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home : features : graduation December 11, 2017

Class of '17 receives fond farewell from Donovan Catholic
Flying High -- The cap toss on the grounds of St. Joseph Parish campus is a popular graduation tradition. John Blaine photos
Flying High -- The cap toss on the grounds of St. Joseph Parish campus is a popular graduation tradition. John Blaine photos
Time For Prayer -- Donovan Catholic seniors process into St. Joseph Church at the start of the Baccalaureate Mass that was celebrated by Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., June 4. 
Time For Prayer -- Donovan Catholic seniors process into St. Joseph Church at the start of the Baccalaureate Mass that was celebrated by Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., June 4. 
Maureen McGarry's Valedictory Speech

Good evening, Father Scott, Father Jerome, Father Garry, Mrs. Williams and Members of the School Board, Dr. Gere and the Administration, Faculty and Staff, Family Members, and most especially the Class of 2017. I am honored to have the opportunity to share my thoughts with you, as we celebrate our graduation from Donovan Catholic.

So I was thinking about what I’m looking forward to in college, and I’m not going to lie, I’m excited to learn something new! I know being excited to learn sounds nerdy, but I’m not just talking about learning higher end calculus, sorry Ms. Weber. I’m talking about learning about myself, learning how to live independently, learning about other people, learning how to make a living out of something I love. I’m excited to learn about our world, and how to change it for the better.

And then I stop and think about the fact that I am actually going to college, leaving home for the first time ever, and honestly I’m a little scared. And the whole concept of college seems overwhelming, like how exactly am I going to manage to change the whole world for the better?! Forget about changing the world, it will be a miracle if I can keep myself supplied with clean clothes! J So whether we’re starting college or setting out to change the world (or maybe both at the same time), I think the most important thing we can do is trust ourselves and use the lessons we’ve learned in the past to learn more in the future.

I want to take this time to thank a couple people in my life who have taught me invaluable lessons. To my whole family- thank you for shaping me into the person I am today. To my best friend, my better half, my skipper, my twin – I love you more than words can say. To my parents, my first teachers- I am forever grateful for all you have done for me. You have always supported me. Thank you for loving me and for always reminding me that you will continue to love me even if I fail a test and it just so happens to ruin the rest of my life J. You have sacrificed so much for me. You gave me the gift of education, for which I will be forever grateful. This Catholic education had given me the foundation of the most basic lessons of friendship and love. To my teachers- you give of yourself each and every day to make us into better people and stronger Catholics. Over these past four years, you’ve taught us important lessons not only in your subjects, but about what it means to be adults who act for the betterment of those around us.

We can learn a lesson from all experiences. Our friends, our families, our work – all give us examples to follow and experiences to look back on. Don’t be afraid to fail – remember that Sando’s door says that “fail” stands for “first attempt in learning.” We should take away the good and the bad from anything we do, remembering the good and working to improve the bad. Remember that we will only get out of life what we put into it, so we have to live our lives to the fullest and dance like no one is watching.  Song lyrics, our teachers, younger kids, public figures- all provide opportunities for us to learn and grow. I want to share some inspirational quotes and lessons I’ve learned over these past four years in the hopes that we all can use them to learn more lessons in the future as we go out to change the world.  

C.S. Lewis wrote that “it’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.”

Jake Belanger said once that “we don’t need a lot to have a lot.”

RJ Palacio wrote “Accept what you have and treat it well.”

Father Jerome taught me that we should embrace every person as if they are the last person we can treat kindly.

We should Always, Always, Always be thankful.

Alyssa Wilson taught me the importance of humility.


The cross proves that the greater the suffering the more glorious the triumph.

Mr. Pontier taught me that we need to learn from our past so that we don’t make the same mistakes in the future.

God tells us that each and every one of us is magnificent.

Robert Frost said that “We love the things we love for what they are.”

Mr Kearney told us that “Changing our minds isn’t a bad thing, it just means that we’ve been thinking.”

Katie Ullmann, Austin, and Matt Bruinooge taught me that friend groups don’t have to define friendships.

One of the Teachings of Buddha states “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle. And the life of that single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared”

Mrs. Mulvaney’s classroom door reminds us that it is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.

Hope Deys taught me how to be goofy and what it means to be a true friend.

Full House taught me that if we can read English, we can cook

I’ve learned from the Big Brother Big Sister program that kind words and actions can have an impact far beyond what we know

Vivian taught me that it’s never too late to make a new friend. 

Ms. Weber says that sometimes we have to ask ourselves if we would rather be right, or if we would rather be happy.

Srishti said that “You are free to make you own choices, but you will never be free of the consequences of your choices.”

Faith proves that everything happens for a reason.

And as Mrs. Mattsson taught us “Above all, to thine own selves be true.”

In the future, I’m looking forward to learning something new, meeting new people, and trying new things. But I’m also looking forward to seeing how you all change the world. As griffins, we’ve learned that if we stay true to ourselves and work hard, we are destined for success. In closing, I wish all of you many blessings in the future. Remember to keep looking for a lesson in every experience. Although our graduation may mean goodbye, we’ve learned lessons here that have changed our lives, lessons that will stay with us for as long as we live. As Winnie the Pooh says “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Thank you and may God Bless the Class of 2017 

By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

Amid prayer and celebration, the community of Toms River’s Donovan Catholic High School bid Godspeed to the 174 students of the Class of 2017 who will soon carry with them the skills, knowledge and values gleaned there to colleges and universities around the nation.

Photo Gallery of Donovan Catholic's Graduation Ceremony
Photo Gallery of Donovan Catholic's Baccalaureate Mass

The lingering goodbye began June 1 with the traditional award ceremony and reception in St. Joseph Church, Toms River, (which shares a campus with Donovan Catholic), and culminated with graduation in the same location June 5. There, the students, who collectively garnered more than $2.4 million in scholarships, received their diplomas and jubilantly tossed their caps into the air in the parking lot upon exiting the large worship space.

The festivities reached a liturgical high point June 4, when on the Solemnity of Pentecost, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated a Baccalaureate Mass for the class and their parents and educators.

The church was filled to capacity as Bishop O’Connell charged the assembly to go forth mindful of the faith experienced by the Apostles on the first Pentecost as the Holy Spirit descended upon them.

He reminded the crowd that Pentecost marks the birthday of the Church. As Catholics, he said, “This is our birthday, the birthday of the Church 2,000 years ago. The faith has been handed down.”

He discussed the importance of “being here today for this rite of passage,” celebrating “in the best possible way, with the Eucharist.”

“Thank God for parents who gave you your faith. Thank God for Donovan Catholic enabling you to grow in the faith,” he said. “As you graduate, don’t leave that faith behind you in college.”

“Go where the Holy Spirit leads you … living confidently in a continuing relationship with God through Jesus Christ” which will, according to the timeless promise of Pentecost, “be with you to the end of time,” the Bishop said.

He praised Father G. Scott Shaffer, Donovan Catholic’s director and pastor of St. Joseph Parish, parents, faculty and staff and “all those who have loved you to this moment.”

As the Mass drew to a close, Bishop O’Connell presided over three special awards: the Bishop George Ahr Medal for Religious Studies and the full-tuition scholarship that bears his name as the 14th president of The Catholic University of America, Washington.

For the first time in the school’s history, there were two recipients of the Bishop Ahr Award – twins Maureen and Erin McGarry, who also served, respectively as valedictorian and salutatorian.

Brooke Sobieski was awarded the full-tuition scholarship to CUA.

Between festivities, all three talked about the firm spiritual and academic footing each received at Donovan Catholic.

The twins, who belong to St. Joseph Parish, said they found the experience challenging and exciting. They said it bolstered the already strong faith nurtured in their home and was definitely a factor in their choice to continue their education in Catholic universities.

Erin McGarry plans to enter Villanova University, Villanova, Pa., in the fall, and Maureen McGarry is set to study at The Catholic University of America. Both will pursue studies in engineering – computer studies for Erin and biomedical engineering for Maureen.

They expressed satisfaction with the fact that Donovan Catholic enabled them to immerse themselves not only in their faith but in the math and science background needed to pursue their goals.

Brooke Sobieski, a member of St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, spoke of how it energized her to win the scholarship named after Bishop O’Connell.

“I’m so excited; it’s surreal,” Sobieski said. “I’m the last of four kids in the family,” she said, explaining that the tuition-free scholarship has “lifted a burden off my shoulders.” Her parents, Kristen and Anthony, she said, are feeling the same sense of joy.

Like the twins, Sobieski feels a twinge of emotion leaving Donovan Catholic. “It’s sad that it is coming to an end. I’ve been very close to the faculty and looked up to them as guides and good friends who have prepared me for the next level,” she said.

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