Co-Valedictorians for the Class of 2012
Valedictory by Annie Bulger '12
We have come to the time of our leave taking, that time in which we reflect on the many gifts we have received at Saint Mary’s and how we may use these gifts to effect change in the world. In John 15, Jesus tells us, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” And he challenges us to bear fruit that will remain. Pope Benedict XVI offers this comment on Jesus’ words. “We must bring a fruit that will remain. All people want to leave a mark which lasts. But what remains? Money does not. Buildings do not, nor books. The only thing which remains forever is the human person created by God for eternity. The fruit which remains, then, is that which we have sowed in human souls. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God.”
I want to begin by describing a moment when I saw these words of Benedict take flesh. After my sophomore year at Saint Mary’s, I had the opportunity to spend two years in Southern Indiana with a Christian missionary team. One afternoon in a run-down neighborhood of Evansville we met Arnold. He was only 64 years old, but his crooked hands told us of the debilitating arthritis that aged him beyond his years and left him confined to his electric wheelchair. We sat in the rusty, yellow folding chairs that cluttered the porch of his ramshackle house, and Arnold began to tell us how he experiences the world. “I thank the Lord for waking me up every morning,” he said. “I get to open my eyes and see his world. Then I get to feel his blood warming up my body. I get to splash some of his water on my face and sit down to eat some of his food.” After a slow breath he continued with a smile, “I’m the richest man in all of Evansville. I’m dirt poor, but everything I see is mine, because it belongs to my Father.” His money and his health were stripped away, but Arnold’s very person remained, and in his simple, grateful dignity, he was teaching me how to have peace in suffering. Arnold knew that God had chosen him. And he was producing fruit which will remain, in his own life and in mine.
We have received much in our time at Saint Mary’s that will equip us to leave a mark that lasts. We have learned to be articulate. My first semester here, I was given the assignment of writing a math paper. “Math? Paper?” I had never heard those words in the same sentence before, but now, x number of papers later, I can write about math. We have become confident. As a first-year student, I was horror-stricken when I realized that many of my classes would include a presentation. Yet in the end, some of my favorite moments at Saint Mary’s were the presentations I gave as part of my senior project. We have explored the world from many perspectives. In our history courses, we were not taught dates and names alone; we also studied the lives of the people who made the history, including those often left out of the history books.
Our minds have been formed here, and so too have our persons. When I returned to Saint Mary’s after my two-year leave, I was astonished to find that professors who had taught me a single class two years before still knew me by name and would stop to ask me how the transition was going. One professor said to me recently, “If the students only knew how we worry about them.” Our faculty have responded to us individually, opened their offices and homes to us, and challenged us to grow. From them, we have learned compassion and generosity. We have been formed too by our fellow students, who have given us friendship, and by our parents, who have labored for us, guided us, and set us free to take our place in the world. We are the fruit of their lives, fruit that will last.
How will we respond? Let us go and produce lasting fruit. Let us break through the isolation of those who live and die alone; let us honor and protect the sanctity of life; let us raise children who will also change the world; let us use our gifts of intelligence and this extraordinary education to renew the working world; let us be women of compassion, forgiveness, and strength. As we go forth from this place, let us raise our eyes to meet each human face with love and dignity, that through it all, we may transform the weeping valleys of the world into gardens of God.
Valedictory by Krystal Holtcamp '12
Seniors, we’ve made it. We have turned in every assignment, we have finished our senior comps, and we even remembered to set our alarms for today. We have made it all the way to, dare I say it, graduation day. Today is going to be full of mixed emotions for each of us, and how could it not be. Saint Mary’s has been our home for the past four years. Look to your left and to your right. You will see the girls that have been your family for the past four years. The faculty sitting in front of you, they have been your mentors, your biggest fans, and your friends.
As I thought about what I wanted to say to you today, I could only think of how unique we all are. We have all written our own story at Saint Mary’s. Some of us have written long essays about our memories being an athlete; some of us have written short stories about our involvement in clubs and other extra curricular activities; some of us have written reflections about our growing faith at a Catholic institution, and some of us have written chapters about our experiences participating in community service. Because our class represents a library of books, I know that whatever insight I have gained during my four ears here could never come close to a summary of each and every one of your Saint Mary’s stories.
So, today I am not going to give you a perceptive speech about what these past four years have meant, instead I want to focus on the moment we find ourselves in right now.
Despite our uniqueness, we have all come together today to write the same final chapter of our Saint Mary’s story. Over the past few months, I have heard many different ideas about what the word graduation means. To some of you, it has been thought of as that first gulp of air after seeing how many laps you could swim underwater. For others, it has been thought of as that long-dreaded talk with your boyfriend when you now that sometimes-good things must come to an end. Finally, many of us have gasped at this “word that shall not be named” knowing its imminent doom must certainly mean death in the “real world”. Well, as far as I can tell, we are all still breathing.
So today my message to you, soon to be Saint Mary’s alumnae, is live in the moment of right now. Take a look around at your friends who are seated with you, your family who has come to support you, and the view of you sitting here in front of the LeMans green on a beautiful spring day in your cap and gown; a view that you imagined in a dream four years ago.
For those of your who find today to be overwhelming and fleeting, let this moment keep you grounded in time and in thought. For those of you who find yourself today worried and fearful over what the future may hold, let this moment bring you peach and hope. For those of you who find today sad and nostalgic, let this memory bring you joy for many years to come.
Today is ours, seniors. It is a celebration of you. It’s a celebration of all of the hard work, the time, the effort, the tears, and the laughs and smiles that have brought us to this moment. It is a celebration of the amazing women we have become. I cannot say this with more sincerity and passion in my being than I can right now, I am so very proud of us. I can only imagine the triumphs that wait in the future for the class of 2012, but never forget this moment that brought us together one last time. Remember, once a Belle, always a Belle.