Stories of hope, faith and perseverance from class of 2021
While pandemic altered some school traditions, Visitation senior says faith helped her class endure
Jun 8, 2021
Blain Beyene, a senior at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, recently shared with her classmates a Lenten reflection, describing how the words of St. Augustine and St. Francis de Sales inspired her to see that through faith comes optimism, a much-needed virtue after more than a year of sacrifices and challenges for the class of 2021.
“It’s only through having faithfulness that we can break through the sad realities of our lives, and live in a way that changes them for the better. I love the way Pope Francis puts it. He says, ‘Having faith does not mean having no difficulties, but having the strength to face them, knowing we are not alone,’” said Beyene in her Salesian reflections during the school’s March 25 Stations of the Cross Holy Week service. “I encourage us to remember that even when we feel overwhelmed and lonely, God is always with us.”
During last year’s shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and into the 2020-21 school year, many of the long-held, cherished Visitation in-person traditions – such as their junior ring ceremony or their first day of school senior year celebration - were modified due to the coronavirus safety measures. In her talk, Beyene encouraged her fellow seniors not to lose faith, to find the silver linings and count their blessings.
“Faith is trusting that everything my classmates and I have worked for these last four years, what should have been our glorious senior year, is not lost when it turns into logging onto online classes from our bedrooms and kitchen tables,” she said. “...Faith showed me that quarantining in my home was an opportunity to spend more quality time with my parents before heading off to college; faith allowed me take the opportunity to watch the sunrise with my friends over the Lincoln Memorial on the morning of our first day of senior year instead of complaining about not having a traditional morning celebration outside the Senior Lodge.”
Since she was 11 years old, Beyene said she had dreamed of attending Georgetown Visitation. Not only did that dream become a reality, but she said the past four years have impacted her life in countless ways she could never have imagined. A few weeks before the school’s 221st commencement ceremony, Beyene spoke about what Visitation has meant to her and her gratitude for the education she received at the all-girls Catholic school founded by the Sisters of the Visitation in 1799.
“What made me fall in love with Visitation was the community,” she told the Catholic Standard. “It’s a big family...It absolutely meant everything to me.”
In the classroom, Beyene, 18, credits her junior and senior year English teachers – Peggy Hamilton and Laurie Quirk – for helping her to better understand the power of the written word, to find meaning in education and in everyday encounters. Reading and studying great works of literature, such as Anna Karenina, she said, also opened her eyes to the common human struggles, desires, and life lessons across all cultures throughout history.
She said those classes helped lead her to her future career goal – becoming a journalist who focuses on government affairs. This fall, she will attend Georgetown University, where she will study journalism. Growing up in Washington, D.C.’s Maryland suburbs and attending school in the nation’s capital, is what drew her to combine her love of writing and her hometown’s main industry – the federal government.
During Beyene’s years at Georgetown Visitation, she was involved in several extracurricular activities, such as the Think Pink Club for breast cancer awareness, the Visitation Historical Society and the school’s UNICEF club.
She said she treasured the experience of working with the school’s historical society, especially getting to know the Visitation sisters who live and pray in the monastery on campus and who remain a strong, visible presence to the school community. “It’s been so priceless,” Beyene said. “It’s made me stronger in my faith to be surrounded by the sisters. They are a beautiful testament to what our school was founded on.”
Mary Kate Blaine, Visitation’s principal, said, “From the moment I met Blain at Open House, I knew she possessed remarkable grace and an attentiveness to others that would enhance our community beautifully. Her classmates hold her in the highest regard as a model of the Visitation attributes of faith, vision and purpose we all aspire to.”
Through all her experiences at Visitation – in and out of the classroom – Beyene said her lifelong Catholic faith grew deeper. She also credits a weekly Visitation Bible study group she has participated in since her freshman year as having a positive impact on her faith. She and her parents, Ben and Mercy, are parishioners of Annunciation Parish in Washington, where she also attended elementary school.
As a result of the ongoing pandemic, Visitation operated this school year on a hybrid learning system, in which students were divided into cohorts that alternated between attending in-person classes together for a week and then spending the following week at home in remote classes. Beyene said when all 124 graduating seniors recently returned to campus the joy was palpable. “When everyone came back, you realized there were people you haven’t seen for an entire year,” she said.
As Beyene prepares for her June 8 graduation, she looks back with gratitude for her Visitation education and forward to the ensuing four years at Georgetown University, and she is especially thankful that the university is the next-door neighbor of her much loved, soon-to-be alma mater. “The Visitation community will always be there,” she said.