PORTSMOUTH — On May 26, the 91 graduates of Portsmouth Abbey’s Class of 2019 gathered one last time for Mass at the Abbey Church of St. Gregory the Great before processing together into a large white tent for graduation.
With their parents beaming and amid the sound of bagpipes, the graduates took their seats as Prior Administrator Father Michael Brunner, O.S.B., greeted and thanked them for their perseverance over the previous four years. In urging them to hold fast to the virtues of respect, reverence and responsibility, Father Brunner quoted from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
Christopher Behnke, the chairman of the Board of Regents at Portsmouth Abbey, also congratulated the Class of 2019, which included his daughter, Meghan. In his parting advice, he paraphrased from the Rule of St. Benedict, “‘Be gentle, but get the job done.”
Patrick Flanigan of Tiverton, one of the class speakers, said he loved the Abbey for its people, “the students, faculty, staff and families.” He mentioned a few silly pranks he and his classmates had pulled over the years, adding that he would cherish those memories for the rest of his life.
“If you learn to value the moments that don’t have ceremonies ... the beauty is hidden in those seemingly trivial moments.” Flanigan said.
The other class speaker, Kathleen “Katie” Marie Kelly Ritchie, of New York City, reflected on how so much of life over the previous four years seemed to consist of “numbers,” such as the hours spent studying or points accumulated on an exam.
“Even after saying all that, there is one measurement we can never escape, and that is time,” Ritchie said. “Nothing is forever, so if your time here has taught you anything at all, I hope that it is to make the most of each day, each relationship, each victory, and each failure.”