With family members, classmates and faculty looking on, it’s a proud tradition during the graduation ceremony of The Avalon School in Wheaton, Maryland, to announce the senior selected to receive the prestigious annual Archbishop’s Award for Catholic Citizenship, presented on behalf of the Archdiocese of Washington. This year, on May 22, Avalon senior Patrick De Marchi was to accept the honor as the member of the Class of 2020 recognized for his “personal efforts to live Catholic teachings and principles.”

De Marchi’s Avalon graduation ceremony – postponed for now due to the COVID-19 shutdown – is a milestone he has long anticipated, having attended the all-boys K-12 Catholic school since being a member of the school’s inaugural second grade class in the 2009-2010 school year.

“It’s sad. I’ve been here for so long. It would have been nice to graduate this week,” he told the Catholic Standard. “It’s been hard missing all (the events). Senior year here is the best, especially toward the end of the year.”

Kevin Davern, Avalon’s headmaster, said every year the school’s administration chooses “a student who works hard in the classroom,” as well as one, “who is generous, trustworthy, friendly and pious.” De Marchi, the third of eight children, exemplifies those qualities, he said. 

“Patrick is the oldest boy in a big family and it's a pleasure watching him with his brothers,” he said. “He's an excellent student, an accomplished soccer player and a good friend. Patrick is respected by peers and teachers alike.”

Watching the dramatic news coverage of his parents’ birthplace of Milan, Italy and staying in close touch with his grandparents and many other Italian relatives during the coronavirus disease lockdown there, he only imagined what the United States would soon be facing.

De Marchi recalls turning to some of his fellow Avalon seniors on Friday, March 13 and telling them the thought had crossed his mind that they might have just spent their final day together in high school.

“I said, ‘This could really be our last day,’ ” he said. “I didn’t want to think it was likely, but it actually turned out to be true.”

Looking back on his more than 10 years as an Avalon student, De Marchi said he especially enjoyed the tight-knit, family-like atmosphere in the school community, where he spent most of his childhood. “My favorite part is that it’s small and you know everybody well,” said De Marchi, who played varsity soccer for four years and served as co-captain of the Avalon soccer team this year. 

Hesitant to single out an Avalon teacher who influenced him the most, De Marchi expressed his gratitude to the entire faculty for providing a strong foundation in the Catholic faith and in all the subject areas. “All the teachers are great, very enthusiastic,” he said. “They want to make sure you are doing well and always ready to help.”

When the school closed due to the stay-at-home order in mid March, De Marchi said it was an adjustment at first getting used to remote online classes. Guided by the Avalon School’s motto “Duc In Altum!” (“Put out into the deep!”), the faculty and administration strongly encouraged students to turn the unprecedented shutdown into an opportunity to grow, not only in their studies and their interests, but also in personal holiness. 

De Marchi said he took those words to heart, spending much of his free time reading several books a week on history, the military and science fiction – something he said he rarely had time to do with a heavy course load and extracurricular activities during a typical school year. 

While he said the evenings could be a hectic time during the past several weeks of quarantine, with 10 family members around the dinner table at once, he said most importantly the experience strengthened his own prayer life and that of his family’s – his parents, Dr. Lorenzo and Ilaria De Marchi; his three brothers and four sisters. 

“It definitely gave me more time to pray. We pray the rosary as a family every night,” said De Marchi, a parishioner of Holy Redeemer Parish, Kensington. And thankfully, their prayers were answered, as all of his Italian relatives stayed safe and in good health during the coronavirus lockdown in Milan.

This fall, De Marchi will attend the University of Maryland in College Park, where he plans to major in business management. He is not sure what type of business career he will pursue in the future, but he said he looks forward to the next step of his education – starting college. He said he plans to be active at the university’s Catholic Student Center, helping him remain close to his Catholic educational and spiritual roots – those planted a decade ago at Avalon and nurtured throughout his time there.

“The Catholic faith has played a very important role in my life and (will always) be very important to me,” he said. “I will use it as a guide as I start a new chapter in my life.”