This past Friday I addressed the graduates of St. Mary School in Taber. Enclosed is the short message I delivered that evening. Enjoy!
Good Evening Ladies & Gentlemen, honored guests and graduates of 2012. It is always an honor to bring greetings on behalf of the division at graduation ceremonies. And coming back to Taber brings such great memories of the time that I spent here from 1996-2001. I am fortunate in that I taught about a dozen of these graduates back when I was their principal in St. Patrick and was able to get to know both them and their families. It always amazes me how much growth occurs over the 12+ years of schooling. It is hard to believe that the little boys and girls that I knew have now grown into such fine young men and women. Well done parents and families for raising such great kids and thank you for allowing Holy Spirit to be part of their upbringing. And well done staff at Holy Spirit for your part in their growth and development.
Your graduation theme, “Act, Dream & Believe” is a speech writer’s dream. I was thinking about all the great material that I could use for this speech and then I went to your mass last night and listened to Fr. Vincent’s homily. There is no way that I can say anything that could compete with Fr. Vincent’s story. His story epitomizes your graduation theme perfectly. So instead, I am only going to focus on one aspect of your theme- act.
Actions will always speak louder than any of your words. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” In fact, it will be your actions that define you as a person. So in order to preach the Gospel every day you must:
Act with integrity! Be true as a person! Be honest and upfront. Remember that half-truths are also half lies. Be trustworthy and trusting and make sure that your word is your honor.
Act with justice! Don’t allow injustices in the world, in your community, in your home or even in your life. Stand up for what is wrong and unfair. Justice is not revenge or judgment. It is about making sure that right succeeds over wrong.
And finally, act with compassion & love! Our world would be a much better place if we made all of our decisions through the eyes of compassion and love. Bitterness comes through the eyes of hatred, envy and jealousy. It is neither a healthy way nor a productive way to act and lead one’s life. Mother Teresa says. “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’ kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
This is a unique year for the class of 2012. Their grad year was Mr. Nightingale’s first year as a principal and Mr. Zanolli’s last year in education. And I would be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about Mr. Zanolli. I was fortunate to get to know Mr. Zanolli as a colleague, friend and parent. I coached his twin boys and taught his daughter, he worked with my wife and he also taught our son Jordan. We also had a couple of great years coaching basketball together. When I talk about your actions there is no better example than Mr. Zanolli. Throughout his career he has always been well liked and well respected by his students, parents, staff and the community. He has gained that respect not because of words but because of his actions. His actions, his love of kids has never wavered in his 36 years in education. He is retiring still at the top of his game and that is sad for future students at St. Mary but something that again demonstrates his character of which I value and respect. On behalf of Holy Spirit, I thank you Alvaro for your actions!
Graduates, as you leave St. Mary’s remember that you have been provided a solid foundation to live a life of action. Through the support of your parents and families and a strong Catholic/Christian education system you are ready. Step out into the world tomorrow believing in God and yourself, dreaming of all that you can and will do and act with integrity, justice, compassion and love. Remember that you are a child of God and your life will always be in His hands. Good luck and God Bless!