Senior Parents. There are so many things that the faculty is indebted to you for and thank you for at the top of the list is that you have given to Seton the Class of 2016. But there’s something that might be overlooked that you have done. You named these seniors.

Their names are spectacular for their originality. Let’s see, among the boys there are 4 Patrick’s and 4 Thomas’s; 2 Matthew’s, 2 Michael’s, 2 Stephen’s, 2 Brian’s and 2 Christopher’s (if we count Spanish equivalents).

On the girls’ side we have 6 Mary’s if we count Spanish equivalents and the 2nd half of compound names; three Therese’s if we count French equivalents; two Rose’s if we take only the first half of compound names; two Michaela’s which combined with the male equivalent gives us four Michaels or four Michaelas; 2 Claires; and 2 Madeleines. There’s the occasional Anselm, Xavier and Cyril, along with the occasional Caelan, Haley and Jillian. But really, most of the other names are rare.

I think my favorite name is Garrett Mee. Garrett isn’t Garrett’s real first name. But that is neither here nor there because what I like is Garrett’s last name which is Mee. You see, you can say, ‘He is Mee’ and still be sane and grammatically correct, though most others would think you were neither.

Returning to you, parents of the seniors, there are some of you who are on your maiden voyage tonight, having never been at a senior banquet before. Then there are others of you who have accumulated the equivalent of millions of frequent flier miles for senior banquets. And some among the platinum plus members are here for the last time because tonight your well-named offspring is the baby of the clan. To all of you who have your last child graduating from Seton this year, we especially thank you, and Seton now looks forward to your grandchildren.

OK, now to you Seniors: There are four possible topics for tonight – things that have marked your senior year as extraordinary. First, at the end of September we bid the best of riddens to the abortion clinic in Manassas; 2nd at the beginning of December we began the Jubilee Year of Mercy on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception; 3rd was a natural wonder that began on the day of the March for Life and continued until we had a record setting 30+ inches of snow on the ground; 4th was the dedication of Our Lady Queen of the Angels Chapel which you all witnessed on the Incarnational Solemnity of the Annunciation on the unusual date of April 4th.

But before we get to one of these topics, it’s time to bring Pete out. this is the doll that many of you are familiar with. it is a doll made by Stacey Jackson, an alumna of Seton. Stacey was on a reality show as one who was discerning a vocation to the religious life, but since then she has decided not to become a nun, and is, in fact, engaged to be married soon.

She recently told me that Pete here was the first doll she ever made and that she is much better at making dolls now. Then she said that instead of having the traditional little bride and groom on the top of her wedding cake, she is making miniature dolls of herself and her fiancée that will top the cake. I told Pete this and after a short while he said, “I want to be on the top of a wedding cake.”

No, Pete.

OK, back to you Seniors: we can’t possibly talk on four topics tonight, so I want you to pick one. Since we are in a politically charged year, I don’t think we should put this to a vote. Let’s instead have Tim Costello, who at some point this year looked almost as much like me as Pete here does. let’s have him draw a topic from this hat and that’ll be the topic we consider.

So will it be the big event of September; December, January or April? What’s it say, Tim?


Oh, I forgot that topic was in the hat. I’m not prepared to talk on that subject, so we’ll have to go to Plan B On the day that Tim looked like me – it was the day in spirit week when some students dressed up as superheroes, cartoon characters or faculty members.

I decided to dress up. I had a silver top hat and threw this jacket on over a sweater and went to school. People were asking me who I was, and I didn’t really have an answer. Then Cecelia Hassan walked into class and said, “Oh, I know who you are – you’re the Monopoly Man.” Well, that’s who I was for the rest of the day.

At some point Monopoly Man put his hand into the pocket of this jacket and pulled out a wad of paper. It was the senior banquet talk from 2003, which means I hadn’t worn this jacket since before some of you seniors had started school. There’s some similarities between 2003 and 2016, perhaps most noteworthy is that 4 of you seniors had siblings graduate in 2003. They were: Francisco DeBrey, Anthony Kelly, Kaitlyn Koehr, and Nathan Minarik.

Let’s see if the parents of those four remember back 13 years. So imagine it’s 2003 and the seniors here tonight are around 5 years of age and four of them are at home where baby sitters are reading them fairy tales. Appropriately enough the speech began this way:

Tonight we are going to analyze the story of Cinderella to discover ‘The Cinderella Syndrome.’

The tale of Cinderella has it all. For the history buff, it begins, ‘Once upon a time’ … clearly establishing it in history. For the economist and sociologist there is the question of social status, position based on wealth and power, and the dynamics of the non-traditional household.

The scientist and mathematician could consider the friction and traction of glass slippers on marble floors; for the religious there are the virtues of humility and long-suffering and our heroine is a godmother. Any sports fan would have to be impressed with Cinderella’s athleticism: In a flowing gown and shoes with neither tread nor cushioned support, she easily outdistanced a dashing young prince, who couldn’t even catch up to her after she lost one of the slippers. It is no wonder that this fairy tale has given us the sports term ‘Cinderella Team’.

But let’s focus on sudden change. C can’t go to the ball because of the way she is dressed – basically prom dress disapproval. Then transformation. But the transformation comes with a caveat – at midnight the transformation is reversed. This is the Cinderella Syndrome: We experience powerful, emotional, even cataclysmic change that seems to transform us, but the change in us does not endure.

For the Class of 2003 their freshman year began with Y2K and the dire predictions that came with it: The stroke of midnight would usher in the new millennium, but it would come with a caveat: Beware: computers will cause chaos. So people were transformed – they hoarded water, put $$ under mattresses; buried gas tanks in their backyards. Midnight struck and we were stuck with the status quo. Nothing changed, except we had a lot of bottled water to drink and trail mix to eat.

In their junior year was 9-11. We seemed united in purpose for a while: Democratic and Republican congressmen stood together on the steps of the Capitol and sang ‘God Bless America’. This goodwill lasted awhile; I would say a short while.

Senior year: there was the sniper; the Columbia tragedy; the war with Iraq. Big events; scary events; but life changing events?

Religiously, in the last four years of high school, the Class of 2003 were part of The Great Jubilee; The Year of the Rosary and the introduction of the Luminous Mysteries.

Looking back just 13 years to 2003 is amazing. Unlike your parents you seniors don’t remember where you were when the jets were crashed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon; you don’t know a time when there weren’t 20 mysteries to the Rosary; you don’t know the terror of the sniper.

You do know cell phones and internet as seeming necessities. You have unprecedented connection to friends and family. Change is all around you — What is it that can transform your life? Is it what Elijah found: a still, small voice? Or would hearing a still, small voice make you think Siri is working overtime?

Here’s a story of when I was a junior in high school in 1974. I skipped playing in a basketball game for the Wiggins Tigers to go on a weekend retreat. Like many things in the 70’s, the retreat had some good and some strange. Here’s the best of the good: We went into a long narrow loft that was completely black, and then a candle was lit in the front. There were priests in the very front, and, after each of us went to confession, we picked up a candle and lit it from the large candle. Everyone went to confession, so the room went from pitch black, to ablaze in candlelight. The transformation internally seemed as palpable as the transformation externally.

That night the guys slept on a gym floor and in the morning, after most had left the gym, one fellow found a basketball. The four of us stragglers shot around for a while. Then it was back to retreat where there was a lot of hugging and crying – stuff I couldn’t really relate to. I wanted to be back in the gym. At the end we were given booklets that we could have fellow retreaters sign. Everyone was writing a lot of pious stuff, so I started writing as piously as I could. Then the guy who had found the basketball came up to me, and we exchanged booklets. I wrote piously and handed the booklet back to him. As he walked away, I looked down at what he had written – just three words: Good outside shot. I thought, ‘He is normal.’ I wished that I had written something normal because his three words really might have been the greatest thing for me on the retreat. His three words were a still, small voice. I decided after reading them that I would try never again to be weird about religion.

You seniors are so refreshing. Mrs. Carroll told me that the topic one day in Religion 12 was heaven. Someone asked if the class could go on a field trip there. Discussion included transportation, dress code, and cost. All of you probably assumed that you didn’t need parent permission slips. That discussion of a field trip to heaven is proof of how normal you seniors are.

Though I decided junior year that I was going to try to be normal about religion, others didn’t think I was. A year after the retreat, the Class of 1975 went on our school-sponsored, teacher-chaperoned senior trip which began Friday and ended Sunday. I looked at our schedule and realized that there was no way we were going to be back in time on Sunday to go to Mass. So, after we had arrived in the mountains, I talked with the other two practicing Catholics in my class, and we walked into the town of Manitou Springs to find out what time Masses were. We could make the early morning Mass and be back in time to get on the school bus to Wiggins. We did so. I was the last one to get on the bus, and as I boarded, I sensed something was really strange – 32 seniors, but it was completely quiet. Then a voice came from the back, ‘Why did you go to church?’ Surprised by the question, I answered, ‘We are Catholics, and we have to.’ Believe it or not, that answer didn’t produce a rush of converts.

Contrast my high school story to one from this year. The volleyball team had gone down to Fredericksburg and gotten beat. The long drive home awaited us, so there was a stop at Chic-fil-a. Sandwiches bought, the girls all got in the van. Michaela, very naturally said, ‘Let’s say grace.’ And all paused to pray before eating. (It had not crossed my mind to pray.) Then Mr. Pennefather got into the van, and the first words out of his mouth were, ‘Did you say grace?’ I love Seton. Still, small voices are all around. Though I have to say I am glad I was not in the van the time that Johanna DeBrey is purported to have laughed for 38 minutes straight on a van ride home from a volleyball game. That’s pushing the boundaries of normal.

There were four topics that were up for discussion tonight, and I have ignored all of them. But let’s package them together now.
September: the closing of the abortion clinic.
December 8th: beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy
January 22nd : 30″ of snow begin to fall
April 4th: Solemnity of the Annunciation: our chapel dedication

Each of these events is connected to life in the womb: one: the darkest day in American History; one, a tremendous day in Manassas; and the other two celebrate the two greatest conceptions: Blessed Mother and Our Lord.

You have lived your years at Seton in a world that manifests confusion and evil. There are parallels to the 60’s and 70’s that many of your parents lived through: There was the Viet Nam War; the sexual revolution; the escalation of the drug culture; the hippie movement; race riots and college campus sit-ins and shootings. All this was taking place as the documents of Vatican II were often misconstrued and distorted into strange liturgies and heretical teachings. I don’t need to list for you the bizarre things going on now, but I can tell you many of them are the natural offspring of the revolution of the 60’s and 70’s.

At the beginning of this talk, we thanked your parents for giving to Seton all of you. It is important to the faculty that you know how much we mean this. You have driven to school from Front Royal, Sterling, Fredericksburg, and Purcellville and maybe most amazing across Manassas on a scooter. You’ve excelled and entertained us on stages, courts, fields, terrains and in pools. You have gone to the poor in Haiti and Honduras; You have loaded crates for the Medical Missionaries; you’ve populated the Sacred Life and Haiti clubs; you started Cornerstone; you have gotten up before dawn to stand on the Supreme Court steps giving voice to the unborn; you have gone door-knocking for Bob Marshall; you have shown love and hope when death came among us; you have shown enthusiasm and good humor; you have made school days fun and interesting because you love life and you love the Lord of Life. You are not only attuned to the still, small voice, but more often than you might think, you have been the instrument God has used to convey His gentle message.

So it just doesn’t seem enough to say that you are normal. No. You are exceptional individuals. So let us say of you seniors: You are an extraordinary class, with some very ordinary names.

May God bless the Class of 2016. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His Mercy endures forever.

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