By Colleen Rowan
WEST VIRGINIA—The two things seniors at Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg hoped could happen for their graduation were to gather in some form to celebrate their accomplishments and to have the ceremony in church. Their principal, Julie A. Frosch, announced that their hope will be a reality.
The diocese’s six Catholic high schools—Notre Dame, Central Catholic in Wheeling, Charleston Catholic, Madonna in Weirton, Parkersburg Catholic, and St. Joseph Central in Huntington—are announcing or are in the final planning stages of their graduation plans.
Notre Dame is planning a June 14 graduation Mass for its 32 seniors at 3 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksburg. “We are planning to hold a graduation Mass that embodies the elements of their baccalaureate Mass and the graduation ceremony itself,” Frosch said.
Plans include aspects of the rose and candle ceremony as well as the senior video.
“Our celebration will encapsulate many of the separate celebrations we usually have so that they don’t feel like they are missing out,” she said. “It won’t be ‘the same,’ but we are trying hard to provide them an amazing experience that culminates their time at Notre Dame in a very special way.”
Graduation plans are also set at St. Joseph Central Catholic High School and St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. Dr. Carol Templeton, principal of both schools, said they will be bringing their seniors to church as well with an in-person graduation event set for June 25 at St. Joseph Catholic Church.
“St. Joseph Central Catholic School recognizes that for our senior students, their graduation experience is a celebration of their accomplishments and academic career through the K-12 school system,” Templeton said. “On behalf of the St. Joe community, we are very proud of our students’ commitment and dedication to their academic studies during this remote learning era, and we look forward to seeing our returning students for the upcoming academic year. We wish all our graduating senior students all the very best as they begin a new chapter in their lives as young adults.”
Virtual graduation ceremonies are also planned this month for seniors as well as for eighth-graders, and kindergarten students at St. Joseph Catholic School. The youngest students from the nursery program through to Prek4, will also be celebrating their preschool experience via a virtual end-of-year celebration program. All virtual graduations will be released on the school’s scheduled graduation days, beginning with the Seniors’ Virtual Graduation slated to take place May 22 followed by the Eighth Grade Virtual Graduation May 27, and the Kindergarten Virtual Graduation May 28.
Madonna High School announced its plans for a June 6 graduation at St. Joseph the Worker Church next to the school. A time and more details will be announced.
“I am extremely proud of our seniors and how they have stepped up to the plate during these unprecedented times,” said Principal Jamie Lesho. “They did not let any disappointment hinder them from finishing the year strong. I wish them all the best.”
Wheeling Central officials are still finalizing graduation plans. However, Principal Beckey Sancomb said the school will be participating in the WTOV Senior Spotlight on June 2 at 7 p.m. The seniors will be featued in a 30-minute video.
“This is certainly not the way we wanted the class of 2020 to end their senior year,” Sancomb said, “but we love them and are committed to celebrating their accomplishments and honoring their contributions to our school.”
Charleston Catholic’s plans are also still in the works, but Principal Colleen Hoyer shared: “We are working hard to create a meaningful and memorable graduation experience for the class of 2020. Their senior year was disrupted in such an unprecedented way, and they have continued their focus and hard work. We want to recognize them and their many accomplishments. Our seniors want to be able to celebrate graduation together as a class and we are working to make that happen. The uncertainty presents challenges, but I am confident we will come up with a workable plan. We will be distributing care packages to the seniors and holding a virtual day of reflection during the week of May 18 which was the week when their final retreat, baccalaureate, and graduation were originally scheduled. We want to show them how much they are loved by the CCHS community.”
Parkersburg Catholic also has not announced graduation plans at this time.
The class of 2020 has had a disappointing end to their senior years but have responded by thinking of others in the pandemic. Notre Dame seniors have handled the disappointment of cancelled activities because of the coronavirus pandemic with such grace, Frosh said, with a mindset of service, and hearts filled with joy in any circumstance. When their senior trip to Disney World was canceled they could have been negative and resentful, she said, yet they responded lovingly.
“They devised a plan to bring the love of Christ to others, virtually, since they couldn’t gather together due to quarantine measures,” Frosh said. “They made cards, created videos, and sent positive, encouraging messages to the elderly, hospitalized, and patients in nursing homes. They are leaders of love and kindness!”
The class also put together a video posted to Notre Dame’s social media pages about what they missed about the school while participating in distance learning due to the virus. Their answers, Frosh said, revolved around the family atmosphere and the closeness created by the school community.
Frosh said the seniors wanted their gradution ceremony in the church “because that is ‘home’ to them and is a symbol of our faith, an element that makes our school different and special. These students are ready to go on to the next step in their lives and shine Christ’s light in the world. We are going to miss them a lot at Notre Dame!”
She thanked them all for choosing Notre Dame.
Diocesan Catholic High Schools Announce Graduation Plans
By Colleen Rowan