On Friday evening, we gathered at St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Phoenix. The eighth graders were promoted to 9th grade and 4 precious seniors graduated high school.
I know I’ve shared about our school with you before, but I cannot say enough about it.
Ville de Marie Academy is such a special place. The children love and serve God in a way I’ve truly never seen before. There is a gentle and kind respect for The Church. There is a love and passion for knowledge that I get so excited for! The parents are kind, dear friends who encourage me as a mother. They don’t question our rules about the movies we watch or the language we don’t allow. It’s a refreshing oasis for me at this season of life.
I listened to our valedictorian deliver absolutely precious words for us all.
I watched as Nate kneeled to receive a blessing.
I smiled with joy as I watched him proudly walk past me.
I watched as my daughter knelt in the same place Pope Saint John Paul II prayed.
I listened to our Headmaster tell our students:
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Our headmaster is heading to the Diocese of Phoenix as Superintendent of Catholic Schools and we are going to miss him so much. His influence on my children will never be forgotten.
Mr. Plummer, I know they will keep their feet because they have crossed your path.
I walked back to the car with Sebastian, feeling the hot breeze, knowing that All is Well.
I’d love to share this year’s valedictorian’s address:
Good evening. My name is Joseph Plummer, and on behalf of the Class of 2017 I welcome you to this graduation ceremony on the 25th anniversary of the founding of Ville de Marie Academy. I would like to thank Mr. Plummer, the Board of Trustees, all the faculty, the parents, all friends and family, and students of Ville de Marie Academy for being here tonight. Goodbye always makes my throat hurt.
There are a million things I would like to say, but for brevity’s sake, I will contain myself. First, I would like to address the faculty and staff, then the parents, and then the student body. Thank you faculty and staff, for making this school what it is, for putting in hard work to ensure that the students get a quality education, both intellectually and spiritually. Thank you for sharing your passions, for instilling your love of God into the students’ hearts.
Secondly, parents: I cannot tell you how much of a joy and honor it has been to be able to go to school with your children. There are so many people I will dearly miss, so many truly incredible people who I have no doubt will go on to inspire the world with their joy and love. God is thick in the air at Ville de Marie Academy, and that’s because the students love Him, and they pursue Him together. So, parents, thank you so much for letting me be a part of that. And thank you so much for making the necessary sacrifices to put your child, or children, into this school.
I would now like to address the entire student body. I thought long and hard about what to say to you, and I thought it best to break it down into three parts. First, be thankful. Be thankful to God for giving you this much, be thankful to your parents for making so many sacrifices to put you in this school, and be thankful for each other, because I think its safe to say that the bonds you make here are not quite like any bond you will get anywhere else. I think the 8th graders can attest to that.
You have been given so much, but remember, “To whom much is given, much will be expected,” which brings me to my second point: be courageous. Your parents have placed you in this oasis in the desert, but know that here, you are being prepared for battle, for beyond this Village of Mary lies the battlefield. And if you love God, you will be persecuted, you will be hated and attacked simply because you are Christians. I am terrified to leave this school that is so surely under the Heavenly Mantle of Mary and go out into the secular world, but I remember the words of Christ to His disciples in John 15: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated Me first.” What glory is in persecution, then, if we are granted the honor to suffer with Him who made us, Him who loves us, Him who sacrificed Himself for us. So do not be afraid to be great; do not be afraid to wage war on paganism, do not be afraid to bring your light into the darkness, do not be afraid to die for what, or Who, you believe in.
This brings me to my third and final point: be saints. Strive for the good. Strive for the true. Strive for the beautiful. Strive for God. St. Augustine says, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless, until they rest in you.” So go find God, that you may rest in His embrace, because He is waiting for you. Always. And if you ever get lost or confused on that journey, always remember the words our Lord said to St. Catherine of Siena when she was struggling with how to best please God. He said to her: “There is nothing that you have done, nothing you are doing, and nothing you will ever do that pleases Me as much as when you know that I love you.” How easy it is, then, to be saints.
It has been a wonderful three years here. Thank you all so much for traveling this part of my journey with me. Winnie the Pooh said, and I am not ashamed in the slightest to be quoting him, “Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we go back to page one and do it all over again?” And while there are so many parts of the last three years that I wish I could do again, that chapter has already been written. And I think we’re all quite ready for another adventure. I bid you all a very fond farewell.
Joseph, this was beautifully delivered and written. Now, go light the world on fire!