By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator 

From drive-bys to drive-throughs, home visits to virtual videos, graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020 have taken on a variety of forms.  

Katiepizzolato.tif

Ascension Catholic High School in Donaldsonville principal Sandy Pizzolato delivered diplomas to seniors for graduation, including her daughter Katie. Photo provided by Sandy Pizzolato  

 

For more than two months, students finished their senior year not with a bang but in the silence of their homes, separated from friends, classmates, teachers and school administrators.  

“These last couple of months have been very difficult, you know, we’re not able to finish out the year like we hoped, we’re not able to be with the people we’ve been with since pre-school,” said Cole Lambert, a senior at St. John Interparochial School in Plaquemine.  

The traditional rite of passage from childhood to adulthood is usually marked with senior parties, family gatherings, cap and gown ceremonies, walking across a stage, moving the cap tassels from right to left and finally tossing the caps into the air. This class, however, made its transition into adulthood a bit faster than anticipated, when the world came to a screeching halt because of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Jordan Mathis, a senior at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, said the quarantine has changed her perspective on everything including the need to slow down, a lesson that is sometimes learned much later in life by those who live “on the go.”  

“I’m very involved, and I enjoy being involved but sometimes it can be stressful and overwhelming. I don’t really slow down very easily; I like to be on the go,” said Mathis, who was student council vice president and president of the SJA choir. “It wasn’t until I was literally forced to slow down and do nothing that I realized we’re not promised another day so why live for the future because you never know what could happen.”  

Lambert was also busy with school and social activities. He was a member of the Beta Club, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta (math) Club and the baseball team. He lamented the loss of social interaction with friends and family and missed the large family gatherings at his grandmother’s house on Sundays.  

“We haven’t been able to do that lately,” he said. “And I’m always with my friends, you can see us riding around in town, we’re always together, listening to music, just riding around having a good time, and we’re not really able to do that right now.” 

Mathis said that through school activities she was able to keep an active faith life, even starting a Bible study group with classmates at SJA. Mathis, a parishioner of St. Jude the Apostle Church in Baton Rouge, admitted when the shutdown first happened she was angry and frustrated that “there are some things that I won’t be able to get back.”  

Those feelings led to a lapse in her prayer life, she said, but she “needed that time to get back to where I needed to be.” She has joined a virtual Bible study and reads daily from an inspirational book.  

“2020 has been so crazy, like you can sit there and be angry or you can just realize this is all so crazy how can it not be for some greater purpose, like you just have to believe that it’s for something greater,” said Mathis. “I’ve really enjoyed spending this time with my family and just a little bit of quiet time to realize how much we have in front of us that we don’t think about, but I think that’s what God is calling us to do.”  

Lambert agreed that the shutdown was part of God’s plan.  

“You know, we just kept our mindset to keep our heads up high and keep following our dreams because God has a plan for everyone,” he said. “The Class of 2020, if anybody had to go through this, I feel like it was meant to be. It is what it is.”  

Future generations will read about it, hear about it, learn about it and watch movies about it, but they will never know what it felt like.  

“Nobody else knows what we’re going through so it’s like we’re the only ones who can be there for each other,” explained Mathis. “Whenever you hear advice from people who had those things and say, ‘It’s okay,’ we don’t want to hear it because we didn’t have those things like prom and graduation so it’s definitely brought us closer together. We’re definitely going to go down in history – freshman year we started off with the flood and now we have coronavirus.”  

High School Graduation Ceremonies 

Ascension High School in Donaldsonville:  

home delivery of diplomas 

Catholic High School
in Baton Rouge:  
virtual graduation and home delivery of diplomas  

Catholic High School of Pointe Coupee in New Roads 
virtual graduation

Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School :
drive-by, students walk across outdoor stage to receive diplomas 

St. John Interparochial School in Plaquemine:

drive-by parade around campus and drive-through diploma distribution 

St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge:

diploma pick-ups staged in intervals with senior and parents; broadcasted at a later date 

St. Michael the Archangel High School in Baton Rouge:
 virtual graduation and drive-through diploma distribution 
to celebrate graduates