Dr. Amy Sansone, Academic Dean
Good morning! After the unpredictability of the past several months, it truly is a beautiful sight to look out now and see all of our graduates and those who love them, here in person, able to truly share the joy of this commencement ceremony.
We welcome today our chaplain Fr. Michael Sartori, our keynote speaker, Mr. David Thibault; our faculty, our students, our families and our friends. Welcome to you all.
As I look out I realize, everyone here has played a role in assisting these graduates on their path to today.
So in addition to saying welcome -- to our beautiful campus, to our wonderful community I would also like to say, on behalf of our entire school community: thank you.
To every single one of you.
Thank you to those here who helped lay the foundational stones of our school. Some of you here were on that pilgrimage 27 years ago, journeying to St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, seeking the intercession and guidance of St. Joseph and St. Andre. We wouldn’t be here today without you and your continued prayers over the years.
Thank you to Mr. Thibault: a former headmaster who steered this ship for years-- shepherding the school’s growth -- from growing student enrollment, to overseeing the completion of these beautiful buildings, as well as hiring so many of our talented faculty.
Thank you to our faculty: Day in and day out; whether it is on campus and in person, or at home Zooming for 13 straight weeks, you work ceaselessly to craft and deliver not simply challenging academic lessons, but you model a virtuous life of true Christian service, both in and outside of the classroom.
Thank you to the parents and other family members here today. You work so diligently behind the scenes, year after year, in so many ways: Encouraging your child when the motivation to compete homework flags, driving them to far flung ball games and field trips, cooking fresh pasta for St. Joseph’s Day, washing linens for the Holy Mass each week, or simply waking your child up each morning and helping them pack a lunch, ready for another day.
Lastly, thank you to the senior Class of 2020 -- Thank you for your own hard work and efforts.
For believing in and living out our mission.
Welcome to everyone here this morning.
Introduction of Andrew Mihaly
Derek Tremblay, Headmaster
Thank you Dr. Sansone for welcoming us all together here today. Your service is a gift to our school, and I am so honored to work for this mission with you. You have taught me so much, and even when I quip that your credentials and experience are more suitable for my position, I know how much you support me and I could not do any of this without you.
At this moment, I positioned the ceremony to do two things at once: I would like to get us moving towards our keynote and at the same time give gratitude to someone who quite frankly set a cornerstone for this school.
Mr. Mihaly’s trajectory back to Mount Royal was surely ordained by the providence of God. His departure should also be regarded as divinely sanctioned since the man has found that purpose which satisfies all men at the core of our being: Fatherhood. We are all made to be fathers in some sense, and I am so happy for he and Christine. History cannot be re-written no matter how hard we try to adjust the narrative for some self-seeking purpose, and he surely brought this sentiment to the table each day in the classroom. He knows that what we did in the past ought to inform what we think now and how we act in the future. Most important is how he imparted a way of thinking and being that does not succumb to a fad or seemingly progressive way of analyzing reality as something besides what an individual does to keep him or herself accountable. Our pursuits can be mired by misdirected patterns of thinking sometimes but Mr. Mihaly provided a stabilizing force to keep it all in the right direction over the course of his tenure here. I know that he and I share a common gratitude towards our keynote speaker, so I figured I would afford him the opportunity to introduce him and give his final public remarks in this Commencement. Ladies and gentlemen, show your support for Mr. Andrew Mihaly.
Introduction of David Thibault, Keynote Speaker
Andrew Mihaly, Athletic Director & Teacher
Thank you for the kind words. I typically just get up in front of a microphone and hope that in the moment, something meaningful will come from the heart, at my own expense sometimes. I definitely wanted to prepare for this because after I began to think what I wanted to say to all of you, seven years' worth of memories and tides of emotions began to hit me.
I consider myself truly blessed to have spent the first years of my teaching career at MRA. I have learned so much about myself and my vocation in serving this community. This is truly a special place; a place where I know God is at work. Members of this school community from all walks of life put forth their best, and sacrifice so much, to work towards the crucial mission of forming young people. It is truly a beautiful process that I have been fortunate to witness here year and year.
Though it will never be enough, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my hearts to the families for supporting me and allowing me into your lives. I want you to know that I have been deeply impacted by your powerful witness of steadfast faith and unconditional love. So many sacrifices are made by families to support the mission of this school and what we are trying to accomplish as a community. It has been my honor to not only teach your children, but be a part of their formation as young men and women. I want to thank my colleagues, the staff, for your commitment to this mission and your impressive, at times herculean, efforts to live your vocation; I will very much miss working alongside you day in and day out.
There are countless memories that I will treasure as I move on to this next chapter. And though I am moving on with a heavy heart, I move on with a heart filled with gratitude for having been blessed with these seven years here with this community. Words truly cannot do justice to the gratitude I feel for the support and camaraderie over the years. Please continue to pray for me and my family as I will most certainly be keeping you all close in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you!
The next job I have up here is to introduce our keynote speaker. Mr. David Thibault has been deeply involved in the mission of Catholic education for many years now in a variety of roles. The Mount Royal Academy community has been greatly impacted by Dave's leadership in his years of tireless service to this school's mission and growth as its Headmaster. In face, Dave hired me in 2013 as a bright eyed college grade, and I have learned so much from him over the years about what it means to be a faithful servant leader. Dave has served as Superintendent of NH Catholic Schools since 2016, and has been faithfully leading the charge in the vital mission of Catholic education in our state. Dave's friendship has been an immense blessing in both mine and my family's lives for which I am deeply grateful. He is a tremendous witness to me of love of God, love of family, and steadfast service to our Church. Please join me in warmly welcoming our keynote speaker today, Mr. David Thibault.
Kateri Kalpakgian, President of Student Government
Good morning, and what an honor to be able to speak on behalf of the graduating class of 2020.
The words of Pope Benedict XVI that resound in my heart daily are as follows:
“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort you were made for greatness.” “Men and Women were created for something great, for infinity. Nothing else will ever be enough.”
From the moment we are able to understand the question, we are bombarded with “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “what are you going to do when you’re older?” “how are you going to make money?” Our lives are spent living in the future and trying to achieve society's definition of “success”. And if we don't make it into a prestigious school, or we take a gap year, or choose to study something unordinary, or we choose to never to go school at all and would rather work or travel we are made to feel as if we have somehow let the world down. Why is that? What is the true meaning of greatness and success?
No one gets to choose their status or talents in life or if you’re good at math, or extremely athletic, but everyone, no matter who they are, gets the choice to be great. To wake up every single day and say I will impact the world in a small unique way or in a very large powerful way. Every single person that has been, is now, or will be, has been given the tools to be kind, spread joy, and accomplish every task in a meaningful and dedicated way. To know what you want to be when you’re older,or to work hard for success in your life is prudent and admirable, but our primary vocation is to love and this is inherently true for all of us, with no exceptions. Our success is not measured by Net worth or how many friends we have, but by the light we are able to spread to the world and how many people we are able to love.
Undoubtedly, the most important thing I’ve learned from attending Mount Royal Academy is the inherent worth and dignity of every single person made in the image of God. And with this inherent worth, comes an irreplaceable role to play in the world. We may never observe our role with front row seats and may never even know it in this life, but God has made us with a task to complete that no one else in the world can. So may we be ever focused on this reality, and when the World says “we don’t accept you” or “you’re going nowhere” may we joyfully respond, “Great! I have my eyes focused on something much bigger than the world.”
Mr. Tremblay often states on long bus rides, “you know what superpower I wish I had? I wish I could close my eyes and teleport us back to school.” This is a very understandable wish (especially when we’re driving home from Lincoln, NH in a blizzard), but I would disagree. Some of my best memories, conversations, lessons, laughs, and tears come from those bus rides, and I think the same is true for life. Let us not close our eyes to those around us and teleport to the end of our journey. Let us enjoy every moment, reveling in the good times and growing in the hard times. No matter how unaccomplished we feel, or if the world does not approve of our path in life, if we live every day with the mindset that we are uniquely and fiercely created in love with the purpose of sharing that love, we can never be a failure. Mother Teresa said we are called to indefatigably be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, everything else (our jobs, schools, talents, and preferences) are just our unique way of living out this calling to love. This is a radical calling that the world can try to diminish, but will never take away. So no matter where life takes you or what your abilities may be, if we live in the present moment, see every day as an opportunity, make the daily decision to shine our light in the world, remember our necessity and irreplaceability in God’s plan, and never pass up an opportunity to love, we will be great.
May love, the foundation we’ve received from Mount Royal, and the knowledge of our identity as children of God guide us when we are faced with adversity and despair in this complex world.
With that being said, It is my privilege to say thank you. First to God, who was the heart and soul of our education, ensuring that our best interests were kept safe. Who gives meaning to our lives and shows us our unwavering worth. When we are discouraged or displeased with ourselves, He delights in us and tells us we are enough.
Second to our educators, you very easily could have treated your role in our lives as any other job, but your dedication to your vocation and the countless hours of selfless giving and hard work has changed our lives. You have given us an example of what it means to live out a vocation with love and meaning, and that is irreplaceable.
Finally, to our parents, grandparents, and families:
Your never ending, incomprehensible, support and sacrifices are the reason that we all stand here today receiving our diplomas. You have pushed us to be the best that we can be, cheered us on in our successes, and helped us through our trials, and so for that, I say thank you.
Aidan Moorehouse, President of National Honor Society
Sometimes, it can be all too easy to take things for granted. Whether that thing be a loved one, a close friend, or a routine to which one is accustomed, such as school or work, it can be very tempting to slip into complacency, and let the gently flowing current of routine carry one through life’s journey. However, there are also times when that gentle current, suddenly and unexpectedly, becomes a raging flood, and the person who just a few moments before was floating contentedly downstream finds their world turned upside down, and must struggle to stay above the water’s surface. Times when routines are disrupted, sacrifices undergone, relationships tested in unexpected ways, and adaptations made to a world that has been radically altered, one in which, all of a sudden, very little can be taken for granted. In other words, times like now.
And on this day, as my fellow graduates and I close one chapter of our lives and begin another, I am immensely grateful for the education I have received at Mount Royal Academy because I know that the lessons we have learned here- both in and out of the classroom- will serve us well for the rest of our lives, regardless of the challenges that life throws at us.
What were those lessons precisely? They cannot just be academic (although Mount Royal did provide an excellent education), because human beings are more than just minds. The motto of Mount Royal is not “Educating the mind, one student at a time,” but rather “Educating the whole person, one student at a time.” The lesson I learned at Mount Royal which I value the most is not restricted to any one subject, but concerns the end towards which all of those subjects are ordered, namely, God, and eternal life with Him in heaven.
You could cram a person’s head with all of the facts and statistics known to mankind, and in doing so you may produce a very intelligent person, but no matter how hard you try you will not necessarily make a good person; Jeopardy is a game show, not a test of virtue. Learning just about the way things are is ultimately fruitless without an understanding of why things are. This may seem like philosophical hair splitting on my part, but in a world in which all too many people lack a sense of ultimate purpose in their lives, I assure you that this knowledge- that your life and the life of everyone you meet has a common dignity and a heavenly destiny- will profoundly impact your life and the way you treat others in ways that you may not even realize.
That being said, it is worth remembering that an education is only as good as the educators, and my classmates and I have much to be thankful for in this regard. I am immensely grateful to all of the teachers, both past and present, who have patiently taught us throughout the years, and helped us become the men and women that God is calling us to be. Your love for your subjects and your Faith is truly inspiring, calling us not just to be better students, but better people, who should use the talents we have to do good, and not merely better ourselves. You have given us a shining example of selflessness and vocational commitment which we will strive to imitate in our own lives.
There is one teacher in particular who I was especially blessed to have for three of my six years at Mount Royal. That teacher is Dr. Mitchell Kalpakgian, God rest his soul. A college professor and published writer, he nevertheless decided to teach Latin and English Literature at Mount Royal. He truly was a man who used his God-given talents to the fullest, and I feel honored to have had the opportunity to learn from someone so virtuous and so wise. One day, as my mother was driving home, she saw Dr. K busy at one of his favorite pastimes. He was swimming, far out in the middle of Kezar lake, surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation; seeing this, my mother was reminded of a Robert Frost poem. Neither she nor I can point to any specific poem that the scene evoked, but it captured the spirit of Frost in a way that not even the most eloquent poetry recitation ever could. I know this is just a small anecdote, but I think it speaks volumes about the kind of man that Dr. K was, and the deep and lasting impression that he left on all of us.
I began this speech by referencing the most valuable lesson that I learned at Mount Royal, and I would like to return to that one more time before I conclude. There was an idea in Mr. McMenaman’s Apologetics class which has stuck with me, and that idea was that every human being, whether consciously or not, has a philosophy, some guiding principle around which they order their life. And I would exhort you all, both those graduating and those who came here to celebrate these students’ graduations: always keep God at the center of your lives, and make your eternal destiny the philosophy around which you build your earthly life. I know that may sound pietistic, but in truth, it is the only philosophy which will successfully guide you through your entire life, without exceptions, and lead you, ultimately, to your desired end, Heaven. I do not know what the future holds (and at this point in the year I’m afraid to ask what July holds), however, I do know this: no matter what challenges, upheavals, or storms you face in your life, nothing will change your identity as a totally unique and irreplaceable child of God, whose eternal destiny lies with Him, and as long as you keep that in mind, you will be able to weather the roughest storms.
Thank you, and God bless.
Semper Altius Award
Derek Tremblay, Headmaster
I think anyone who knows me understands my brutal honesty is not always the best communication strategy. Due to Corona, I think if there is ever a year where my comments in this moment will not be scrutinized, now is the time.
Here they are: awards are useless, useless for the recipient that is. The only award worth giving or receiving is eternal life. In this life, we are here for one simple reason: get to where we were made to be and bring everyone we encounter with us. The soul who does this does not need external validation because in their very bones, they know the pursuit is worth it. I think instead, awards should direct our focus on the good of others and then seek to inspire us to imitate. That is the only purpose of an award: see the good that others do, then become motivated to do better because of their example.
Here is another legitimate purpose of awards: they ought to perpetuate and communicate the very purpose of an institution. They are moments that impart the culture and fiber of what we do to those who come after us.
I also got the sense that the recipients this year intuit that purpose on their own; in fact, after last year’s commencement, one of these recipients popped into my office and pledged to do better for our mission. I left that moment thinking to myself, this is nuts. I do not consider that as crazy as I did then, because I have been thinking about the very nature of an award: the lone recipient is not alone. There is an assembly of virtue behind that person.
Before I speak to the individual recipients, I would like to speak to where they came from.
A little disclosure. This is not easy for me or anyone who sits in this spot. Our lives are so intersected with each other, and when I get to this moment year after year, I just cannot neglect the amount of grace in this community. In short, I mean to say I know too much and you know too much about me, but we all love each other: shocking, I know.
Aram and Michele: Aram is the pediatrician to all my children. Wow, that is weird. I met Michele’s father recently and I felt like I was encountering Mitch. Knowing what I do about your family’s bloodline, it is no surprise that your family is so hard-working and resilient. I also see your piety as we travel by the cross day-by-day because we know we need Him before we can handle ourselves. I sit here at the start of my own family’s journey and as I look to you I think to myself, what is your secret sauce? How do you do what you do by your children? Working side-by-side with Mitch for nearly seven years taught me all I need to know. That man is a flat-out superhero, and even when my soul saddens to the point that I can’t get out of it I hear his words: “Derek, love your wife.” Kateri’s soul is the direct descendant of those before her.
Connie and John: This dynamic makes me feel old. I recall when I first came to MRA; for my initial interview, Dave said prepare a lesson and teach it to our high school students. I did not know at that time that the high school may have consisted of less than ten students. Anna, Sara, and T.J. were in that room (I cannot remember if there was a fourth). I am so pumped to see Anna here today, with her daughter. Such an inspiring sight to all of us. I remember John asking me about Timothy and mentioning his first granddaughter was en route about the same time. Back to what I meant to say, I have been around for all four of your children, which gives me a privileged perspective. I think my perspective is equally as useless in this moment. Everyone here knows the Normandin’s had plenty of options, but they chose Mount Royal Academy, because they know our mission is different. I know why because I know you John and Connie, but that still makes me kind of retreat at times because I think: Why didn’t you just go to Trinity? Instead, you literally helped us build this high school. All I know is having you by my side makes me understand the loyalty of your children. Andrew is literally the most loyal young man I have ever met.
Here we have two families with two stories; I hope we all seek to emulate them as we move forward without these two young studs of people. This award is first and foremost about mission buy-in. These two families get why we do what we do.
Andrew – I don’t know where to begin man, but I want you to know something. I study people. My mom introduced me to people watching very early on; we can learn a lot about a person just by observing what they do and don’t do. You may not know this man, but I admire you. We got to where we are today because of you, and don’t ever forget that. What warms my heart the most is that you simply don’t seem to care that you did this. You never wanted attention. Everything you did was about something besides you. As I studied you I have come to learn what it means to be humble. Your humility is simply undeniable. Never self-seeking, always committed, forever loyal, and loyal to a cause that makes sense. I can only conjecture here, but I think you feel this in your soul. Academic prowess and athletic abilities aside, there is something I think you do need credit for, only for the sake of others: you genuinely want to be a man in the truest sense: a man who lays it all down for others, sacrificing all sorts of unpleasant and downright unjust happenstances because you know that there is meaning in suffering when done right. I watched you attend to your boys when you couldn’t compete, and I only hope you know how much it meant to me and us.
Kateri – I have to say, your situation is no less shocking. I remember when you had to take time away to deal with the departure of your Pa. I remember how you fronted like you were fine when you weren’t on many occasions, and when queried you let on like you were fine but still admitted you weren’t. I think there is some serious truth in what you always suggested to me, even if implicitly: we are all not fine, but we are all still here. I don’t consider myself a very likeable person, but again, you keep coming around to me. You asked me if I needed help this week for goodness sakes. I volunteered you for all sorts of uncomfortable situations; you were last on the WMUR special for a reason. Your message was real and genuine. Nothing resonates more than someone saying something real, true, and charitable. I want you to know that when I talk to my own daughter, I tell her, that is someone worth studying. Study Kateri and Saint Kateri; two stories with the same direction. Her soon-to-be Confirmation saint is Kateri and I am all jacked up to say to ‘Jubilee’ you likely saw one in your midst.
As I bring this back together, I just want this whole gathering to affirm the goodness of God, evident in these families and their children, and I hope we all understand even more this is what we are about: “Always higher” means much more than we think it does; it means giving it all to Jesus Christ, because he gave it all for us.
Kateri and Andrew, receive our gratitude and come get your hardware.
Derek Tremblay, Headmaster
Now before you are sent forth for the final time, I hope these culminating remarks serve as our last lesson together. Never having the privilege of teaching you in the classroom, there is that hole in me. I often think of how before Jesus himself entered that momentous mission where we were forever changed, he intentionally let those decisive moments with his closest friends become the most important message for humanity. If you cannot tell, I am putting a heavy dose of pressure on myself right now, because I want you to remember what I am about to say.
The heart of what I am about say is quite simple: we should never, ever, ever, settle for what we are right now. Never. There is no part of us that is truly working to full capacity, both in the sense of the individual person and the common life we share together. Yes, we are good at our core – God made us in his image and likeness, but around that core, there can be elements that become rotten. As I look at you and ponder your stories I think you know what I mean. All 19 of us have something that is a little off kilter in our experience. This is the human condition we enter, but the story is still emerging.
No two stories are the same but when they converge, the plot thickens and develops to formulate a climax we simply cannot anticipate right now.
This business of narrative as the path to meaning is literally hard wired into our humanity. We are not meant for sound bites; there is something antithetical to the nature of a sound bite. We are all captivated by the story, but that requires immersion and patience because a story lasts for some time. The sound bite only agitates or motivates for a brief period of time, because we become accustomed to looking for another one as soon as we can.
Immersion into the lives of others and patience to let it happen, not make it happen. This is not to say that we are mere passive agents accepting whatever besets us, but rather, we study those in front of us, before us, and around us; there is a whole bunch of knowledge to be gained when we read or listen to the thoughts of another.
What do we do with that knowledge? We nuance it. We piece it together with other parts of our experience to ascend towards a broad vision. I propose to you that there is bliss to be found when we sit back and allow another person or group of persons to shape us and form us, even when it comes in chaotic and confusing waves. The bliss is this: when you see something good, you see it clear as day. And then, there is enough goodness seen that it motivates you to meander through all the other nonsense that comes your way. Your appreciation for the good increases almost exponentially, and I can tell you from experience, you may wonder if it leaves your soul, but trust me it does not. There is enough salt in it to sustain you when an experience you so passionately anticipate turns into a sidewalk that was not there in the first place. That sidewalk is still right next to where you were walking though, but note, it rests a tad higher.
A person with nuanced vision sees things for what they are, not what they seem to be. I must be honest, all the monikers of 2020 vision in these times really grinds my gears. Why is this the time of all times to capitalize on a buzz phrase to advance a cause? We should not need 2020 to be the year we finally say, “Hey, go for 2020 vision in your life.” Or, “We see with 2020 vision what the future holds, and we know you are integral to our success.”
That should flat out be an everyday pursuit. Study as if to see all things in a nuanced manner. The very word in its etymology connotes a “subtle distinction”.
If there is anything the world is not now, it is not subtle and it sure as heck does not see the subtle distinctions by which we arrive at more true and exact expressions of God’s truth in the world around us.
Now back to what do I mean by not settling. Do not settle for absolutes that obstruct our common humanity. That is to say, never let another person say you are on the wrong team because you are not on my team. Do not settle into a place of thinking you are the morality police. We do not need to look at others, only ourselves. We each have a vocation that requires different movements on this impulse, but we are not here to condemn others because they think or act differently. And do not settle for a version of reality that is so steeped in self-absorption that it stagnates in place, never making real growth because growth requires other forces to make it happen. Consider all the processes by which a plant grows, and we quickly realize the total dependence of the plant on its ecosystem to make it happen.
And then here is where I land, my final thought to you. It has to do with dependence. A nuanced vision of reality leads us to this conclusion: God made us for dependence not independence. I want to tell you the beauty of this in its simplest form and then get back to why it makes the most sense out of any proposition out there.
I depend on you. To be honest, without you being you who are, I cannot find much reason to do what I do. You are gifts from God, meant to be opened, but wrapped in a manner that suggests we cannot just rip off the paper to see what lies underneath as soon as we get the gift. It is very hard to turn away a gift. I cannot sit here and just open it to see what happens. It has to happen in its own time, in God’s time.
We come to fulfillment in relation and dependence on each other. “I am thought of, therefore I am.” Not, “I think, therefore I am.” Captivation is best received from others. I am completely captivated by all you seniors and your families.
I want you to know the fulfillment of your desires does not depend entirely on you. You just need to realize what has already been written into your soul and play out what God has intended from all creation. You are given a script for your life, and you get to act it out on the stage of the theo-drama. The desires of your heart correspond to living this story into existence.
In the final analysis, here is the question to study, and it comes from Pope Benedict XVI. When you leave here today, do not forget this question. Seek the answer with all your heart, pray on it, replay it in your mind, and ask your parents: "Does redemption occur through liberation from all dependence or is the only way to liberation the complete dependence on love, which would then also be true freedom?" Check those nuances, define terms truthfully, let the encounter happen before you try to figure it all out, and most of all, realize that we all depend on each other to make this mission move forward. I have depended on all of you for quite some time now and will never forget what you did for this mission.