Bishop Brady graduates look back at a year of uncertainty with eyes on the future

  • Fellow Bishop Brady graduates lift James Carroll in the parking lot of the school before the ceremony on Friday night. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut gives the thumbs up sign after receiving a gift after his speech to the Bishop Brady class of 2021 on Friday night, June 11, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • LEFT: Bishop Brady graduates are led into the parking lot of the school during the ceremony.

  • Bishop Brady graduate Cole Weaver stands up to be recognized by the crowd as he will be going into the U.S. Army during the graduation ceremony Friday evening, June 11, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Bishop Brady graduates pose for photographs during the graduation ceremony on Friday evening, June 11, 2021 outside the school. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Walter Hebert waves to the Bishop Brady crowd after leading the faculty and board into the ceremony on Friday evening, June 11, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/12/2021 2:58:40 PM

For Madison Rhynhart, the valedictorian and senior class president at Bishop Brady High School, the last year has been filled with one constant: uncertainty.

But as she and the rest of the class of 2021 prepared to leave high school and enter the next stage of their lives, they faced a different kind of uncertainty, this time about their future.

“We all have a lot to learn, and plenty of people in our circles supporting each of us in that growth, so don’t be afraid to reach out, ask for help, or lean on those around you when something seems so daunting you need to take a step back,” Rhynhart said.

On Friday, most of the graduates, teachers and attendees were unmasked during the evening ceremony at the school. Family and friends sat in clusters on the pavement in folding chairs and camp chairs. Many were wrapped in jackets and blankets to ward against the chilly evening air, which dropped to the 50s. Some brought cowbells, air horns and homemade signs to cheer their graduates as they received their diplomas.

In all, 65 students graduated from the Catholic high school, including exchange students from Great Britain, China and Russia.

“Normal again,” was how Superintendent of Catholic Schools David Thibault described graduation day, speaking from the portable stage in the parking lot.

“Nothing’s been normal in over a year,” Thibault said. “All that you have accomplished this year, all that you have been through, all the highs and the lows, don’t you think this is time to just relish the moment?”

Bishop Brady’s commencement ceremony did feel like a return to normal times, compared to the 2020 ceremony, which was held in the same location but socially distanced in parked cars.

Like other New Hampshire Catholic schools, Bishop Brady has been operating in person since the start of the school year. In her speech, principal Andrea Elliot expressed gratitude that the school was able to hold in-person events like awards night, prom, and baccalaureate.

“Yes there were a lot of changes, like sitting six feet apart and sanitizing your desks and wearing masks day in and day out all year,” Elliot said. “But what didn’t change? The friendships you made, the memories you created and the lessons you learned.”

New Hampshire education commissioner Frank Edelblut, who was the guest speaker for the event, discussed the uncertain moments of 2020, when nobody knew how the pandemic was going to impact New Hampshire students.

“At that time, we all thought that there would be a couple of weeks of disruption to your instructions and all would return to normal. No one anticipated that it would be over a year-long disruption,” Edelblut said. “….We were all concerned at the start of the pandemic about the safety of everyone in our state, and our children in particular. And rightly so, since we knew very little about COVID at that time. But there was another perspective that was also important...When nations or states or communities face crisis, it is often young people who rise to the moment.”

Thibault said he wavered over the tough decision to reopen Catholic schools for full-time in-person instruction in the fall.

“Right at the beginning of the year, I was really nervous about making this decision,” Thibault said. “Are we making the right decision? Are people going to be safe? Is it really what we should be doing?”

He said receiving a thank-you note from a Bishop Brady student this year convinced him that the students were benefiting from the in-person instruction.

One chair in the faculty seating area beside the stage was notably empty Friday, set aside in memory of beloved math and science teacher and coach Jeff Kaplan, who died in January due to complications from COVID-19. The chair was adorned with a #KaplanStrong t-shirt that read “forever in our hearts.”

“All of us shared the loss of Mr. Jeff Kaplan, and the empty chair amongst the faculty signifies his presence with us this evening,” Elliot said. “I have no doubt that he is looking down on all of you today, and smiling for all you have accomplished.”

In his address, salutatorian William Smith spoke about staying true to oneself while making big life decisions.

At the end of the ceremony, Rhynhart announced the senior class gift: wall padding for the school gymnasium.

“It’s funny when a time or a chapter in your life finally comes to a close,” Rhynhart told the graduates. “I’ve often found in those moments, you start to shed your self-imposed boundaries and maybe suspend some long-term judgment, because why not? There’s nothing holding you back, there’s nothing to lose.”




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