The sun streamed through the windows of beautiful Holy Family Church this morning as parents and grandparents eagerly awaited the arrival of these special little people. As we waited, the first through eighth grade classes filed in and took their seats. In typical Catholic school fashion, there was the usual amount of shushing from teachers as they corralled their charges into pews. White bows marked the first three pews reserved for the graduates.
Holy Family makes a big deal out of this moving-up ceremony, and I absolutely loved that Ta, Moma and Grandpa Winters could share Mommy and Daddy’s joy and Anna’s happiness. Just after 10 a.m., the graduates processed into church as the organist played “Pomp and Circumstance” from the choir loft above. The music filled the church as the little ones walked down the aisle, single file, some sheepishly and others (like Anna) with purpose! Everyone was smiling and cameras flashed everywhere.
Father Mike, a short and portly priest, celebrated mass. A jovial and holy man, he is wonderful with the children. He held their attention throughout and especially as he talked with them during his homily. After mass, Mr. Rob, the principal, announced the graduates.
Mr. Rob told the congregation that he had spoken with the children before today to ask them what they wanted to be when they grew up. He introduced each graduate by describing the vocation they had shared with him. Each time Mr. Rob announced a graduate, the children from the other classes cheered loudly. Witnessing this sense of community reinforced my feelings about Catholic education. There is a sense of caring and sharing, a love for education and family that exists among the students and families at Holy Family.
The awarding of diplomas continued. One little girl wanted to be a cheerleader because she said she was good at it; another little girl wanted to be a singer because she said she was good at that. There were future fire fighters and police officers, teachers and even a veterinarian. Anna Rose was second to last to receive her diploma. Mr. Rob introduced her: “This graduate told me she had two things she wanted to do when she grew up. She told me she wanted to work at a school, but if she didn’t make enough money doing that, she would also work at Tops.” (There is no Wegmans in LeRoy!) A burst of laughter followed and up to the altar with the biggest smile ever went Anna Rosie. With the smile apparently glued on her face, she happily accepted her diploma from her teacher and shook Fr. Mike’s hand and then took her place at the altar.
My son, Bryan, sat next to me. When I wasn’t watching Anna Rose, I watched his proud, smiling face. My mind drifted back thirty years and I thought of him as a little boy. He had lots of ideas about what he wanted to do. Once he told me he wanted to be a police man. Another time, he wanted to be a “gas station man.” I’m guessing that might have been because of his love of cars from a very early age that continues to this day.
The memories passed and I was back in the present. Everyone took lots of pictures after mass. Then the school picnic began. The playground was the first stop for many of the littlest ones, including Anna and little brother, Daniel. I noticed the bigger kids begin to cluster in groups by sex. A small group of girls passed by, pretending to ignore a group of boys. The boys didn’t seem to notice them. Amazing how some things never change. Back in the early sixties, my St. Andrew’s girlfriends and I behaved the same way during our annual “Field Day” at Genesee Valley Park.
In the school gym, long tables were arranged in rows, covered with red, white and blue tablecloths. The graduates and their families were served first. Lunch was a hot dog, with sides of potato chips and tater tots! A small wedge of watermelon completed the feast. Later, there was cake. A mobile ice cream truck from LuGia’s arrived and everyone waited eagerly in line, graduates first of course.
Mr. Rob honored his bet with the students. It seems that he promised them that if they made their magazine drive fundraiser goal, he would shave his head at the end of the school year. Joe the barber, was there to shave Mr. Rob’s head to the delighted screams and shrieks of the kids. A small “HFS” was shaved in the back of Mr. Rob’s head.
Eventually, the festivities began to wind down. It was time to think about heading home. It was almost 2:30 p.m. Anna Rosie and Daniel began to show the unmistakable signs that let you know it’s time to leave. They had a great time running around and playing with everyone, but they were tired from the excitement of the day.
This entry would not be complete if I didn’t mention the closing hymn the children sang. It is “Blessed Be Your Name,” a song they sang at their recent spring concert. Their young voices filled the church and, of course, I got the chills as I always do when I hear children sing. I found a children’s version of this beautiful hymn, sung by the India Children’s Choir, on YouTube. I hope you take a minute to listen.