Six weeks after they were originally supposed to walk across the stage as graduates, the Owensboro Catholic High School Class of 2020 was recognized during a final Mass and diploma ceremony Sunday night on the football field at Steele Stadium.
Students sat six feet apart in chairs that lined the field, facing a makeshift stage from which Bishop William Medley led Mass before OCHS principal Gates Settle conducted the diploma ceremony.
Many family members were able to sit in chairs spaced out behind the graduates, while other attendees were spread throughout the bleachers on either side of the stadium.
The event ended with a diploma distribution that is the closest thing a senior class in Owensboro has had to a normal graduation so far this year.
One-by-one, students were able to step forward and pick up their diploma from a podium in front of the stage before receiving a blessing from Medley.
The event began around 8 p.m., with Medley leading Mass for roughly an hour.
“Amongst the things we celebrate when a class graduates … is an attainment of knowledge,” he said. “If we were in a position to acknowledge all of the awards and possibilities that this class represents, that would take a considerable amount of time because of the attainment of knowledge.”
However, he said there is a piece of information that none of them know, pointing to the Gospel referencing every hair on their head being counted.
“There is not a graduate here tonight, a parent or grandparent or faculty, who can give us even an approximation of the hairs on their head because the point is, that is known only to God,” Medley said. “So tonight I would remind you that God protects the sparrows and not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Father in heaven is the one who can count the hairs on your head and beyond that watch over us and protect us, even in the time of a world crisis, even in a time of world pandemic. … Blessings are as hard to count as the hairs on your head.”
Settle acknowledged it was a difficult end to the year for the Class of 2020, but said they had been resilient and helped keep each other strong.
Settle spoke with many of the seniors in the weeks before the ceremony, and he read aloud a handful of their comments during his address to the crowd Sunday night.
While some talked more specifically about pride or family or friendships, the recurring theme of the students’ discussions was reflecting on how much they valued their time at Owensboro Catholic.
When the seniors left school on March 13, no one knew it was the last time they would ever have classes together. Since then, they’ve had time to realize just how valuable every day at Catholic was.
Settle said while it would be easy to only remember what they missed out on, he hopes the graduates look back at all the positive experiences they had while they were still students.
“Don’t wait for something in your life to be gone before you acknowledge it. Show appreciation for it, most of all give thanks for it,” Settle said. “Down the road when you think about your senior year at Catholic High, don’t think about what you didn’t get and what you didn’t have. Look at what you did get and what you got to experience. Make sure that you have an appreciation for the Catholic High moments not only during your senior year but during your time as a student at Owensboro Catholic High School.”