PROVIDENCE — A sea of purple, the school color of St. Raphael Academy, filled the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on Sunday, June 9 as purple-clad graduates and guests alike celebrated the school’s 91st commencement.
“A Lasallian education guided you to your destinies,” Vice Principal of Academics Judith Baxter told the seniors. The school was founded by the Christian Brothers, the religious order established by Jean Baptiste De La Salle, in 1924.
Quoting Pope Francis, Baxter said that “your whole existence is a pilgrimage, meant to challenge you” beyond the walls of St. Raphael.
The journey theme continued with salutatorian Jillian Hughes’ address.
“For some of us, high school was everything,” Hughes said. “For others, it was a stepping stone paving the way to our future.”
Commencement “marks the beginning to the journey of the rest of our lives,” said Valedictorian Theresa Wagner, framing her address as a “packing list” for that journey.
Wagner urged her peers not to “pack” self-doubt, but “do pack courage. Reject the comfort of complacency.”
She continued the “packing list” by including resilience, the support experienced at St. Raphael, fortitude and faith.
“Defeats are necessary to our growth,” Wagner said. “We can allow pain to conquer us, or we can choose to conquer pain.”
Wagner told guests that she herself had begun to develop the virtues necessary to overcome life’s challenges at the age of eight, in the wake of her father’s death. “I not only thrived in spite of adversity, but because of it,” she said.
Principal Daniel Richard noted that graduates’ “families, friends and supporters are all behind you — that is appropriate; they have had your back for the last four years.”
He then asked graduates to turn and give those family members a round of applause.
The principal praised St. Raphael’s sports teams, observing that “16 of the 20 athletic teams at Saint’s played in the post-season,” and asserted that the school’s theatrical productions “proved once again that we have the best drama program in the state.”
But the center of his message was a world “in dire need of your civility and kindness.”
“Rendering small acts of service in love is what changes things,” Richard said. “Civility towards all is mandated by the Church.”
Quoting 1 John 3:18, Richard said, “let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”
“Jesus says his disciples should be known to all by how they act and treat others,” he continued, concluding with an exhortation for graduates to “set the example. Be a Saint.”