those which you yourselves are certainly today’s prime example.”

The archbishop called to mind how in the Scriptures, Christ questions “what a benefit a person attains who might gain the whole world, only to lose his own soul.”

“It is still the very best guiding principle for successful living,” Archbishop Gregory said. “The wisdom has followed all the centuries since Jesus originally cautioned his first disciples with this question, and we have every confidence that it will outlast even this new millennial.

“The future that you will craft will be secure as long as you hold onto that wisdom and faith that lasts beyond millennia and then hand them over to the next generation,” the archbishop said.

Father Michael Conway, a Salesian of Don Bosco who serves as the president of Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, addresses the graduates during the May 27 livestreamed Mass. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

In his message to the graduating class, Salesian Father Michael Conway, president of Don Bosco Cristo Rey, said that even though the students and community were unable to come together in person, “it does not negate the opportunity that we should all take in the midst of our lives… to stop and give thanks to God for His blessings.”

For the Class of 2020, Father Conway said, this will certainly be a memorable time.

“You have remained firm in your commitment to follow through, to finish the race, and to complete the mission and the task for which you came to Don Bosco Cristo Rey – to graduate, to attend college, and to better yourself and your families,” he said.

The graduates of the Catholic high school were each gifted a Bible with their names embossed on the outside as a graduation gift that were delivered to their homes. Father Conway reminded the students that the gift was not just a “book to go on your shelf, to keep dust on…”

“Do not hesitate to open up the Scriptures to allow God’s word of truth to inspire you and to guide you,” Father Conway said.

Archbishop Gregory celebrates the Baccalaureate Mass for Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School's graduating seniors, joined by Salesian Father Michael Conway, the school's president. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Two students also addressed the senior class and parents, faculty and corporate partners watching the Mass, recalling special moments throughout their years in high school and sharing well wishes for each of their classmates as they all head in different directions.

Chima Okafor, a member of  Cristo Rey's class of 2020, said that while varying circumstances brought each of the students together as freshman years ago, their shared experiences ultimately shaped them for the better.

“Most of us came to DBCR because of the unique curriculum and program provided, or maybe it’s because our parents forced us to attend,” Okafor said. “But after all the projects, all-nighters, significant changes to the school that affected us greatly, college applications, tests and quizzes that we only knew of the class before, homework, studying, and greatest of all the COVID-19 pandemic, we made it.

“We finally made it and have grown together to love Don Bosco and become one family,” she said.

Okafor expressed special gratitude to her classmates, whom she said filled her time at Don Bosco Cristo Rey with “laughter, happiness and unforgettable memories.”

“Never let the adversities win, never give up on your dreams,” she said. “Because with God, anything and everything is possible.”

Alexa Paulino-Polanco, another member of the class of 2020 who was asked to address the students via video, said that the class “couldn’t have done it alone,” thanking the parents, teachers, corporate partners and fellow students.

“We have all grown so much as individuals but also as a class,” she said.

Reflecting upon the memorable moments that highlighted each of their high school careers, Paulino-Polanco said that the day of graduation comes long awaited.

“I don’t think any of us were expecting the current pandemic which has affected our entire world,” she said. “As sad as it is we can’t be together to celebrate all of our achievements, know that we all accomplished so much. We should all be very proud.”

At the closing of the Baccalaureate Mass, the school’s principal, Elias Blanco, announced Elkin Segovia as the 2020 recipient of the Archbishop’s Medal. The honor is awarded annually to a graduating senior who exemplifies solid Christian values and is paired with a scholarship of $1,500.  Segovia is a member of St. Bernard of Clairvaux parish in Riverdale Park, Maryland.

At the end of the Baccalaureate Mass, Elias Blanco, the principal of Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, announces Elkin Segovia as the 2020 recipient of the Archbishop’s Medal. In the photo below, Archbishop Gregory holds the medal during the announcement. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)