A cap and gown, walking across the stage, and celebrating Mass are all part of the Catholic high school graduation experience. But cruising in a car around the track at St. Mary’s High School was definitely not on Kenneth Garrett’s list of expectations.
The senior nevertheless enjoyed the moment of glory on May 15 as he and his classmates at the all-boys Catholic high school in south St. Louis celebrated one of their final moments together as the Class of 2020.
“To be honest, I didn’t realize it was senior year until there were three months left of school,” said Kenneth, who will be attending Ranken Technical College in the fall to study information technology. “I said, ‘Oh, there’s only three months left.’ I wish we could have stayed in school. I am going to miss the sense of normalcy, and the teachers. There’s a sense of camaraderie here.”
With graduation ceremonies and baccalaureate Masses postponed, Catholics schools across the archdiocese have come up with creative ways of honoring graduates. From parades, yard signs, highway billboards and virtual events, schools have been sending off their seniors in memorable ways.
St. Mary’s invited 89 seniors and their immediate families to parade along Grand Boulevard on the weekend of its original graduation date. The parade turned onto St. Mary’s campus and around the track, with faculty and staff on the field and bleachers offering their well-wishes. President Mike England and principal Valerie Todd presented each senior a yard sign and a bag with several goodies, including a face mask with the school’s dragon mascot printed on it. On June 27, the school plans to hold its first-ever outdoor graduation.
The school’s Marianist charism includes the characteristics of adaptation and change, and both students and teachers have embraced that through the pandemic, said England. “What I have seen through this whole experience has been put into action at the highest level,” he said. “Our teachers have embraced it, our students have embraced it. The idea of adaptation and change really has played out in a very significant and positive way.”
Todd said she’s been impressed with how resilient students have been with virtual learning, and how well they have stayed connected with their teachers. “They are certainly blessed with many different talents and very willing to share those,” she said. She also teared up as she described the school’s family spirit. “I find our students to be down to earth and caring, people that genuinely care for other people,” she said. “The relationships are so important.”
Other schools have planned special activities, including posting video tributes on social media — noting the college they will attend, intended major and their high school activities — and awards to students online. Seniors from many schools received visits from school staff, with many getting yard signs and various goodies.
Here’s how other Catholic high schools are honoring their graduates.
(Schools have postponed graduation ceremonies, subject to local health guidelines):
Bishop DuBourg: The school held a drive-up graduation in front of the school. They received their diplomas one at a time and had the opportunity for a photograph with their diploma and their family. A graduation ceremony will be held later.
Cardinal Ritter College Prep: A new date for graduation is Sunday, Dec. 20. A prom/reunion weekend will take place May 15, 2021. Students drove by the school on May 21 with their families, with photos taken in front of the school marquee.
Chaminade College Prep: Senior awards were hosted online on the original graduation date. A senior parade was held May 5, the last day of class for seniors. Baccalaureate Mass is set for July 24 and graduation for July 26.
Cor Jesu Academy: The school plans to have senior prom, senior honors and graduation in August. The school held a “prom parade” on the night of the regularly scheduled prom. On their way out, the seniors received a heart-shaped pretzel from Pretzel Boys.
Christian Brothers College High School: The school had a week of awards, from STEM awards to mission and ministry honors and a virtual class dinner, with meals ordered for all senior families. Senior prom, baccalaureate Mass, graduation and lock-in are rescheduled for late June with a July back-up date.
De Smet Jesuit: The school posted a senior class message board on its website. They also highlighted each senior on social media. A senior parade was May 18. Graduation ceremonies are set for late June.
Duchesne High School: The school had an online baccalaureate Mass. The performing arts department at Duchesne had a slide show of seniors that normally would have played during the final song of the spring concert. Graduation is set for June 4.
Incarnate Word Academy: The school had a digital billboard on I-170 congratulating the Class of 2020. A drive-through parade was held and graduation is tentatively set for the last week of June.
Nerinx Hall: Alumnae pins were given to grads at its drive-through parade. The Class of 1970 wrote a note to the class that will accompany the pin, and alums also wrote individual notes to the graduates. Tentative graduation is set for July with a December back-up plan.
Notre Dame High School: President Meghan Bohac delivered bouquets to seniors on the day of the originally scheduled prom. A car parade was held, yard signs made, social media tributes held, and graduation is reschedule for July.
Rosati-Kain: Valedictorian and salutatorian speeches were posted online along with the reading of each graduate’s accomplishments. The school also planned to have a prom-themed five-year reunion at no cost to the Class of 2020. Plans are to have graduation in late June. Seniors received visits from school staff.
Saint Louis Priory School: Administrators and senior parents developed a program to celebrate at the end of July. Included is the senior BBQ, faculty vs. Class of 2020 softball game, graduation dance, parent party,alumni induction, Mass, graduation and reception and the lock in.
Saint Louis University High School: Seniors held a Driving of the Bills event May 5, in which they drove from the school’s stadium and into the world as Men for Others. The event served as a bookend to an activity they did as freshmen, as they ran into the stadium painted in blue for Running of the Bills.
St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon: A senior send-off parade was held May 1, in which graduates and their families drove through campus and faculty and staff lined the route to cheer them on. The school also placed yard signs in each senior’s yard and asked families to share tributes on social media using the hashtag #StDominic2020.
St. Francis Borgia High School in Washington: Seniors were celebrated on the last day of school May 6 with a livestreamed Mass and senior awards. They also picked up their caps and gowns, and each senior received a school-themed cookie and a yard sign.
St. Joseph’s Academy: On the last day of classes, faculty and staff delivered graduation items and a special yard sign to each senior. The school also celebrated with an on-campus car parade May 21.
St. John Vianney High School: The school hosted a virtual graduation May 16. President Mike Loyet, who is retiring at the end of the school year after 38 years of service, shared an emotional video with students, in which he acknowledged the sadness and disappointment that students have been feeling, but offered an encouraging message as they move forward.
St. Pius X High School in Festus: Teachers and staff delivered graduation packages to the homes of all seniors on May 8. Seniors also visited campus to to have photos and videos taken of them in their cap and gown.
St. Vincent de Paul High School in Perryville: The school held a drive-thru celebration for seniors, who wore their caps and gowns, and faculty and staff made a tribute video with their well wishes and advice. Perryville Mayor Ken Baer also delivered yard signs to their homes.
Trinity Catholic High School: The school placed yard signs at seniors’ homes, and students came to school for a drive-through distribution of caps and gowns and to pick up personal items. A virtual farewell also is being planned by teachers and staff.
Ursuline Academy: The school recently held a parade of faculty, staff and alumnae. They went to seniors’ houses to induct them into the alumnae association and give them their cap and gown and a few other goodies.
Valle Catholic High School in Ste. Genevieve: The school recently held a parade for seniors as well as an ongoing Friday Night Lights event, in which every Friday night at 8:20 p.m. (20:20 military time) the lights at Father John Dempsey Field were turned on for 20 minutes and 20 seconds.
Villa Duchesne High School: The school held a car parade through campus on May 17, their original graduation date. The school also created a @VillaClassof2020 Instagram account, for seniors to share their college decisions and any parting advice for other students.
Visitation Academy: Visitation is planning on having its Mass, graduation and traditional Maypole ceremony on campus in late July. The school also honored seniors with yard signs and other gifts, tribute videos and a senior send-off film.