Welcome Address, Anna Yost Class of 2021
Good morning students, parents, faculty, friends, and graduates. I would like to welcome you all to the graduation of the class of 2021 from Mount Royal Academy.
Some of us have attended this school for nearly our whole lives up until this point, while others have arrived later in life from other backgrounds and places. No matter when or from where we came, we can all agree that Mount Royal Academy has left a lasting impact on our lives. The most notable characteristic of this school is, of course, that it is a catholic liberal arts school. It has nourished us in both mind and soul. The liberal arts are a unique approach to education, because they consider the fact that we humans are a unity of body, mind and soul. Mount Royal has not neglected us in any of these areas. The beautiful campus and classrooms have reached out to our physical senses and lifted our minds toward God. Our athletic endeavors have challenged us physically and caused us to grow mentally. The teachers have endowed us with an abundance of knowledge, and the common practice of our faith has united all that we do here and directed it toward a common end; the glory of God and the pursuit of virtue.
This is what Mount Royal Academy has offered us through a liberal arts education. To verify this, we need not look further than the students it has fostered, for as it says in the Bible, “a tree is known by its fruits.” You see before you the fruits of this school and the liberal arts education it provides. These students, especially the graduates, have been cared for in all areas of their personhood and are ready to continue their growth in the vocation they are called to. Since our time at Mount Royal Academy has come to an end, we graduates are then, in this metaphor, ripe fruit that is ready to fall - hopefully we do not fall far from the tree.
We graduates entered this building as students, but in a short while, we will leave as alumni. Alumni comes from the Latin alere, meaning to nourish. We have been nourished in body, mind and soul by Mount Royal Academy. Now it is our turn to use the knowledge and tools that we have been given to continue to nourish ourselves in all areas of life and to nourish others in the same.
Introduction of Amy Sansone, Derek Tremblay Headmaster
Thank you Anna for introducing us to this occasion. I asked you because I thought it important for those hidden intellects to be represented in a prominent manner. I hope you read and internalized all the comments I gave you on your writing: you have a gift, and it is a most uncommon gift – the capacity to see reality clearly with your intellect, the first step towards authentic knowledge. I had a absolute blast teaching you this past year. Now, I will say it one last time: for heaven’s sake, be convicted of this gift and trust your abilities.
I have seen a similar disposition in our keynote speaker. A quiet but contemplative soul. She always was the smartest person in the room but never flaunted that fact. Before I talk about Amy, I think it would be a great testament to the married life if I talk about Amy and Paul. Amy – yes, now we are on a first name basis, imagine that – always had a gentle way of telling me when she was going to be with Paul: and once she was with Paul, that time was sacred. This week she said that we could connect on the phone up until 5pm. As I was walking around campus on the phone I glanced at my watch, saw it was 4:55pm and thought to myself, “I wish we could keep talking.” I then said to her, “You have something at 5pm, don’t you?” I knew what it was – it was cocktail hour with Paul. Now if I know this correctly, cocktails included dinner, desert, and the divine office: a truly divine trifecta of human activity. But their time together was sacred, and it became a sort of monastic rule. In case you were wondering seniors, Amy and Paul were the inspiration for what I said on Thursday. A monastic married life is one that does not take for granted the sacredness of time, the sacredness of the moment, especially moments with the one ordained by God to be that instrument of reciprocal sanctification. I am often reminded when I look at my own wife that she imparted the sacramental graces to me to make me who God is calling me to be.
Amy’s response to my pun at the monastic married life was this: “Well, we are just grateful for what we have because there was a time when we did not.” The same echo can be heard about this school year. I think our collective sense of gratitude comes from the fact that we were faced with the prospect that we could lose this community life. The notion that it could be snatched away was there. It is so very true that only when we lose do we realize how much we have gained.
Enough about Paul, let us focus on Amy. Amy, although your time with us was shorter than we all preferred, I want you to hear this and I want all here to know it: you are a cornerstone of this mission. I must be careful about saying that because in most structures, there are four cornerstones. The cornerstone of a church receives a special blessing, as the first cornerstone laid. While we do not have a church here on campus – yet – I think I can extend this to four. That gives me three more to give some other time in the future. For now, your greatest gift to us was to stir together the ingredients required for unity in mission. Your warm disposition and deep piety brought us all closer together. You connected components of our school that were previously not strung together when they should have been. Most inspiring to me was your fidelity and friendship. Always measured, always cheerful, and always faithful. We conversed so much together, and I never left a conversation feeling less than I was before, rather more. You have this ability of making things more whole than they were before. Thank you for gifting this community with your presence. And thank you Paul for supporting her efforts and our efforts by extension. The two of you are just the sweetest team. Together, you show us that our lives are meant to be of service to the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Dr. Amy Sansone!
Keynote Address, Amy Sansone Former Academic Dean
Good morning! It is so good to be here, especially on such a wonderful occasion. Thank you for such a warm welcome. I cannot tell you how good it is to see your faces, and to be back on this beautiful campus. Thank you especially to the senior class for asking me to come and speak with you this morning. It truly, truly is an honor.
High school graduation is an important moment in life. It is the culmination of much hard work. I have memories of different graduations in which I have participated, and at each, a speaker was featured. Someone who came to impart wisdom. So when I sat down to begin thinking about what I wanted to share with you today, I truly felt humbled. I do not have any wisdom per se; thankfully we have God and Sacred Scriptures for that— but I do have a story to share, and a gift I would like to impart to each of you. A gift that actually comes from the many gifts I received from all of you over the three years I spent here at Mount Royal.
When I was a little girl I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. My sisters and I would “play school” frequently. It makes me laugh now to think of how we would make up “homework assignments” for one another, and especially the relish with which we enjoyed “correcting” these papers. In the many years since, especially when I have been faced with a towering stack of papers to grade, I think of those excited childhood dreams.
As I grew older and began high school people continually asked me: “What do you want to study?” “What do you want to do or be when you grow up?” I knew the answer: a teacher. I had several siblings I had always enjoyed playing with, I babysat a lot, I helped out with catechesis at Church and our town’s vacation Bible school. I realized I liked being in the presence of children. I loved their honesty, their lack of inhibitions, their quick laughter, and sincere tears. I loved their endless love, given so freely. And I loved the thrill and joy they took in learning new things. I am grateful that God revealed to me that education was something I was suited for. Formed for. I know what a gift it is to be sure in your vocation.
So, in college, I studied education. I took extra courses so I could have two certifications: one in elementary education, and the other in special education. I wanted to equip myself with the best tools possible. And I especially wanted to help learners who struggled; those that didn’t “get it” the first time. I even took “guitar” as a course so I could have a portable instrument to use for classroom singing!
I also had another desire growing inside of during this time: a longing to help the poor. I was raised in a small town in upstate New York. We were not rich; but we also did not worry too much about money. We always had three meals a day, a warm bed to sleep in, clean clothes to wear, and I knew my parents were there to help and protect us. I knew these were all blessings from God. Blessings my parents were good stewards of, but gifts nonetheless. I wanted to be able to help children who might not have these advantages.
So, I prepared myself as best I could. In addition to my college courses I made sure to choose a student teaching placement in the inner city. I was the only student from my university to do so. I read extra books; books by people who had worked in similar environments. I attempted to glean all I could from their wisdom. I only applied to inner city schools, convinced I was going to save the world with my love and my energy. My desires. My hopes. My dreams. (Do you sense a theme here?)
I began my teaching career in the South Bronx 24 years ago: the poorest congressional district in the United States. It was a neighborhood filled with burned-out buildings, vacant-abandoned lots, and random crime. Some other day I will tell you the details, if you like: the challenges I encountered, the barriers the children faced, and the broken system in which we all found ourselves. At that time New York City had 66,000 school teachers and over 1 million students. I think and pray often for the 43 third graders in my class that fall.
The larger pictured I will share with you is that I failed.
I worked and I worked and I worked— and it wasn’t enough.
I prayed and I prayed and I prayed— it didn’t change anything.
I was not able to help the children. For many, many reasons outside of my control and theirs…. after two months… I left.
It was the most difficult decision I have ever made.
I will say that it was a decision guided by the Holy Spirit. One day I was praying with one of my favorite passages, Deuteronomy Chapter 30. It is a passage I have always loved and find great comfort in. A passage I always turn to in times of struggle or confusion. These verses especially: 11 For this command which I am giving you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. 12 It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” 13 Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” 14 No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth[c] and in your heart.… 19 I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, 20 by loving the Lord, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him.
I knew I was unable to help my students learn. I knew that that school, at that time, was not a place of life for me: spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I knew that even though I wanted to help, even though I tried; it was not enough.
And so I left. I left before I had a new job. I left when I had rent to pay, college loans to face, and groceries to buy. I knew God was guiding me and holding my hand, even though I could not see the road ahead.
Someone once told me that our lives are a tapestry. God is weaving a wonderful design, a beautiful picture. But down here we only see the back of the tapestry. The tangle of threads. I cannot wait to get to heaven and see the front side of what that time in my life looks like.
I tell you this story today not to scare you, or depress you, or make you feel sorry for me or the students I left behind. I tell you this story to share what a great work God has done in my life; how He was with me in those trying times.
That did not mean I was feeling happy, or full of joy. But it did mean I had His peace, and was surrounded by His love. God continually showed His love and companionship to me during that difficult time. One example involves my parents.
When I quit my job, I felt I had disappointed them mightily. I felt I had failed. One of my first days back in my apartment, combing through the job-ads in the newspaper, there was a knock at my door. I opened it to find a floral delivery person holding a vase full of a dozen roses (yellow, of course). I could not imagine who had sent such an extravagant gift. I opened the small card attached, which I still have today. It read: We are proud of your decision— Mom and Dad.
Do not worry about what your parents might think as you step out today into your new future. They have been given a sacred duty from God. To love and protect you. It takes many forms as you travel through life.
To the parents here today: thank you; thank you for the hard hard work you have already done to help your senior find their place here this morning. And thank you in advance for the hard hard work you still have ahead as they journey forward to find their place in the adult world.
I think of those yellow roses often. They are a symbol of God’s love for us all. His gratuitous love. His unending love. His merciful love. The fact that we do not earn it— or deserve it.
So, to close today, I want to share with you all a gift. Something special that I knew in my heart, but something that Mount Royal engraved upon it.
As a teacher, similar to parables, I love the power of a good metaphor: Today I bring with me this small suitcase. It is full of things I learned here at Mount Royal. Things you seniors have also have learned and must remember to take with you as you leave campus today. They are gifts that will bring you God’s joy and peace in the years to come. We cannot promise your journey will be smooth, or easy— but we can promise that if you remember what you have learned here, and bring these gifts out into the world to share, it will be a journey guided by God’s light and love.
First- (a pillow): Remember to rest. Just like our Pre-K and Kindergarteners do every afternoon, just as you do each evening— remember to stop. To pause. To rest. Allow God to recharge and reinvigorate you. Remember to breathe and look around. God’s creation is spectacular. Hurrying has no advantage.
Second- (a ball): Remember to play. To re-create. I loved spending time on this playground. I loved watching students play together: first graders with high schoolers, old friends with new. I love that our seniors can parse Latin declensions and argue the importance of studying Great Books, but that they also relish a good swing. The feel of the breeze as they pump their legs and the glorious view from the top. I love that our Pre-K students are never afraid to get back on the monkey bars, no matter how often they fall.
Play, like rest, is important; it does not have a purpose of which the world would approve: after play or rest you are not more rich, or know more, or are any farther along to reaching your goals— but you are more rich in other things.
Third- this photo of your class. It represents the importance of love and friendship; the joys of community and fraternity you have all experienced here at Mount Royal. The people next to you have shared this journey: helping and encouraging, laughing and crying together. You will make new friends throughout your life; but friends that share faith are special. Invaluable. Remember: You are always together in the Spirit. Turn to one another when you need. Do not be afraid to reach out in the future. And this not only pertains to your fellow students, but to your teachers as well. Their friendship was a gift that allowed you to keep working when the road was rocky and uphill. It was not your teachers’ knowledge that helped in those tough times, but their love and friendship.
Lastly, and most importantly, I want to remind you of the most important gift we have: the gift of prayer. It was such a blessing here at Mount Royal to pray together each morning: whether it was in the elementary building for assembly, or homerooms in the high school. Rosary. Weekly Mass. Monthly Adoration. To celebrate feast days and to rightly give God praise and thanks. It was a such a blessing to have a chapel here on campus to which you could always go and find silence and peace— and the true presence of Christ.
As you leave here you will have to work more intentionally to find moments of prayer. And that is why I am giving you each this gift: a travel icon. Take it with you in your journeys. Place it by your bed to help you remember: at the end of your day, and the beginning of the next: pray. Continue your walk with Christ, a walk begun at your Baptism, a walk continued and nourished here at Mount Royal: pray always.
I close today with a passage from the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians— one we all know well: “ I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Student Address, Brendan Moorehouse Class of 2021
Good morning everyone. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Brendan Moorehouse. I was National Honor Society President this year and a very proud member of this years senior class. This year was a special year for us. It was so difficult in so many ways for everyone, but through it all we’ve stuck together and helped each other grow in virtue. However, The only reason we’ve been able to do this is because of the formation that you, our teachers, friends, and family, have given us. I look around my class and I see a group of good people who just want to be the best person they can, and I think it is very obvious where this came from. We’ve all been blessed to have wonderful role models here, and that is a point I cannot stress enough. Without your example, we would not be half the young men and women we are today.
Teachers, you’ve helped shape our way of thinking, giving us the ability to find the good, the true, and the beautiful in all that we do. You’ve given us an education centered on Christ and focused on the pursuit of knowledge. The skills you have given us in the last four years (much more for some of us) will serve us well as we go out into the world to start the next chapter of our lives. The lasting impression of your dedication to educating the whole person over student at a time will remain with us for the rest of our lives. So it is with extreme gratitude that I thank you for all you’ve done and for being the role models that we’ve needed.
Friends, those in our class and those who are not. This opportunity to grow with you has been an honor, and I look forward to continuing to do so even as we part ways. It truly astounds me to think about how much we have shaped each other. In our class specifically, this year has been a huge year of personal and spiritual growth together. I have seen huge steps made by every single one of us towards goodness and holiness, and that more than anything is what makes me happiest about this year. We are so lucky to have each other.
Lastly I would like to thank the parents. You are our primary role models. The only reason we are who we are today is because of your hard work and love. Whether we try to or not, we model so much of our identities off of you. We are literally made of you. This has been something that I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past few months: how so much of who we are comes from our parents and how much our lives are shaped by you. We owe so so much if not everything to you. So if you are proud of us today, then remember that you deserve this praise just as much as we do. You are our role models, whether we admit it or not, and I speak for all of us when I say thank you, We love you, and no matter where we go we’re gonna continue to try to make you proud.
Student Address, Rosie Treece Class of 2021
Good morning, my name is Rosie for all of you who may not know me. I am beyond honored to speak on behalf of my class of 2021.
I have attended Mount Royal my entire life, pre-k 3 to 12th grade. I remember when I first came here, our class was so small that the three of us (Bridget Wallace, Luke Richardson, and myself) had to be in a combined class with either the grade above or below us. I always said to myself, “I love these people, but a few more would be nice.” Then fifth grade came around. Louis and Nick showed up, and it was definitely noticeable because they were loud. So then I think to myself, “I guess this is ok, but maybe another girl or two would be nice to even out the noise level.” Sixth grade, I have never been so disappointed to walk into a room in my life. That’s when the rest of these people showed up.
This one memory, along with many others, make moments like these so surreal. Looking back, from the old inn and outside basketball courts to the school wide capture the flag and sledding parties, although so many things have changed, the one thing that never did is the people. Our class is so special. Some people may say having such a small class comes with missed opportunities, clubs, and sports. My mom and I like to play the comparison game between our high school experiences. Her high school had about 2,000 students while mine clearly does not. However, even after hearing all of her stories, I would still choose Mount Royal because it is so worth it and I would do it over again, because the amount of love and gratefulness I have for my class is beyond what I can put into words. It may have gotten off to a bumpy start, but in the end, I can say on behalf of my class that this was the best school year we have had together.
Faith is something so unique and we are beyond blessed to have been brought into a community where faith is the foundation. It is the common thread between everything in our lives: school, family, friends, bringing us closer together.
Thank you to our teachers, who value and cultivate this life of faith in the classroom. I am so very thankful for the high standard you hold each of us to because you know the potential of each individual and when we are not reaching that bar, you push us forward and keep us going. I never fully understood a classical, liberal arts education until the moment I presented my senior thesis. Reading Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People may not have been my first choice in books, but it had a purpose. All the lessons and class conversations we had finally came together in the end. You taught us how to think for ourselves intellectually and reasonably, a skill which cannot just be picked up. Most importantly, you guided us in our growth towards becoming the people we were meant to be.
To our friends and fellow classmates. The best memories we will be carrying with us from this day forward. I do not have the time to acknowledge each one of you personally, even though there are only 10 of you, but I can say with great confidence that these are some of the kindest, most authentic people you will ever meet. It is bittersweet standing here today. I am going to miss you all so much, but I am not going to cry (that was the Yost’s job at senior dinner).
Finally, thank you to our families, who have been supporting us since day one, especially our parents. You are the reason we are in this room receiving our diplomas today. You made the choice to send us here and have sacrificed so much whether we know it or not; and whether you know it or not, we truly appreciate you and are so incredibly grateful for all you have done.
Semper Altius Award, Derek Tremblay Headmaster
Our highest mission award should really be given to the student and the parents who raised that student. I will do my best to muddle my way through this, so please bear with me.
Robin: I don’t know where to begin, which you may find odd because I tend to always have something to say. There is a conversation you and I had which only you and I may know about that I will never forget. The timing, the utter shock of why that was said when it was said, is something I honestly have not really quite processed. I am saying this right now because I want everyone to know the caliber of person you are. Your faith is so far beyond mine, so far beyond mine. Consider this: Luke, Anya, and Brendan are all receiving recognition THIS YEAR! I don’t know about everybody else here but I simply cannot fathom what is happening in the lives of your children. They are all so beautiful inwardly and outwardly. I know who you will give the credit to but I think he will just give it back to you. You are teaching us all how grace works and what to do with our faith.
Brendan: My favorite memories of you – much like Mr. McMenaman – will be watching you on that basketball court. I think what a man is and will be really comes out when he is tested. You are quite a man! Now, I know foul trouble was inevitable at times for you. Those fouls were not a sign of weakness though; I would argue they were a sign of strength. You played with this intent to literally give yourself to the team each time you competed. And it meant taking risks. The risks you took often landed you back down on the court staring up at a much taller and heavier human being. I want that to be an image we all remember. What does it mean to take a charge and take it so willingly? It means that you were willing to look at life and say, “Hit me.” “Go ahead and hit me, and I will just get right back up.” “You can keep trying to knock me down but I am just going to stand in your way and say, you will have to get through me to get anywhere near my loved ones and I will not let you do that.” I felt as if each of the charges you took possessed all those sentiments.
Intellectually, to be honest Brendan, it is no surprise to any of us as to why you are so intelligent. I will say something that surprised me is how you used your intellectual gifts to build bridges between people and ideas. It seems odd that someone so poised to receive an aggressive act is also inclined to make peace. Surprising to me not because you sought to make peace, but that you did it so intentionally. Given that you are the godfather to Louis, maybe we can use the two of you to make sense of this. Receiving the charge is a nonviolent act. It is a form of disarmed truth, the truth that Louis referenced in his senior thesis. Brendan, I think the fiber of your being embodies this disarmed truth, a truth that convinces by love. And love is gentle, humble, sincere, never imposing, instead proposing. You know the man you are because you know the man from whence you came, and we are all the better for knowing you. Thank you for being a man of faith, unafraid to let your passions show, and leading towards that higher plane of unity that is marked by a more peaceful fraternity of our common humanity.
Closing Remarks, Derek Tremblay Headmaster
Before we send you off, I would like to extend that practical advice that was given at the Senior Dinner. Keep in mind these words: peace, gift, praise. The wisdom writings in sacred scripture are filled with prudential directives that can order our days according to the intelligibility of our divine designer.
From the Book of Sirach
“To keep the law is a great oblation, and he who observes the commandments sacrifices a peace offering. In works of charity one offers fine flour, and when he gives alms he presents his sacrifice of praise. To refrain from evil pleases the Lord, and to avoid injustice is an atonement. Appear not before the Lord empty handed, for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts. The just one’s offering enriches the altar and rises as a sweet odor before the Most High. The just one’s sacrifice is most pleasing, nor will it ever be forgotten. In a generous spirit pay homage to the Lord, be not sparing of freewill gifts. With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy. Give to the Most High as he has given you, generously, according to your means.”
If you want peace? Choose order not disorder in every thought, word, and deed.
If you want to give generously? Do so in a manner that is ordered and not disordered. Be sensitive to the movements and motives of your soul because it is a deep place that needs pruning on a daily basis.
If you want to praise God by the very sacrifice of your life? Order your days around the commandments, which exhort us to love God, love family, and love neighbor. Tackle each day that way, in that order, and you can give glory to the greatest object of your heart’s desire: the ultimate family and communion of persons, the Blessed Trinity.
And for an example of peace, we look to St. Francis. Gazing upon the ruins of the church of St. Damian during the “dark and aimless days of transition that followed the tragical collapse of his military ambitions,” he received this famous instruction in a vision: “Francis, seest though not that my house is in ruin? Go and restore it for me.” Francis first took the possessions he acquired from his father and sold them in an effort to acquire more wealth to rebuild the church he saw in physical ruins. This would lead to a “quarrel that dragged drearily through several stages; at one time the wretched young man seems to have disappeared underground, so to speak, to some cavern or cellar where he remained huddled hopelessly in the darkness.” The local bishop then intervened attempting to mediate between Francis and his father. Francis’ response was a nonviolent act: “He piled the garments in a heap on the floor and tossed the money on top of them. Then, he turned to the bishop, and received his blessing, like the one who turns his back on society; and according to the account, went out as he was into the cold world. Apparently it was literally a cold world at the moment, and snow was on the ground.”
A cold world. A warrior for peace misunderstood. A man of faith without anything but his faith.
Francis later “realized that the way to build a church is not to become entangled in bargains and, to him, rather bewildering questions of legal claim. The way to build a church is not to pay for it, certainly not with somebody else’s money. The way to build a church is not even to pay for it with your own money. The way to build a church is to build it. He went about by himself collecting stones. He begged all the people he met to give him stones. In fact he became a new sort of beggar, reversing the parable; a beggar who asks not for bread but a stone.”
The church of today needs to be rebuilt spiritually. You are all stones and we parents are beggars. We are begging for your souls to serve this home of ours – Mother Church – here on earth.
Back to St. Francis. In the rebuilding of the church of St. Damian, “He was not only discovering the general lesson that his glory was not to be in overthrowing men in battle but in building up the positive and creative monuments of peace. He was truly building up something else, or beginning to build it up; something that has often enough fallen into ruin but has never been past rebuilding; a church that could always be built anew though it had rotted away to its first foundation stone, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.”
I think G.K. Chesterton – in his rendition on the life of St. Francis – just confirmed my bias for working with rocks when I am not working with people.
You seniors, you are beautiful rocks to us: rocks meant to rebuild the church. Now go, make peace not conflict, and families not egos.