HANNIBAL | Eighth-grade graduates at Holy Family experienced a graduation ceremony unlike any before it due to the global situation surrounding the coronavirus, and Father Mike Quinn reminded the 11 graduates to “stay tuned” to what God has in store for them.
Sister Betty Uchytil, SSND, principal, said graduates' immediate family members were invited to the graduation mass, and Elaine Booher, who is retiring this year after a 43-year career with the school parish, made the face mask for each eighth-grade student. The event was live streamed online for supporters who couldn't attend in person, and the traditional gathering and reception were not held, as precautions against the coronavirus. The students led readings and listened to comments from Quinn and Uchytil about how much they were missed and loved. And when the ceremony concluded with a video tribute, a surprise greeting awaited each graduate.
The students chose the passage “under his wings you will find refuge” from the Book of Psalms for a ceiling tile they decorated to be placed in the school's halls. Quinn reminded each of the students how a beautiful puzzle missing one piece was a symbol of how “God has a wonderful plan for us.”
“Stay close to your faith in prayer — talking to God, listening to God — under God's wings,” Quinn said, stressing the different paths God has in store for each of them. “You count. You're an important part of that puzzle of life and that beautiful picture. Be there, be there for your God and for one another. And as you keep that faith strong, and you keep your dreams going, always know that he walks with you.”
Uchytil told the students how much she and fellow school faculty members missed each of them. She thanked teachers, parents, grandparents and everyone who supported the graduates, expressing her joy about the Bible passage the students selected and recently shared on their Facebook pages.
“So congratulations — it may look different, it may feel strange to graduate this day during this historical time,” Uchytil said. “But we are together tonight, celebrating you and asking God, in the sacrifice of the mass, that Jesus be with you in every step of your way to the future.”
The students handed a rose to their parents and conducted the passing of the torch ceremony for the seventh graders who would soon be in the role as leaders they were in a short time ago.
As the graduates stepped outside, they smiled as they walked through the parking lot lined with supporters cheering, applauding and honking their vehicle's horns for an impromptu celebration as the students walked to their parents' vehicles.
“I was actually surprised. I didn't know they were going to do that,” Thomas said. “It was kind of heartwarming for the teachers to do that for us. It was very nice.”
Uchytil agreed the surprise gathering for the eighth graders provided a special moment for the students' graduation during an unprecedented time.
“I am so proud of the middle school teachers who have worked so hard to make this so special given all the 'roadblocks' of the pandemic. They have all taken every detail necessary to make our eighth graders know we are celebrating them though they will not have a reception or the gatherings before the mass, as has been done,” Uchytil said. “The students will not forget this special event not because of the coronavirus as much as how their teachers and parents tried to make it a real graduation.”