While many TV series focus on “makeovers” of houses or people’s looks, Catholic education focuses on deepening students’ faith and transforming their hearts, so they can make the world a better place, Archbishop Wilton Gregory told members of the class of 2020 from Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C., during a May 20 livestreamed Baccalaureate Mass.

“While you were wearing those school uniforms, your school was attempting to tell you that your physical appearance was not nearly as important as your interior character,” the archbishop said in his homily. “…Your Catholic education was shaping and forming you into young men and women whose hearts and spirits were the most important objects of your development as people of faith.”

The Mass was livestreamed from the Archdiocese of Washington’s St. Ursula Chapel at its Pastoral Center in Hyattsville, Maryland, with three Archbishop Carroll administrative leaders but no students present, due to government restrictions on the sizes of gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Larry Savoy, Archbishop Carroll High School’s president and a 1993 graduate of the school, offered a welcome at the beginning of Mass, noting that it was the 66th Baccalaureate Mass for Archbishop Carroll, which was founded in 1951 and is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington. A virtual graduation ceremony will be held for the 77 young women and men in Archbishop Carroll’s class of 2020 on June 8.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to end our year with Mass,” said Savoy, who added, “Remember, even though this is virtual, God is always present.”

As he stressed the graduates’ interior growth, Archbishop Gregory also noted the different circumstances for this year’s Mass.

“Under ordinary circumstances, we would be gathering in a large venue for a festive celebration with parents and grandparents and siblings to witness you dressed in your finest,” he said. “Archbishop Carroll High School has spent the last four years trying to help all of you dress for success, not with more attire, but more importantly, from the inside out.”

Archbishop Gregory added that “even in this most unusual time, I am sure there are many happy memories that each one of you must have of your high school years at Archbishop Carroll… One of those memories, I pray, was the deepening awareness of your own talents, abilities and obligations to make a difference in the world in which we live.”

The archbishop said their education at the Catholic high school was concerned “with profound and lasting inner conversions that would result in forming truly holy and generous young men and women.”

After the homily, Maeve Gilheney-Gallagher, the director of campus ministry at Archbishop Carroll offered prayers for the school community, and also for Christ’s healing for those suffering from the coronavirus. She also prayed “for the members of the class of 2020, may Christ dwell in the hearts of our graduates, so they will be rooted and grounded in His love…”

After Communion, Archbishop Gregory blessed the small crosses that are traditionally given to each graduate of Archbishop Carroll High School. He prayed that God will “bless these crosses and those who wear them.”

Archbishop Gregory blesses the crosses that will be given to the Archbishop Carroll High School graduates. He offered the blessing at the end of a May 20 livestreamed Baccalaureate Mass for Carroll's class of 2020. At left is the archbishop's priest secretary, Father Conrad Murphy. (Screen capture,/Andrew Biraj)

Then Archbishop Carroll’s principal, Elana Gilmore, announced that Ihuaku Joseph, a member of the school’s class of 2020, is this year’s recipient of the Archbishop’s Medal for Excellence given annually to a Carroll senior. Recipients of that honor receive a medallion and a $1,500 college scholarship.

Carroll’s principal praised Joseph for witnessing to her Catholic faith through her peer ministry leadership, by serving as an altar server and lector at school Masses, and by her community service there. 

“She embodies the joyful and dedicated spirit of a servant leader, and her example serves as inspiration to others. During her time at Carroll, Ihuaku has made an indelible mark on both her fellow students and the school culture,” Gilmore said. “…Her passion for the Catholic faith and dedication to serving God and her community makes Ihuaku uniquely worthy of receiving the Archbishop’s Medal of Excellence.”

After the closing prayer at the Mass, Gilheney-Gallagher addressed the Archbishop Carroll graduates, saying, “I’ve seen the face of God reflected in each one of you. My prayer is for you to remember that you were beautifully and wonderfully made in God’s image, and that you use every day to strengthen your relationship with Him.”

She then recited a prayer by Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk and noted writer and social activist who died in 1968. Merton’s prayer included the words, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me,” and it emphasized trusting that God “will lead me by the right road” and is “ever with me.”

Carroll’s principal Gilmore recited the poem “A Graduate’s Prayer” by Mary Fairchild, which included the lines:

“…Your Word will be a lamp for me,
 A guide to light my way,
 A solid place to set my feet,
 A compass when I stray.

“May I live my life to praise You,
 Not for fortune, nor for fame,
 May everything I say and do
 Bring glory to Your name…”

Larry Savoy, the president of Archbishop Carroll High School, addresses members of the school's class of 2020 in closing remarks after the May 20 Baccalaureate Mass. (Screen capture/Andrew Biraj)

In his closing remarks to the members of Archbishop Carroll’s class of 2020, Savoy noted the tradition of graduates receiving a cross from the school.

“It’s a symbol to everyone that shows you are a child of God, and that you are working to make sure you are a beacon of hope that this world needs,” he said.

Savoy expressed appreciation to the Catholic high school’s faculty and staff for their efforts to continue providing an education to the school’s students this spring while campuses were closed due to the coronavirus restrictions.

Noting Archbishop Carroll’s mission statement which emphasizes providing students with a college preparatory education and also fostering the growth of their faith so they can love and serve God and others, Savoy said, “We completed that mission for the class of 2020. We told those families as they entered for their 9th grade year that we will prepare your young people for college and the world after, and we have done that.”

Savoy noted that 100 percent of the 77 graduating seniors in Archbishop Carroll High School’s class of 2020 have been accepted into college.

“We are continuing to change the trajectory of young people’s lives,” he said.

Carroll’s president emphasized that even though they couldn’t be together with students due to the coronavirus preventive measures, “We want you to understand we’re wrapping our arms around you because we care.”

Moments earlier Savoy had noted, “You may be a little down, and I totally understand that feeling because I would have loved to have been with you,” but he added, “the love of God fills this room.”

As he closed his remarks, Savoy offered a challenge for Archbishop Carroll High School’s graduating seniors.

“Class of 2020, I challenge you to go out and serve God with a purpose,” Savoy said.  “Make sure you are advocating for the one who doesn’t have a voice. Make sure you are changing the world for good.”