Saint Joseph High School awarded diplomas and final blessings to the Class of 2023 during the annual Baccalaureate Mass and Graduation Ceremony on Thursday night.
The Church of the Sacred Heart in South Plainfield was filled with family and friends of the 143-member class, led by co-valedictorians Alejandro Ruiz and Matthew Imhoff.
Fr. Michael Krull ‘76 presided over the Baccalaureate Mass, 47 years after receiving his Saint Joe’s diploma.
Following mass, school leadership was joined by the Most Reverend Bishop James Checchio, Bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, and Brother Ronald Hingle, S.C., Provincial of the Province of the United States for the Class of 2023 Graduation ceremony.
Checchio reminded the student body to always turn to God for help, because he is “in control even when it seems like things are out of control.”
“Remember this important lesson that will serve you well in your life,” Checchio said. “Even when it seems that things are out of control, God is still in control, so don’t be afraid to turn to him. You don’t always need to be humble, turn to God when you need him.”
In her remarks to the graduates, Saint Joe’s Principal Anne Rivera reminded the graduates that the Brothers of the Sacred Heart had a deliberate plan for them through their philosophy and teaching methods.
“As a result of a holistic education, you are well-rounded,” Rivera said. “As a result of our emphasis on spiritual growth and religious values, you are faith filled. As a result of friendly discipline, you have developed self-discipline. As a result of the personal attention you received, you are compassionate. As a result of our commitment to academic excellence, you are prepared for the demands of college and beyond. You have the tools and the talent to live a good life.”
Imhoff echoed Rivera, reminding his fellow graduates to “adapt and thrive in whatever environment you will find yourself in.”
“If you find yourself afraid, look around you,” Imhoff, who will be attending Rutgers University in the Fall, said. “Every brother you see is a brother you have spent the last four years bonding with, laughing with, struggling with, and changing with. Although many parts of us have changed to become the person we want to be—the person who we are today—the parts of us that will never change are the friends we have met along the way.”
82 percent of the Class of 2023 earned a college scholarship, with every member of the class being accepted into a college or university in the Fall.
Ruiz reminded the class that if they want to continue being successful in life they must continue challenging themselves each and every day.
“Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,’” Ruiz said. “That is to say that maintaining regularity is the thing that holds back people from greatness. We must choose to live lives of deliberate initiative rather than intentional complacency in order to reach success. In forcing ourselves into uncomfortable situations, we facilitate our growth and discover our niche.”
The graduating class has accomplished many successes over the past four years, including over $36 million in collective scholarships, with the average total scholarship awarded per student sitting at $93,637. In athletics, 26 student-athletes will continue their academic and athletic careers by playing at the NCAA level. As a collective unit, Saint Joe’s athletic programs won 25 division, county and state titles.
President John G. Nolan, Jr., whose son graduated from Saint Joe’s in 2009, reminisced about the 1973 New York Mets team that went to the World Series despite being in last place during a bulk of the season and coined the phrase, “Ya Gotta Believe.”
Nolan reminded the class that if they believe in themselves, anything can happen, even a trip to the World Series.
“To many people ‘Ya Gotta Believe’ may just be another catchphrase used by teams, but today I ask you, the Class of 2023, to take that phrase to heart,” Nolan said. “...Know that if you continue to believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Ya Gotta Believe in yourself. Even during the most challenging times in your young lives, continue to believe in yourself.”