117th graduation held at Saint Bernard

By: ,
Joyce Nix

CULLMAN – Saint Bernard Preparatory School celebrated its 117th commencement on Sunday, May 22 in an impressive ceremony conducted in the Abbey Church and under the direction of Father Joel Martin, president of the School. This year’s class of 45 seniors was the largest class to graduate since the reopening of the preparatory school in 1984. 

After the opening prayer led by the school Chaplain, Father Bede Marcy, and the singing of the national anthem led by the Director of Fine Arts, Joshua Agnew, the program began with an introduction of the board of directors and the school faculty.  

As part of the commencement exercises, the Saint Bernard Board of Directors recognized two alumni who received the “Distinguished Alumnus Award.”  Reverend Monsignor Owen F. Campion (Class of 1962), associate publisher of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing and editor of The Priest magazine, and Mr. Christopher J. Rooney (Class of 1963), retired senior vice president for AT&T Worldwide Customer Service, were inducted into the Class of Distinguished Alumni for 2016.   Father Marcus Voss, alumni director and director of development of Saint Bernard Prep School, presided over this portion of the graduation ceremonies.

The commencement address was delivered by Cullman attorney R. Champ Crocker (SBP Class of 1994).  Crocker attended Saint Bernard Prep for high school and is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the Samford Cumberland School of Law. 

“Having the Saint Bernard experience taught me many things about life,” Crocker said. “When you walk out those doors today, you will be much different than the first time you walked through them.”  Quoting from the Old Testament Book of Joshua 1:9, Crocker said, “Do not be terrified.  Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  He challenged each senior to be open to those who “agree or disagree with you. Be who you are and be a leader.”

After the commencement address, Dan Baillargeon, headmaster of Saint Bernard Preparatory School, announced this year’s graduation awards. Samuel George received the valedictorian award while Christopher Woods was named salutatorian. In giving the general excellence medal, the highest award given to a graduating senior, Father Joel stated that “the criteria for this award requires that a student must be enrolled at Saint Bernard Prep for the last two full years, be dedicated to academic excellence, exercise leadership and represent the values of the school.” The 2016 general excellence medal was presented to David Schartung. 

The graduating seniors were called forward by Baillargeon and diplomas were presented by Abbot Cletus Meagher with Father Joel Martin assisting him. After the awarding of the diplomas, Samuel George gave the valedictory address during which he reminded his classmates that things in life will change but the values and high ideals of their alma mater will remain the same. 

In his closing remarks, Baillargeon noted that this year’s graduating seniors had the distinction of earning $6.5 million dollars in scholarships and were accepted into colleges and universities across the United States.

Father Joel Martin ended the ceremony calling attention to the role that challenges play in life. “We need challenges because we come alive in struggles,” he said. “We have high expectations for your future. Go and take St. Bernard with you.” 

Music for the graduation exercises was provided by Br. Raphael Pattarozzi, as well as the Alabama Pipes and Drums Corps. The Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Honor Guard of the Father Leo Carter Assembly 2624 also participated in the ceremonies.

Following the prayer and dismissal by Abbot Cletus Meagher, a reception was held in the Saint Bernard Dining Hall.