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Hello and goodbye, class of 2017

Pope Francis offers good advice as over 3,000 graduate from local Catholic high schools

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MIAMI | Exams are over, the graduation gowns have been returned, and the thrill of accomplishments is giving way to the anticipation of college life.

The class of 2017 has much to be proud of, as reflected in the statistics below. But as the 3,000 or so graduates of South Florida’s Catholic high schools say goodbye to secondary school and hello to college, perhaps the best advice came recently from Pope Francis himself.

Speaking to an audience of middle-schoolers June 2, the pope answered a girl’s question about how to overcome her fear of moving to high school and saying good bye to all her current friends.

Pope Francis replied that life is a continual round of hellos and goodbyes, according to Vatican Radio. He told her we grow up by making new friends and letting go of old ones. Don’t be frightened, he said. Don’t worry about what’s behind a wall, but imagine instead looking toward a horizon in the countryside — and try to always move forward toward your new horizons.

Ends and beginnings. Goodbyes and hellos.

As for the unanswerable questions and inevitable suffering that, to a greater or lesser extent, mark everyone’s lives, the pope told the young people that some things defy explanations. Yet, he reminded them, the love of God is always there, and people around you can help you feel his presence in your life.

So goodbye, class of 2017. Hello, leaders of tomorrow. Hold on to the hand of God as you walk toward those new horizons.

Class of 2017: By the numbers

  • 3,006: Total number of graduates in 13 Catholic high schools and 1 virtual school
  • 537: Largest graduating class, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Fort Lauderdale
  • 4: Smallest graduating class, ADOM Virtual School
  • 2,969: Number of graduating seniors that are college-bound (99 percent)
  • 1,872: Number of graduating seniors who received scholarships (62 percent)
  • 137: Total number of National Merit Scholar awardees, including Commended and Hispanic scholars (5 percent)
  • $174,142,025: Total amount of scholarship money offered to graduating seniors, over the next four years
  • 1,088: Approximate number of graduating seniors who spent 12 years or more in Catholic schools (36 percent). Three schools did not report this number and another one included only those who entered high school from a Catholic elementary school.
  • 689,422: Total number of community service hours donated by graduating seniors over the past four years
  • 8 and 11: Number of Silver Knight winners and honorable mentions 
  • 10: Number of state championships won this year by Catholic high schools: St. Thomas Aquinas in football, girls volleyball, cross country, girls soccer, boys lacrosse; St. Brendan in cheerleading; Belen Jesuit in tennis; Cardinal Gibbons in 1-meter diving; Archbishop McCarthy in girls golf and baseball.

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