PEABODY — Sister Catherine Fleming, principal of Bishop Fenwick High School, sent her graduating class out into the world last night, with a warning about the culture we live in.
It’s a world where the questions of right and wrong are no longer as easily answered as they were in her youth, she noted. It’s a culture of “hedonism” that “encourages us to be selfish,” she said. “.... You need a moral compass point. We all have a moral compass point inside of us. We just need to find it and follow it.”
These seniors, Fleming indicated, were doing exactly that: “Your class made the decision to care.”
To make the point, she recalled the reaction of a member of the wait staff during the school prom, who was impressed by the “quiet and dignified” behavior of the Fenwick students. “She doesn’t see that very often in high school students,” said Fleming. “We said, ‘That’s Fenwick.’”
In gold caps and gold gowns for the girls, and metallic brown for the boys, 140 students took their diplomas. Fleming embraced each — though they often towered over her — and posed for a photo with each while flashing a wide smile.
Class Salutatorian Monica Poeske began her talk with a poignant quote from opera singer Robert Brault: “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
She went on to suggest it is the little things about Fenwick her classmates will now carry with them — little things that will eventually amount to something much bigger.
Some of those “little” memories got huge laughs as she recounted them: “The thrill of hearing Sister Cathy’s voice over the phone announcing a snow day. Or passing by Sister Geraldine (Burns) unnoticed while out of dress code.” More seriously, she said, “Small moments stir powerful emotions.”
Parents, friends and relatives raced up and down the aisles with phone cameras as the students, one by one, had their “small moment,” receiving their diplomas. One graduate earned such a loud and raucous reaction from a supporter that she returned to her seat, eyes down, shaking her head. Graduate Sydney Amber Smith broke ranks to go over and give religion instructor Michael Lescault a vigorous high five.
Lescault gave the invocation, praying, “Help them to always seek the highest good.”
“My fellow classmates have never ceased to amaze me,” said Class President Jennifer Jordan, who cited various awards won by her colleagues, including Salem News All-Star. Above all, she observed, was a feeling of love and respect in the school.
Valedictorian Emily Estabrook praised the school staff. “They never gave up on us,” she said. And she saluted her peers, saying, “When I look out at our class I see stars.”
“Walk always with God,” Fleming concluded. “And may you always be held in the palm of God’s hand.”
BISHOP FENWICK 51ST GRADUATION
No. of graduates: 140
Valedictorian: Emily Estabrook
Salutatorian: Monica Poeske
Class gift: A fence to surround the courtyard/picnic area dubbed Chris’ Place.
Per student cost of class gift: $20.13
Gift to prinicipal: A bracelet for Sister Cathy, who said, “Every time I put this on I’ll see these faces.”
Millionaires Club — Students have earned, so far, a combined $9.5 million in scholarships.
Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick Award for “students with the courage and conviction to live the Christian life” — Parick Corcoran and Kathryn Hart
In lieu of flowery language — Each student was awarded a sunflower along with a diploma and raised it at the conclusion, so a virtual sea of sunflowers danced above the heads of the Class of 2013.