Goretti graduates step into 'real world'


Fifty-six students participated Saturday in St. Maria Goretti High School's baccalaureate Mass and commencement exercises at St. Ann Church in Hagerstown.

"I'm excited and ready to move on and make it on my own in the real world," said Kristen Rocco, 18, of Waynesboro, Pa.

Other graduates of the school were a little more hesitant.

"It seems a little weird, like it's too soon and we shouldn't be graduating yet," said Julie Robertson, 17, of Hagerstown.

Lucia Alencherry, 17, also of Hagerstown, agreed.

"This is the last time we will be with each other," Alencherry said with disbelief.

In a back room of the church, the graduates snapped digital photos of each other and chatted on cell phones as they zipped their robes, pinned on caps and lined up for the processional to the Mass and commencement exercises.


Moments later in the sanctuary, tradition took hold. "Pomp and Circumstance" blared from the organ and the graduates filed soberly in pairs down the aisle to their pews.

After reading a passage from the book of John in the Bible, the Rev. Christopher Moore promised a brief homily and kept good on his word.

Moore noted that in scripture, Jesus told his disciple Peter, "Follow me." Moore told the students that as they experience events and processes in their lives, they must do the same.

"As people of faith, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus," Moore said. "We need to look not at what we want to do, but at what Jesus wants us to do."

Commencement speaker Jeffrey Hartling had a particular interest in the graduating class - his daughter, Yarrow First-Hartling, was a graduating senior.

Hartling appealed to the graduates to look to their Roman Catholic values as they move on from high school and recognize the differences between moral and legal.

He said that in living legally but not morally, people frequently accept minimal standards of acceptable behavior.

"Catholic values teach us to protect the weak, defenseless, aged, unwashed and unloved," Hartling said. "We must never accept minimal standards."

As he wrapped up his address, Hartling drew laughter from the congregation when he told the graduates, "Don't worry. Your parents won't empty your rooms until December."

During the presentation of diplomas, one graduate - Mike Klinger, 18 - received a standing ovation from his peers.

"I struggled through my last year," Klinger said. "My classmates pulled me through. They stuck by me and helped me get through it all."

Klinger said he plans to attend Hagerstown Community College and eventually may enlist in the Air Force.

Rocco, valedictorian of the class, focused her address on the importance of knowing oneself. Rocco noted her experience at a 35-day precollege program at the University of Pittsburgh, where she plans to study speech and language pathology.

"I was in a group of over 120 absolute strangers and had this huge, blank slate to show people who I was," Rocco said. "It was mind-boggling."

"Know who you are and how you want to define yourself to this great big world," Rocco told her classmates. "When you know yourself, you're going to have all the power in the world."

Christopher Siedor, principal of St. Maria Goretti, presented the Pro Deo et Patria award to Kathryn Martin, 17, of Chambersburg, Pa. Siedor said Martin significantly enriched the Goretti community through her many virtues, including her principles of faith and moral strength.

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