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ST. MARYS â€“ Elk County Catholic High School honored the accomplishments of the Class of 2012 on Sunday afternoon during the school's 50th commencement exercises.
The 72 members of the senior class gathered Sunday morning for graduation activities, which began with a Baccalaureate Mass and a senior slideshow presentation in the school chapel and were followed by a brunch in the gymnasium.
The commencement ceremony began at 12:30 p.m., as graduates clad in maroon and gold gowns processed into the auditorium in front of their family, friends and faculty to the traditional graduation hymn of "Pomp and Circumstance," performed by the Elk County Catholic High School Band under the direction of Ray Knight.
The Rev. Nicholas J. Rouch, vicar of education for the Diocese of Erie, offered an opening prayer followed by the playing of the national anthem by the ECCHS band.
Class President Madelyn O'Leary introduced student speakers Jacob Herbstritt, valedictorian; and Jena Struble, salutatorian.
Eleven members of the graduating class then performed "I Was Here," a song reflecting on making their mark at ECCHS as well as on the greater community.
Next, Fr. Rouch offered comments acknowledging and thanking teachers and staff for their expertise and dedication, as well as students' family members and parents for the sacrifices they have had to make in order to provide their children with a Catholic education.
"Some of you know I have a special place in my heart for Elk County Catholic since I taught here for three years," Fr. Rouch said. "It was such a joy to be part of Catholic education here in St. Marys."
He added the school welcomes students not just from St. Marys, but throughout the Elk County area and beyond.
"Elk Catholic is a place where Catholic education thrives," he said.
As part of his commencement address, Fr. Rouch quoted Pope Benedict XVI during a speech to several U.S. bishops in Rome, when the Pope said "providing young people with a sound education represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country." Fr. Rouch pointed out this education happens on a daily basis at ECCHS and thanked those who make it so year in and year out.
He also passed along congratulatory greetings from Diocese of Erie Bishop Donald W. Trautman.
"May the gift of counsel be yours so you might always know the right thing to do. On this feast of Pentecost, may you have the gift of might that you might have the courage and fortitude to do what's right. May the Holy Spirit bestow upon you the gifts of piety and fear of the Lord that your greatest ambition will be to please almighty God with your life," Fr. Rouch said, concluding with, "Graduates, we are proud of you and God bless you."
Pick up a copy of the Wednesday, May 30, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.