Last week, both our Secondary Schools in Shannon held their graduation ceremonies to bid farewell to the Class of 2018 and to ask God’s blessing on their future.
For the past five or six years, the Class of 2018 has formed family among themselves. For hours on end, they have hunched over desks, pouring over exam papers and answering questions. Five or six years ago they gathered together for the first time, coming from different families, schools, villages and parishes.
They have bonded together, shared stories and experiences; they have listened, were taught, challenged and encouraged by their teachers and school community. Hopefully, the experience of secondary school has changed these graduates for the better.
Now as exam time approaches and they bid farewell to their Alma Mater, they are being sent forth. We as a community are sending a new generation of men and women to be the presence of Jesus Christ in the world.
The past five or six years have been a continuous experience of gathering, of coming together, of a new community being formed.
Throughout that time there has been much teaching and I am sure a great deal of learning both in the formal context of sitting at tables in classrooms but also informally too at sport, music, drama, meals and in simple conversation.
Our schools aim to encourage and enable students to listen and learn, to take notice and develop.
I have my own memories of many of these students especially those from the Parish of Shannon, many of whom I baptised, and celebrated First Confession, Holy Communion and Confirmation with them.
As I observed them in Secondary School, I see the truly miraculous bit. Somehow along the way and at various stages and at differing speeds, they have grown; in height certainly, but more importantly, they have simply grown up.
It is still a work in progress, but each student has been magnificently changed, they are older and wiser and such a change is wonderful to behold.
As we prepare for the exams to begin next Wednesday 6th June, the time has come to send them out, to commission them to the next stage on this wonderful journey of life. The transition is not just from school but for many, it’s from home.
Parents’ and teachers’ work is done, it’s time to break out of the bubble, to come down from the mountain, to leave the nest, to take the next step to go out into the world, to use what they have learned, to make a difference in the world, to make it better. There is some sadness in parting, but it is the right thing and the right time.
As we send these students to the next stage of their journey in life, we pause to give thanks to God for all His gifts and blessings to them and for the blessings they have been to school, family and parish.
As the Class of 2018 prepares over the coming days to leave school, we send them forth, not just bigger but better, not just smarter but wiser, not just happy but good, not just self-confident but open-hearted.
In other words, to be men and women who love – who really love – not in a soppy or sentimental sense, but in the sense of having hearts where there is always room for others.
Jesus’ farewell to his disciples at the Last Supper spoke about love, a kind of final pep talk before he was taken from them. He repeatedly tells us to abide in his love, to remain in his love, to make our home in him, to live in his love.
We live in God’s love, firstly by remaining connected to Him through prayer and sharing in the life and worship of the Church on Sundays, but we also live in God’s love by putting others first.
If you don’t think love is important, just look at the news of recent days; four murders of innocent people in Dublin, Wicklow, Kerry and Louth, violence in Palestine and other areas of the world. This type of behaviour happens when love is absent.
Jesus calls not just the Class of 2018 who are being sent out, but all of us, that we love one another as he has loved us. I wish the Class of 2018 every blessing, firstly in their exams next week, but more importantly, on the road of life, they will walk in the coming years.
Mass for Exam Students
All students and their families beginning state exams next Wednesday are invited to a special Mass for exam students on Tuesday 5th June at 7 pm in SS John & Paul Church.
Prayer for Exam Students
O God, bring calm to my mind and heart
As I prepare for my exams.
Give me a quiet confidence in my gifts and talents.
Remind me of my dignity and preciousness in a world
Where we compete in exams, for jobs and a place in life.
Anoint my memory with the power of recall.
Keep me calm on the day of my exams.
Help me to try my hardest and to do my best.