By Gordon Dritschilo
Bishop Christopher Coyne told Mount St. Joseph Academy’s class of 2018 there had been many times he thought he was finished learning.
The bishop told the crowd assembled at St. Peter Church for MSJ’s graduation ceremony Friday about how he attended a large public high school in Massachusetts.
“I was in the category of underacheiver, slacker,” he said. “Unlike President Clinton, I did inhale. A lot.”
But, Coyne said, he finished high school, got into college, graduated with a business degree, and figured he was done.
Until a few years later, he said, when he decided to go into the priesthood and was told he would need a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s in theology. He thought that would be it, he said, until he was asked to take a year of Latin and Italian so he could go to Rome and get another master’s and a doctorate, while also learning German.
“I got my doctorate and I said ‘I am done. I am so done. I’m not learning any more,’” he said.
He was not done. When he became a bishop, Coyne said, his Archbishop asked him to learn Spanish.
“I learned a little bit of Spanish — just enough to annoy the Spanish,” he said.
Over and over, Coyne said, opportunity presented itself. Coyne told the graduates to take those opportunities the way he did.
“My life has been enriched,” he said. “One of the most beautiful things is I’m now in Vermont, serving as your bishop. That wouldn’t have happened if I’d been done.”
Nicolas Moise delivered the Veritas et Puritas address, explaining that the Latin phrase, which translates as “truth and purity,” is the school’s motto, and always makes him think about the importance of being true to yourself.
“You can’t be true to yourself when you let others define who you are,” he said, adding that it was also important to have God in your life. “Having God in my life has made me realize that everyone deserves to be happy.”
Moise, who addressed his parents in French for a portion of his speech, described coming to MSJ from Haiti. He said he lacked confidence, but that his classmates built him up and inspired him to be a better person.
“Over the last two years, MSJ made me discover the true meaning of family, unity and love,” he said.
Salutatorian Mollie Giancola quoted a friend in her speech, saying “Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you.” Giancola said this quote reminds her that everything negative that happens in life offers a lesson.
“If my 14 years of Catholic school has taught me anything, it’s that God gives us the strength to overcome these obstacles and come out stronger,” she said.
Giancola challenged her fellow graduates to be open-minded and optimistic, and the sort of people others will remember fondly.
“We can be the reason that someone’s experience works out in the end,” she said.
Valedictorian Joshua Williams told a story from scouting about a Native American chief who sent his tribe’s children to cross a desert and climb a mountain. The children were told to go as far as they could, and bring with them a twig from the spot where they turned back. Each child came back later with a bit of flora showing that each had gone farther than the last.
The final child, though, returned empty handed, but with a look on his face and eyes the chief said proved he had made it to the top of the mountain and seen “the shining sea.” The class of 2018, Williams said, had reached the top of the mountain.
“Our journey is not yet complete,” he said. “We will climb many more mountains beyond the shining sea.”