St. Joseph’s Academy hosted the Celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and 146th Commencement Exercises on May 21 at Raising Cane’s River Center. The 242 members of the class of 2023 met all standards for graduation as prescribed by the Academy and were awarded a diploma.
Principal Stacia Andricain welcomed the crowd and invited family and friends to pray that the young women being honored will seek to remain in the presence of the Lord all the days of their lives. “We pray for all of our graduates that the nurturing, the memories, the experiences and relationships that have brought them this far will continue to strengthen them for their life journeys,” she said. “We are also grateful to our Sisters of St. Joseph who taught us to discover and meet the needs of our dear neighbors. In the spirit and charism of our beloved Sisters, we live and work that all may be one. Their guidance has formed us into women for others.”
Following the academic procession, co-valedictorian Claire Beyer spoke to the crowd. “Today all of you will walk out with not only a high school diploma, but also unbreakable bonds,” she said. “We have helped each other by being there during the most stressful times and by making the good times even more enjoyable. … Each moment we experienced together brought us closer and reinforced our bonds with each other. I wouldn’t have wanted to do this with any other group of people. You have taught me what it means not just to be any friend, but what it means to be a good friend.”
Commentator Shobe Manuel acknowledged Bishop Michael Duca, who celebrated the mass, and other priests in the Diocese of Baton Rouge who joined the graduates for the celebration.
Quynh-Mai Nguyen read from the Acts of the Apostles, and Juliana Barfield read from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.
In his homily, Bishop Duca reflected on the three words he said he hoped the graduates would take away from the evening: faith, hope and charity. He especially talked about hope and the importance of finding new hope when things go awry. “When things fall apart and when plans don’t go as intended, you will lose hope,” he said. “But you will find new hope, a different hope, a bigger hope. Always remember the people who love you: your family, your friends, your teachers. Draw on them for strength and think of God’s love for you. He always forgives us and brings us back to hope.”
Giselle Deliarely Rauda led the prayers of the faithful.
Following mass, SJA President Jan Rhorer Breen ’69 spoke about the importance of relationships as the foundation of our lives. “Always remember that each new relationship you develop should lift you up, should support you, should value your gifts, should align with your faith and values and should always allow your voice to be heard,” she said. “Remember that you are an SJA woman. You hold a rare combination of personal characteristics, intellectual commitment and a purposeful vision that comes from God’s presence in your lives. You have a desire to make meaningful contributions to your world. Every relationship in the future should enhance your goodness and fill you with hope. You embody sanctity, joy and action. Always believe in yourself and become the woman God intends you to be.”
Principal Stacia Andricain introduced faculty member Jill Abadie, who called forth the graduates of 2023. Diplomas were awarded by Andricain assisted by Breen, Dean of Academics Aubrey DeJohn, Dean of Women Christina Myles, Dean of Curriculum and Instruction Aimee Urdiales and Bishop Duca.
Following the conferring of diplomas, co-valedictorian Shelby Soileau congratulated her classmates on the accomplishment of graduating from high school. With diplomas in hand, the graduates will move into the next chapter of their lives, which will look different for each person, she said. “Everyone here is unique in their experiences and in their strengths and weaknesses, and that’s a good thing,” Soileau said. “In embracing your individuality and recognizing the significance of your unique experiences, God will put each of us exactly where we need to be. With that being said, it’s also important to embrace the individuality of others. Make an effort to stand in solidarity with people who are different from you because it’s only through a place of empathy that we can make connections and feel a sense of unity within the communities we’re a part of. There’s a lot of uncertainty about the next part of our lives, but if we can all learn to accept the unique parts of ourselves and embrace the differences we see in others, we will end up exactly where we need to be.”
Izzy Gruner and Elena Kelly served as cantors. The SJA Women’s Choir was under the direction of Danielle Laird and Stephen Galliano. Accompanists were Louis Wendt, keyboard, and Craig Heinzen, trumpet.
View more photos here.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos by Jennifer M. Fontaine