Owensboro Catholic High School celebrated Mass with the senior class of 2021 one last time on Sunday evening. The Graduation Mass featured an address to students by fellow classmates, principal Gates Settle, and Bishop William Medley, along with the presentation of diplomas.
Last year, Owensboro Catholic was one of the first schools to organize a graduation ceremony in the midst of the pandemic. They did so utilizing masks and social distancing guidelines at Steele Stadium.
With protocols still in place, they were able to return to the Owensboro Sportscenter this year, restoring some normalcy to the ceremony. Celebrating Mass as part of the graduation was not normal practice in the past, rather something that school officials migrated to in the midst of the pandemic.
“Having the Mass with the celebration really works out well,” said Principal Gates Settle. “It puts the focus on the most important thing we do here, Christ, in addition to recognizing our seniors too.”
The school graduated 100 students, several of which received some national accolades. The class boasts a National Merrit Finalist in Emma Silvert, while Clayton Lewis was appointed to both the Naval Academy and The United States Military Academy, also known as Westpoint.
“OCHS graduations are always very special, but due to the pandemic, we have not been able to have Baccalaureate,” he said. “We decided on the graduation Mass which works out very well with being able to celebrate the seniors too”.
Settle placed an emphasis on celebrating this past year, and expressing gratitude for what they were able to accomplish – a strong character trait of the senior class.
“The biggest take-away from this year is the fact that we were able to start school safely and stay in school safely to give our kids, and especially our seniors an in-school experience all year long,” he said. “This class made the best of what they had. They developed a newfound appreciation for things and cherished what they were able to do rather than dwelling on the shortcomings.”
Settle takes his time to individually meet with every graduate before they leave Catholic High, something that guided his message when addressing the graduates. He eluded to the fact that the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the loss of a dear friend and classmate presented some challenges to the class.
“This class had to grow up quick and accept some things,” he said. “They learned some important skills for the future such as how to be resilient and resourceful. They certainly made the best of the circumstances they were in.”
School chaplain Father Jason McClure who assisted in the celebration of the Mass said his final goodbye to students. He will depart for Bowling Green this summer to manage the daily operations of the Newman Center on the campus of Western Kentucky University.
“Father McClure is a wonderful priest who gets along very well with everyone and has a great rapport with our students,” he said. “We will miss him tremendously.”
Chief Administrative Officer for Owensboro Catholic Schools added to Settle’s message of resiliency.
“In the book of Romans, scripture teaches us to rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” he said. “Our prayer is that the spiritual gifts our seniors have received will be enhanced by having lived through a global pandemic. May they bring hope to others all the days of their lives.”