BRISTOL - â€śAs much as I have looked forward to this moment,â€ť Fulvio Aliberti, valedictorian of St. Paul Catholic High Schoolâ€™s Class of 2018, told his fellow graduates, â€śI still canâ€™t believe how fast the time has gone by.â€ť
â€śTonight, as a class, we celebrate and remember the joys and laughter we have shared, the hard work and the obstacles we have overcome, and all the moments that we will forever cherish,â€ť the Windsor Locks resident continued.
St. Paul President Cary Dupont and Dean of Student Life Albert Wallace also addressed the graduates. Graduates Paul Alderete and Tessa Coleman gave scriptural readings. Archbishop Leonard Blair and Michael Griffin, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Hartford, presented the diplomas.
Commencement is not an end, but a new beginning, Aliberti said. â€śAs our time together at St. Paul comes to an end and we move on to college or work, I know that I will miss all of you. We have had four fantastic years together. Although, it is a bittersweet moment, the time has come for us to find our voice, our independence, and our purpose.â€ť
He found inspiration in a quote from Pope Benedict XVI: â€śThe world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.â€ť
â€śI believe that Pope Benedict is issuing a challenge to all of us,â€ť he continued. â€śWe need to branch out from the comforts that we have become accustomed to and strive towards excellence in what we do in order to be great.â€ť
This means recognizing all the hurdles the graduates have had to overcome these past four years, and all the obstacles they have encountered that have made them better, he said, â€śnot just when we succeeded, but also when we did not meet our expectations. These obstacles have pushed us to work hard, and forced us to challenge ourselves and improve in the process.â€ť
â€śSt. Paul has prepared us to live a life of outreach from places as close as our local soup kitchens and as distant as Iraq and Haiti through service and financial contributions, he contnued. â€śIt is easy to just relax and enjoy the comfort society offers us, but we are called to greater things.â€ť
Aliberti referred to Christâ€™s instruction to â€ślove thy neighbor as yourself.â€ť â€śThis is a simple and powerful message,â€ť he said. â€śTake care of each other! Itâ€™s a way to be better, to become great, to help others, and in the process make our community and the world a better place.â€ť
This is not easy, it means overcoming selfishness and apathy to challenge ourselves, he said. â€śWe have been tried and trained at St Paul. We have helped, shared, served, and cared for others.â€ť
â€śWhen we go into our futures, we must remember these values. We must care. We must challenge. We must inspire. Do not settle for what is comfortable. Never settle for what is comfortable. Do not walk, but run towards the embrace of the greatness that awaits you,â€ť he concluded.
Salutatorian Katie Pauloz also commented on how quickly the time has passed since her freshman days.
â€śAlthough I am saddened at thoughts of leaving St. Paul Catholic High School, which has been a loving, welcoming family for the past four years, I feel hope for the future, gratitude for the nurturing impact this school has had on my life, and happiness that I have been able to grow spiritually, physically, socially, and academically in such a supportive, caring environment,â€ť the Bristol resident said.
Pauloz quoted Helen Keller: â€śThe best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched; they must be felt with the heart.â€ť She said it described her experiences at St. Paul, which filled her with â€śoptimistic feelings and memories of people and situations that have built up my character and confidence.â€ť
People tend to appreciate and enjoy a moment solely with the physical senses, such as sight or touch, or the taste of certain foods, but it is essential to â€śreflect on the feelings that a moment has implanted in our hearts because these emotions are priceless and hold the true meaning of that experience in our lives,â€ť she said.
Looking at St. Paul beyond the physical exterior of the school building, â€śI also see the true beauty of what lives inside, the supportive students and faculty, the happy memories that will never fully vanish, the faith of the close-knit community that makes it a unique learning environment, the goals I have accomplished within its walls, and the content feelings I have accumulated while finding my place in the school,â€ť Pauloz commented.
This genuine beauty, which is felt with the heart, is present in the schoolâ€™s core values of faith, character, community, excellence and service, she said, â€śbecause they are invisible yet powerful ways of living that allow us to experience beauty through emotions of fulfillment and lasting memories.â€ť
She described how St. Paul nurtured these values, saying â€śalthough it is sad and difficult to leave a place that has made such a significant impact on our lives, we will cherish the friendships we have made, the values we have strengthened, and the opportunities that have helped us reach a greater understanding of ourselves.â€ť
Pauloz concluded by inviting her fellow graduates â€śto remember the positive aspects of your experiences in high school, to think of the talents you have developed, to thank the people who have helped you on your journey, and to appreciate the beauty of the world that can be felt only within the heart.â€ť
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.