For the first time in months, and for the final time in their lives, the close-knit St. John Neumann Catholic High School Class of 2020 gathered as a group on July 16, 2020 for a Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement Exercises at St. Agnes Parish in Naples.
The celebration put a capstone on the high school lives of 80 graduates who are destined for futures unknown but grounded in a Christ-centered education. While the ceremonies were delayed two months because of the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Sister Patricia Roche, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco and Principal, declared at the conclusion of the evening events; “You have overcome much, but know you are loved by your Celtic family and always loved by God. Once a Celtic, always a Celtic.”
Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Mass and congratulated the graduates on their achievement and for the gifts bestowed upon them while at St. John Neumann.
“While some of those gifts can be defined as academic or athletic, it is the spiritual gifts which will truly carry you forward toward a brighter future,” Bishop Dewane said. “You are graduating in a challenging world, but with the gifts you have been given, your ability to hear God’s call, the ability to see God’s work, as well as the ability to feel in your heart the Lord in your life,” Bishop Dewane said. “Be motivated by the word of God and what you see and hear in your heart, go forward, be strong, always striving to be that ‘Man or Woman of God’ you are called to be.”
Guests at the Mass and commencement were limited to immediate family to ensure social distancing could be maintained. The graduates, wearing specially provided “Class of 2020” masks, were spread across the church and seated with their families versus clustered together.
While several of the new graduates were unable to attend the ceremonies, the evening was streamed live via the school social media accounts.
An emotional moment during the commencement came when a diploma was presented to the family of Brooke Rice. Brooke died in a vehicle crash in the summer of 2018 and would have been the fourth child in the family to have graduated from St. John Neumann.
After the evening concluded, the students said their farewells outside of the church, posing for pictures in their cap and gown.