WESTFIELD – St. Mary’s High School’s Class of 2020 has had its share of unique experiences which co-valedictorians Erin Olearcek and Joseph Lucardi said brought their class closer.
Olearcek said to prepare for her address, she watched numerous valedictory speeches, but they did not do justice to the experience of her classmates.
“They didn’t tell our story,” she said,”the story we wrote over the last four years has been unique and most significantly we made those memories together. None of them embraced what our class has accomplished or what we endured or what made us become stronger. None of them captured the laughs and jokes, the classic bus rides on the mini white buses, the tears shed — both happy and sad – and most of all the bonds we developed and shared. We will always have the memories of winning a state championship in baseball, hours of card games that got extremely intense for no good reason and listening to the everyday banter.”
Olearcek said the 31 members of the Class of 2020 showed up despite all the obstacles, including when there was a concern the school would close.
“Our strength and resilience have demonstrated that we have what it takes to persevere and overcome the tough obstacles that come our way,” she said. “We continued to stand together for the chance to stay at the place we loved with the family we made. We stayed together even when we didn’t know if we would ever be entering the front doors of STM together again as a class and even when we thought we were in the clear entering our senior year, we found ourselves navigating a ‘new normal’ in the middle of a pandemic. Nevertheless, we showed up and most importantly we showed up together.
“If this bizarre year and basically our entire high school career has taught us anything, as much as we don’t like to admit it, the future is unknown and to quote my dad, ‘That’s okay. After all, our futures are written in pencil, not marker’.”
Diocesan Superintendent Dr. Daniel Baillargeon spoke about hope and said there are two kinds of hope.
“There’s ‘I hope I’ll go to college’ and there’s hope in God,” he said. “Hope in God never fails.”
He noted that the symbol of hope is an anchor and said that “knowing that faith is an anchor gives us hope and consolation” during these uncertain times.
Baillargeon also quoted Yoda, who said “to be Jedi is to face the truth and choose. Give off light or darkness.” He said only light can defeat darkness and encouraged the graduates to move forward with hope and be the light.
noted that St. Mary’s was able to have a graduation when some other schools could not, which showed their faith and hope.
“We are very fortunate to celebrate this milestone gathered here today, in the company of one another, while most graduates this year, were not able to commemorate such a memorable occasion,” he said. “2020, will go down in history, inarguably, as one of the most shocking and unpredictable years that we will ever endure. However, for each of my classmates and myself, here tonight, it will go down in our history, as the year we graduated from high school.”
Lucardi said every one of his fellow graduates learned some things this year that they never expected, but that would serve them well.
“Each of us has learned this year that life will quickly present us with unexpected, and sometimes unimaginable situations and experiences. However, any person who has achieved any sort of success, will be the first to tell you, that the trials and tribulations you face on your journey to prosperity, are that mold you into the person you are to become,” he said.
Lucardi reminded everyone that their outlook is important. “No accomplishment has ever been achieved with a pessimistic attitude,” he said. “Enter every situation that life will throw at you, whether you are prepared or not, with an attitude and willingness to come out on top.”
Lucardi thanked their teachers, principal, families and more for helping the graduates navigate whatever life threw at them. And through it all, one thing remained at the heart of their strength; Faith.
“I wish to advise not only those graduating tonight, but to everyone. Do not lose faith,” he said. “This is for those for whom God is someone you speak to on a daily basis, or those who struggle with their own faith. We should thank our Lord for every single blessing he has ever bestowed on us and being here tonight is certainly one of them. The last four years have been filled with his blessings for every single one of us, something a Catholic education has taught me.”
He also reminded his classmates not to forget their home.
“Never forget where you come from. Western Massachusetts is one small piece of one huge world. Life is going to take us all to different places. Let us not forget what has allowed us to move forward: our high school. No matter where we are headed, or where we will end up, our home will always be ours. This is our home. Something we all have in common,” he said.
Archbishop Mitchel T. Rozanski said Mass and helped Principal Matthew Collins confer graduates inside the St. Mary’s Parish Church.