Jesuit schools have marked the end of the academic year for sixth year students in various ways. These include a virtual final assembly in Belvedere College SJ with a performance by the school choir, a reflection from the Rector of Clongowes Wood College SJ on the Leaving Certificate being cancelled and a speech from a US virology expert on the tenets of Jesuit education. Gonzaga College SJ also continue to highlight the work of their alumni on the frontline through a series of videos.
Belvedere College SJ
The Belvedere College SJ online final assembly took place on Friday, 15 May 2020, for sixth year (Rhetoric) students and their parents/guardians.
Headmaster Mr Gerry Foley said:
“We wanted to mark the day as it would have been their graduation. We share their disappointment in missing out on all the rituals of this important transition.
However, we worked hard to make sure the assembly was something special. It was an opportunity to join together as a strong community.
We asked that all the students wear their shirt and tie to add to the sense of it being an occasion.”
A key part of the sixth year assembly was a virtual rendition of ‘You Raise Me Up’ by the Belvedere College Choir. The students from different years came together with the help of their directors Frances Stoker-Phelan and Ruaidhrí Ó’Dalaigh, along with video by Conrad Oppermann and sound by Garret Farrell. The performance was also dedicated to all essential workers.
Healthcare workers, musicians and the wider community have already commented on the video which has reached in excess of 6,000 views.
Director Frances Stoker-Phelan said:
“I have received many messages from people outside of Belvedere community. The parents are even more ecstatic. It has really moved people far and wide and people are sharing it. It is growing and growing.”
Audrey Corbett, one of Galway’s foremost conductors and musicians, said:
“It is only now that I have listened to that beautiful recording through tears induced by the beautiful fresh sounds and innocent faces of the boys. Also the focused attention and effort that they gave to the singing. Maybe because the young singers are quite at home with the blend of technology and music? It comes across as being totally sincere. It’s their world.”
A healthcare worker said:
“Wow that was amazing! Really appreciate it. Brought tears to my eyes.”
A member of RTE Music said:
“So impressed with the boys! When you think about what they all had to do remotely and you get this result, that is so rewarding for everyone. For me a humanness in the sound is more difficult to achieve than a technically proficient performance and there is a natural beauty in the boys’ voices. Well done!”
Another viewer said:
“That was absolutely amazing! We’re all in tears here. Congrats to you and all your helpers on pulling that together – I think that will be in the family archive forever!”
Old Belvederian Conrad Oppermann also made a video about family and sticking together during the Covid-19 crisis with Dermot Kennedy’s performance of ‘Days Like This’ as the backing track. It has been viewed in excess of 9,000 views on Instagram.
Headmaster Mr Gerry Foley informed the school community that there will eventually be an occasion to the mark the end of the school days for the sixth year students. He said:
“There will be great celebrations when we gather in the college to celebrate their graduation. As yet, we do not know when that will be allowed.”
Clongowes Wood College SJ
Fr Michael Sheil SJ, Rector of Clongowes Wood College SJ, wrote an article on his reaction to the Leaving Certificate being cancelled for the Class of 2020. He described a variety of reactions among the graduating students who formed strong bonds with each other since leaving their families and arriving at the boarding school some years ago. Fr Sheil remembered drawing from his own experience leaving his family as a youngster when he once encouraged the students during their first year to be grateful for their loving families. He felt a deep sadness in saying goodbye to them and wrote to them to express his thanks. He expressed gratitude to God and prayed that they will be generous with their talents and committed ‘men for others’.
Jesuit schools in the United States
In the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and alumnus of a Jesuit high school and university, shared a special message for the graduates of Jesuit high schools. He said, “Now is the time, if ever there was one, for us to care selflessly about one another.” He commented on certain tenets of Jesuit education that has sustained him throughout his life and career.
Gonzaga College SJ
Gonzaga College SJ have put together a series of videos of past pupils who are exemplifying the college ethos of being ‘men and women for others’ during the Covid-19 crisis. The videos include the work of alumni in various fields such as medicine, business, mental health, law and the postal service.
The school hopes that their thoughts and insights into their experiences so far might bring reassurance and inspiration to other alumni, students, and parents. In Ignatian terms, they are thought to be ‘setting the world on fire’.
In the latest video, former Headmaster Fr Noel Barber SJ shares his experience of the pandemic so far and talks about the school’s need for pioneering development in science.