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home : features : graduation January 21, 2018

SJV grads urged to keep faith in their futures
A happy graduate and his family. John Blaine photos
A happy graduate and his family. John Blaine photos
Father Zeis greets two St. John Vianney High graduates during the Baccalaureate Mass.
Father Zeis greets two St. John Vianney High graduates during the Baccalaureate Mass.
Claire Romanczyk's Valedictorian Speech 2017

Good morning Mrs. Tier, Mr. DiMezza, Mr. Deroba, Mr. Hunter, faculty and staff, family and friends, and fellow graduates. I’m thankful for the opportunity to stand in front of you at the conclusion of our high school career.

I was asked to speak today about the future, but as an 18 year old, I’m probably not the most qualified person to address this subject. Trying to imagine what we will be doing years ahead is a daunting task, but fortunately, we have had invaluable role models who have instilled in us the core values that will guide us through the next chapter of our lives. They are our parents who have put our needs before theirs, made sacrifices to send us to Catholic school, and supported us every step of the way. They are our teachers who have devoted long hours both in and out of the classroom to prepare us for not just tests and quizzes, but for all of the challenges that await us. They are our coaches who have pushed us to exceed the goals we set for ourselves. They are our counselors who have guided us through these four years and helped us discover our paths for the future.

It is through the example of these influential people that I have grown to appreciate that there are opportunities to learn everywhere. During our time at Saint John Vianney, we have been able to broaden our minds and develop skills that will aid us throughout the rest of our lives, helping us to determine not only what we want to do, but more importantly, who we want to be. I believe that this kind of learning is just as important to our growth as individuals as what we gather from textbooks, PowerPoint presentations, and classroom lessons. It stems from listening and understanding the unique and valuable perspectives of those all around us. Giving thoughtful consideration to the viewpoints of our peers allows us to enrich our minds, to embrace the intricacies of the people and the world around us, and to reflect on the impact we have on others.

As the next generation of individuals who are taking on the biggest problems of today’s world, we are responsible for making our impact a positive one. Although this responsibility may at times seem arduous and complex, it is one that our privilege of attending Saint John Vianney High School has prepared us to tackle. The teachings of Jesus Christ handed down to us through the instruction and example of our teachers has provided for us a springboard that can propel us forward and up. As we embark on our own individual paths in life, we remain connected because of the values and morals that we share and the blessings that have been given to us. It is therefore our duty to show gratitude for such blessings by turning them into gifts that we can bestow on others.

While thinking about this idea of the influence that we will have on our world in the future, I sought inspiration from TED talks. I found it fitting that this year’s theme was called “The Future You,” and that Pope Francis made a surprise appearance to share his thoughts on the subject.

He spoke about the importance of compassion, saying, “Tenderness isn’t for the weak… It takes spiritual and emotional strength to empathize and act on behalf of the neediest.” He explained that all those who wish to have an impact on the world must remember that the more power we have to bring about change, the more responsibility we have to be humble. This kind of humility requires that we open our hearts to every person we meet in life so that we may continue to learn and grow. It’s getting to know our neighbors and understanding that they are not just one part of our lives, but also the center of their own individual stories. It’s having compassion for the struggles of those across the world and realizing that no matter how remote they may seem, they’re not really that different from us after all. It’s having a conversation with those who have completely different opinions but being able to find common ground in the values that we share and the motivation we have to make things better.

The pope expanded on this idea of tenderness by saying, “How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.” This quote calls to mind that we are poised to tackle the world’s biggest problems, but we cannot lose sight of what we have the power to address on the small scale. We need leaders, innovators, and problem solvers who are passionate about movements to create widespread positive change. At the same time, we must keep alive that same passion for goodness in our interactions with our closest neighbors.

It is incredible to think that in this room we could have an author who writes a bestselling novel, a researcher who finds the key to cure cancer, an athlete who shatters world records, an engineer who solves environmental issues, or an activist who fights to end world hunger. I am excited to see where all of our futures will lead us, but I know that we do not have to wait until our education is complete or until we are established in a career to make a difference. We must remain conscious of the opportunities for compassion all around us and realize that a single drop of kindness has the potential to create a wave of change. The future belongs to us not because of a degree, a position, or a salary, but because of a commitment to give to the world the best of ourselves. Our names do not have to be in a history book for us to make our mark; rather, touching the lives of those around us with compassion and inspiring further generations to do the same can be our legacy. That can start today.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017. I wish you the best of luck in whatever the future may hold for you!

By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent

Franciscan Father Gabriel Zeis had an important request for the 261 graduating seniors from St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, when he celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass June 1 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.

Photo Gallery from St. John Vianney High's Graduation
Photo Gallery from St. John Vianney High's Baccalaureate

In his homily, the diocesan vicar for Catholic education asked the young men and women to “reflect on the person they encountered in the time of their Catholic education, the person of Jesus Christ, and what he will mean for them as they go forth as his witnesses sustained by faith, hope and love.”

As the Baccalaureate Mass and the commencement exercises that followed June 3 in Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, marked a milestone in the education journeys of the students who comprised the 45th graduating class, the occasions also brought to mind what it had meant to them to be formed in a Catholic school environment.

“Masses and a commitment to our faith were part of everyday life at SJV, and it was fitting that it was also part of our commencement ceremonies,” salutatorian Gianna Mavica said as she reflected on the Baccalaureate Mass.

Noting that the class had collectively earned $35 million in scholarships and grants, Bill Bulman, the school’s director of guidance services, remarked on how the graduates are poised to take on the challenges that come their way.

“This class has a tremendous social awareness of the world, their country, their community, their school and their Church. They have a great dedication to the needs of family and others. They truly understand what we’re called to do as Church,” Bulman said.

Community involvement has been instilled in the Class of 2017 ever since they arrived at the Monmouth County high school four years ago.

In her speech, valedictorian Claire Romanczyk recalled her class’ strong community involvement and how the importance of understanding and respecting the differences of others was instilled in each student.

Romanczyk referenced Pope Francis’ recent TED Talks appearance, mentioning how the Holy Father had addressed the importance of compassion, saying, “’Tenderness isn’t for the weak; it takes spiritual and emotional strength to empathize and act on behalf of the neediest.’”

The Pope, Romanczyk said, “explained that all those who wish to have an impact on the world must remember that the more power we have to bring about change, the more responsibility we have to become it. This kind of humility requires that we open our hearts to everyone we meet so that we may continue to learn and grow.”

JoAnn Tier, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, praised the students for emulating their school’s motto, “Knowledge, Commitment, Involvement,” and encouraged them to use their education to have a powerful impact on society and to “work to bring about a world of trust and acceptance.”

“Use your talents to benefit humanity,” she said.

James Hunter, a 1977 graduate who is currently a radio announcer for the Baltimore Orioles, fondly recalled his years at SJV and encouraged the Class of 2017 to “never stop dreaming” and to always “be curious.” He also reminded the class to “always have your faith” and with that, “everything else falls into place.”

Parents such as Debbie DeMille were happy to reflect on their child’s high school career and their upcoming future plans.

DiMille, whose son Ryan will study sports management and play baseball at the University of Tampa, said she was experiencing mixed emotions of being “happy and sad at that the same time,” then spoke highly of SJV’s “rigorous academic program and spirituality”  and how it helped to prepare her son for his future.

Patricia and William Szabo shared how their daughter, Nicole, “went above and beyond” her service requirements and participated in Christian service all four years.

“We’re very proud,” the Szabos said, noting that Nicole will attend The College of New Jersey, Ewing, to study mathematics and statistics.

Karen Newsholme was very frank when she said that sending her daughter, Laura, to St. John Vianney was “the best decision I ever made.”

Everything about SJV, Newsholme said, “from the education standpoint, spirituality, structure, community service aspect, the respect they teach, is just the best.”

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