Thursday, June 9, 2011

DB Cristo Rey HS Celebrates 1st Commencement

Don Bosco Cristo Rey HS
Celebrates 1st Commencement

Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Md., celebrated the graduation of the Class of 2011 on the afternoon of June 2 at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the nation’s capital. This was the first commencement for the school, which opened in August 2007.

DBCR is co-sponsored by the archdiocese of Washington and the Salesians of Don Bosco and has enjoyed tremendous support from both as well as from the business, educational, and service communities of the Washington area.Hundreds of family members, members of the school’s board of directors, corporate sponsors, friends of the school and of the students, and journalists joined the happy graduates in the great national basilica.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, presided over the commencement exercises and gave the principal address to the graduates. Cardinal McCarrick first invited the Salesians to accept a parish in the archdiocese (Nativity, in Washington) and then initiated the process of founding the school together with the Salesians. His successor, now-Cardinal Donald Wuerl, followed up on the initiative and presided over the school’s opening, its expansion, and its first baccalaureate Mass.
The Class of 2011 numbers 70 students. All come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, all are members of minority groups, and many of their families are immigrants. But all have worked hard at their academics and at Cristo Rey’s unique corporate work study program, and all have been accepted into college. Many if not most of them will be the first in their families to advance to higher education. Some will go to small schools or community colleges, but others have been accepted into such prestigious universities as Georgetown, Catholic, Penn State, St. John’s, and Syracuse.

The faculty led the senior class into the basilica, to the tune of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.” The administration and principal guests—Cardinal McCarrick and Fr. Thomas Dunne, Salesian provincial—followed the seniors. Fr. Dunne offered an invocation. Fr. Steve Shafran, president of DBCR, welcomed everyone. He acknowledged the students’ hard work and the great love that the faculty has lavished on the students so that all of them together could accomplish their dreams. The students acknowledged their teachers with a rousing round of applause.

Jenifer Moreno was the salutatorian. She was described as someone who embodies the teaching of St. Francis to preach the Gospel always, using words if necessary. She is going to attend the University of West Virginia with the intention of becoming a transplant surgeon. She spoke of her class’s pride in what they’ve accomplished, of their gratitude toward all who have encouraged them, especially their parents, and of the sense of responsibility that they bear to carry on what they’ve begun.

Valedictorian Catherine Rubio was noted as a student always ready to help others and one who balanced very well the demands of school, work, and family. She’ll attend Georgetown, aiming to become a radiologist. In her speech, she pointed out how the school plant had grown during their four years, the student body had grown, and this class had matured. She said that the seniors, observing their teachers’ dedication, had responded by studying hard. She cited the school’s slogan of “faith, family, future, and fun” and showed how those were embodied in the relationship with God they had developed, in the school’s family atmosphere, in the futures opening before the graduates, and in numerous school activities (including an occasion when students got to “pie” some of their teachers).

Cardinal McCarrick congratulates valedictorian Catherine Rubio

Cardinal McCarrick noted with appreciation how both senior speakers had thanked their benefactors. He recounted how the school was founded and credited the Salesians with providing their best men for the school; the cardinal almost canonized Fr. Steve Shafran. He credited Cardinal Wuerl as an outstanding educator who “grabbed” the Cristo Rey idea and got it implemented, especially by calling upon the “magic” of Msgr. John Enzler, the archdiocese’s vicar of development. He credited the business community for partnering so well with DBCR. And he commended the senior class for rising to the occasion and making their dreams happen, and their parents for standing behind their sons and daughters.

Then the cardinal got down to his real message. He implored the graduates-to-be to show their appreciation for all the blessings that God has given them by sharing those blessings with others who are needy and need help, as they have received help in their own need. He cited the book of Proverbs: “Better a dish of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it” (15:17). The seniors, he said, have learned the difference that love makes—in their school, in their workplaces, and in life. “Let there be love in your life,” he urged.

The graduating seniors process as their names are called, to receive their diplomas from Cardinal McCarrick, and then DBCR president Fr. Steve Shafran flips the tassels on their mortarboards.

Following the conferral of diplomas, Alicia Bondanella, director of DBCR’s corporate work study program, addressed the graduates and the guests. She observed that the seniors had raised $2,000,000 for the school through the work they did for their corporate employers. She told the graduates that they’d done outstanding jobs, had learned skills, and had built relationships. Since they had already proven themselves successful, their success would continue.

Fr. John Serio, DBCR’s principal, was the final speaker on the program. He echoed Cardinal McCarrick’s appeal that the graduates should pay attention to the world and to the people around them, set examples of a high standard of excellence, and help other people. Telling them that they, as the founding class of DBCR, were leaving a legacy at the school but weren’t leaving the school, he invited them to remain helpfully present to the classes behind them.

The commencement rites concluded with the presentation of seven awards. Five graduates were the first to receive the Don Bosco Award, which “captures the heart of Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School” and recognizes the honorees’ character, service, and leadership in the fields of academics, corporate work, and extracurricular activities. Each was presented with a small statue of Don Bosco and two students.

A sixth student, Julio Hernandez, was recognized as the Outstanding Graduate, “demonstrating superior qualities and virtue in all aspects of student life…the individual we desire other students to emulate.” Julio received a plaque from Cardinal McCarrick.

Finally, the cardinal himself was given the Don Bosco Award in recognition of his contributions to education, to ecumenism, and to assisting the world’s poorest people.

The faculty and administration processed into the center aisle of the basilica, and then the graduates filed down the aisle, thanking their teacher-friends one by one on their way to the church’s main door, where their proud parents and families waited in warm sunshine to congratulate them.

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