“Always remember you are a gift of God”

Bishop Noonan exchanges the sign of peace with graduating seniors of Father Lopez Catholic High School in Daytona Beach during the baccalaureate Mass on May 23. (JACQUE BRUND | FC)

“You’re about to stand on the stage of your life – to follow your dreams,” Bishop John Noonan told the graduating class of Father Lopez Catholic High School, Daytona Beach.

The 58th Baccalaureate Mass was held May 23 at Sacred Heart Parish in New Smyrna Beach for 93 students gathered with their teachers, priests, families and friends to celebrate this major life event. Bishop Noonan cited their knowledge, talents, and their hearts prepared to listen with love and thereby understand the intricacies of life and – “the gift of faith, the gift of the love of God.”

“I hope you will go into the world and accomplish great things,” Bishop Noonan said, “but always remember – you are a gift of God.”

Marie Gallo-Lethcoe, director of mission effectiveness reported that the class had served 14,845 service hours in the community during their four years together. They had packed meals for third world countries, folded linens, helped homeless individuals, served as aides to the athletic teams and so much more. It was the aspect of her son’s Catholic education that Sally Griser appreciated most.

“Tyler is caring and kind,” said Griser, parishioner at the Basilica of St. Paul in Daytona Beach who is a professional caregiver. “He frequently helps me with my clients and has grown into a man. I’m so grateful for his Catholic education that provided the faith and guidance he needs to be strong in the light of God.”

Tyler is headed to Full Sail University in Winter Park to major in production and editing skills.

“I’m really going to take to heart what the Bishop said,” Tyler reflected. “I’m definitely going to follow through on my journey and make people smile and laugh.”

Kelly and Jim Rogers, parents of Katie and parishioners at St. Brendan Parish Ormond Beach acknowledged her academic and swimming accomplishments, but are also grateful to Father Lopez for “helping to grow up our daughter.”

Katie will major in foreign affairs and international law at Florida State University in Tallahassee. “It just hit me when the Bishop said that it’s our now,” she said. “I’m graduating – a little bit scared, but I’m confident.”

Natalie and Nicole Cecil are identical twins, parishioners at St. Ann Parish DeBary and although both going to the University of Florida Gainesville together will be pursuing very different majors. Natalie will focus on biology in hopes of becoming an orthodontist and Nicole is strong in mathematics. Both were touched by the poignancy of celebrating with their class for the last time, but each was touched by something different that Bishop Noonan said.

“We have to have ‘love in our hearts’ to be good Christians,” Natalie said and Nicole was challenged to “go make a difference.”