A milestone class
STERLING – The concluding school year at Newman Central Catholic High School brought forth a milestone.
The private school’s 100th commencement ceremony was Wednesday at the high school. Its history dates back to its origins as St. Mary and Community Catholic high schools.
Most of the class, comprising of 57 graduates, 32 of which were in National Honor Society, now will embark to college studies; 93% plan to attend a 2- or 4-year college this fall.
The sound of rain pounding on the roof of the Newman gym coincided with Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” when graduates made their way to their folding chairs at the start. However, that won’t stop the graduates from moving forward on the advice of their class motto, borrowed from the noted Spanish theologian St. Ignatius of Loyola: to “go forth and set the world on fire.”
“We are adults now. Maybe not in the eyes of our parents, but we are adults,” valedictorian David Swegle said. “We must take on the responsibility, even if it seems impossible.
“The world we are entering outside the walls of Newman is ours for the making. We have control of the world that future generations will inherit.”
Swegle reflected on his class’s 4 years at Newman, noting that on their first day of freshman year, it was the day of the Feast of St. Claire of Montefalco, a 13th century Augustinian nun and “an obscure saint,” he said.
St. Claire stepped up to lead her convent after her sister had died, and Swegle said similar nerves may have run rampant with his fellow then-freshmen.
“We were scared. We didn’t know where to sit at lunch,” Swegle said. “We were worried the classes were going to be too difficult, but we all got through.”
Wednesday was the feast day of St. Rita of Cascia, “another nun from Italy,” Swegle said.
“She lived a remarkable life and brought peace to the warring factions of her town. The part of her story that struck me the most, is that on her deathbed, she asked a friend for a rose to be brought to her from her parents’ yard. A small favor to ask.
“But it was January, and no roses were growing.”
There indeed was a rose there, and St. Rita received it. Due to this, and other miracles, St. Rita is the patron saint of impossible causes.
“To some of us, college may seem like an impossible cause,” Swegle said.
To further establish his point, Swegle left his fellow classmates with a particular call to action. He asked his young nephew, Henry, to come up the steps and onto the stage where Swegle stood in front of the podium.
“[He] should stand as motivation for all things that we do going forward,” Swegle said. “Henry is the reason why we should strive to make this world a better place.”
The Rev. David J. Maloy, Bishop of the Rockford Diocese, found much truth in Swegle’s message.
“The talk we just heard from David was, I hope, really representative of all of you,” Maloy said. “You now inherit that share of responsibility.”
Mary Powers, salutatorian, gave a prayer for respect of life.
“As the source of life, and of the Lord of life, you entrust us to take care of one another,” Powers said.
Newman principal Jennifer Oetting said that nearly every graduate participated in extra curricular activities, whether it was athletics or academic clubs.
Along with Powers and Swegle, six additional graduates are Illinois State Scholars: Shay Hafner, Madaline Jacobs, Spencer Mauch, Meagan Moore, Brady Moran and Emily Schaab.