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Saint Bernard School grads 'charge into future' with kindness

Norwich — As is customary, Saint Bernard School Headmaster Don Macrino asked the decked-out crowd packed under the vaulted ceiling of the Cathedral of Saint Patrick to withhold their applause and refrain from taking photographs.

But more than a few excited family members and friends just couldn't help themselves, exalting "woos" and clapping or sneakily crouching along rows of pews and leaning around pillars to snap a few shots as 65 graduates accepted their diplomas from Bishop Michael Cote in the school's 61st commencement ceremony Friday night.

Following the conferring of diplomas, 10 students presented medallions to nine parents and one grandparent who are also alumni, with hugs and boisterous applause during each presentation.

"You may spot a tear in the eyes of those behind you," Macrino told the students. "They're mostly tears of pride and happiness, but there's also a touch of sadness in remembering that little girl or boy who entered kindergarten in what seemed like only yesterday, and tonight, graduates from high school."

Senior Sarah Engel — a daughter, sister, cousin and niece of Saint Bernard grads — said she'd seen "firsthand the power that is the Saint Bernard Family" as her own family has "grown into successful and impactful humans who care about the world we live in."

"Saint Bernard is full of silent doers," said Engel, chosen by faculty to address the graduates. "We walk the walk and do not feel the need to talk the talk."

Engel said the graduates began high school nervously — not knowing locker combinations or who they'd sit with at lunch, some not Catholic or religious at all, some worried about making new friends and many concerned that high school was "really as scary and serious as our middle school teachers had made it seem."

Engel said Saint Bernard inspired students to take the hard path and do what is right, "taking on others' burdens without being asked ... reaching out a hand to those who may have fallen, as Jesus did." She said that the graduates "have all been someone's Simon of Cyrene on a hard day," referencing the man who helped Jesus carry the cross.

"It is easy not to care, it is easy to be too busy with our own cross ... but at Saint Bernard it has never been a question of 'Should we help?' It's always a question of, 'How?' Everyone is fighting a hard battle. Everyone's cross is heavy. Never stop being a Simon to someone in need."

Macrino told the graduates that as they begin a new chapter in life, whether they enter the workforce, college or the military, they will "march tonight with hopes and dreams for the future, and you will have the skills to achieve them."

"Respect yourselves. Love your family. Be kind," he said. "Charge into the future and make it better. You have what it takes."


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