Last days of school a time of reflection for graduating seniors

As the calendar changed from April into May 2024 the graduating seniors at the four Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools embarked on a series of events leading up to graduation.

The students at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Fort Myers, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, and Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria, were treated to several different rites of passage.

First was the final all-school Mass which included the seniors. This is when the outgoing seniors hand-off their leadership roles to the rising juniors who will be part of the class of 2025. Special blessings were offered at these Masses, praying for the continued health, safety, success of the men and women, but most important was a prayer for their growing in a deeper relationship with the Lord.

At the Cardinal Mooney Mass on May 7, school Chaplain Father Eric Scanlan blessed the class rings, and graduating altar servers and Senior Student Ministry students were recognized. Those ministry students earlier signed the school processional cross in honor of their legacy of leadership and faith. The next day, on May 8, the Mooney seniors took part in a traditional “Clap-Out” day wherein the student body lined up at the exits of the school and clapped as the graduates, wearing clothes signed by their classmates, departed the campus for the final time.

At Bishop Verot the class of 2024 took part in the annual “Senior Sunset” on May 8. As the sun set on the night before their final day of classes, the seniors gathered on the football field for a memorable evening filled with laughter, nostalgia, and heartfelt goodbyes. The highlight of the night was the distribution of yearbooks, where memories were relived and reminisced by everyone. Seniors signed each other’s shirts, leaving their mark as a lasting reminder of their shared journeys. Another great part of the night was when each senior received the letter they wrote to themselves during their Freshman Retreat. Reading these letters, they reflected on their growth, dreams, and the incredible journeys they’ve experienced together at Verot.

In a similar tradition, St. John Neumann hosted a “Senior Sunrise,” on April 30.  As the sun peeked over the horizon, illuminating the new dawn with its golden rays, the students shared laughter, reminisced about cherished memories, and looked ahead excitedly to the adventures awaiting them. The event takes place at sunrise to symbolize the dawn of a new chapter in the graduates’ lives, filled with endless possibilities and bright opportunities.

The events for the graduating class at Donahue Academy are more traditional with each senior receiving special acknowledgement for their part in building the legacy of the school. The school’s Catholic, classical education culminates with its annual Senior Thesis Defense. Students research and write a 15-page paper on a difficult, relevant question answered according to principles of right reason and divine truth, which they must defend in a public forum.

Next up for all graduates is a Baccalaureate Mass, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. During this Mass, their last as a class, the Holy Spirit is invoked, and prayers of thanksgiving are offered to God for the many blessings received by the graduating students and their families. Finally comes their Commencement Exercises, officially marking the students as alumni of their respective Diocese of Venice Catholic school.