By Janelle C. Gergen / Editor, OND
EAST GRAND FORKS – The Msgr. A.I. Merth Gymnasium in East Grand Forks was full on May 24 for Sacred Heart School’s 2019 commencement exercises. Diplomas were conferred to 25 graduating seniors.
During his introductory remarks, Carl Adolphson, School President, recognized that more than half the graduating class completed 100 or more volunteer hours throughout their high school careers and are recipients of the school’s Community Service Award. As part of the graduation regalia, these students were adorned with white cords. The group completed 2,030 service hours in total throughout high school. He said, “Thank you, Class of 2019 for your leadership, character and values.”
Adolphson invited Blake Karas, High School Principal, to speak about the class’s Senior “Legacy” Project, which is a group project meant to make an impact collectively, in addition to individual community service hours. The class chose two ways to make an impact. First, they volunteered at the Polk County Developmental Achievement Center (DAC) by preparing a garage for the organization’s prom. The work involved cleaning, moving tables, decorating and engaging with clients. Some members of the Class of 2019 then attended the prom alongside DAC clients.
Next, the Class of 2019 assisted with Sacred Heart School’s Building Addition Dedication on May 10, where the Sisters of Mount Saint Benedict were honored. This work involved traveling to Crookston to assist the sisters with getting on a bus for transportation to the dedication, helping the sisters into the building to find their seats; preparing a speech; setting up and tearing down the gymnasium; ordering refreshments; organizing the hanging of crucifixes; unveiling murals; and other tasks to make the day run smoothly.
Karas quoted one sister who said, “Thank you so much for everything you did to put this day together. This justifies everything I have ever done in my life’s work.”
Gabriel Joseph Suda, Valedictorian, spoke on behalf of the class. He opened with a comical description of St. Genisius of Rome, an actor who was converted on stage, then persecuted and martyred for the faith around A.D. 303 because he refused to mock Christianity to please the Emperor Diocletian.
Suda reminded his classmates to remain true to themselves, much like St. Genisius. He said, “We just spent two to 13 years [together] learning about Jesus, his teachings and the Church he built. We know ourselves; we know what we need to know in our hearts. But will we live that out? … The Sacred Heart Community develops a people that are built on faith. That faith means absolutely nothing if we leave this building to live a two-faced life.”
He continued, “Class of 2019: Keep the faith. Keep the faith so one day you can look up at those emperors in your life and say, ‘No’. Keep the faith so that the parents, teachers, clergy, and community that built you up didn’t do it for nothing. Keep the faith because God always keeps you.”
Suda ended with a quote spoken by St. Genisius to Diocletian after his conversion: “I came here today to please an earthly Emperor but what I have done is to please a heavenly King.”
Karas presented the class and called each member forward to receive a diploma from Superintendent Msgr. Mike Foltz. Cheers of congratulations from loved ones and friends were heard from the crowd.
The school band played recessional music as the Class of 2019 processed outside where the group gathered for a celebratory tossing of their caps.
CORRECTION: A prior version of this story incorrectly listed the number of graduates as 27.