Francis X. Flaherty a member of the Bishop Hendricken High School Class of 1964, former Warwick Mayor and a recently retired Rhode Island Supreme Court Associate Justice returned to his alma mater …
Francis X. Flaherty a member of the Bishop Hendricken High School Class of 1964, former Warwick Mayor and a recently retired Rhode Island Supreme Court Associate Justice returned to his alma mater Friday night to become the school’s first guest graduation speaker.
The graduation ceremony beginning at 8:30 p.m. was held on the grounds of the Aldrich Mansion overlooking Narragansett Bay. As was done for a first time last year because of the pandemic, large screens provided up close views of the stage to those sitting in or outside cars parked facing the water with the Mount Hope Bridge with its necklace of lights in the distance. This graduation, thankfully, was far more relaxed as students and their families weren’t wearing masks and gathered in groups to celebrate.
Flaherty reminded graduates “every member of this great class is here tonight because someone cared enough about him to send him to Bishop Hendricken High School. Someone was willing to pay a hefty tuition to give you this opportunity, which you have used to your great advantage.”
Flaherty urged the graduates to “Be kind to people. Keep in mind that it costs nothing to be kind and generous of spirit to each individual you encounter. In the end, it will be you who will profit from each act of consideration or kindness that you perform, large or small.”
Work hard, loyalty, and not being afraid to fail were among his other words of advice.
“Every person at this ceremony is proud of you and has the utmost conviction that you are ready for any challenge that comes your way-whether that be in furthering your education, in the military, or in the workplace,” he said. “Do whatever you do with ardor, passion, and zeal.”
Sharing the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, Flaherty encouraged graduates to “Go and set the world on fire.”
The Class of 2021’s valedictorian, Sean Miranda, addressed his peers during the ceremony. In his speech, one tinged with nostalgia, Miranda shared anecdotes and stories about his time at Hendricken.
He was also faced some unexpected competition when shortly after starting his speech an automobile alarm sounded. Usually, the intermittent honking of an alarm dies in a minute or less. That wasn’t the case Friday night.
It didn’t stop Miranda.
He talked about freshman football practices in the cold to taking exams in Sister Carol Anne’s class, Miranda said “the little things” are his fondest memories, “memories that shouldn’t stick as much as the bigger events, but do.”
“These little moments, tucked in between the stresses of the day, are what made these past four years so special. They were constant reminders that this school is a brotherhood, a family, a place where everyone has your back. Even as simple as a fist bump in the hallway or a smile from a friend, these little things show that nothing was too small to truly care about, and that mentality seeps its way into the entire community,” he said.
Miranda reflected on faculty that impacted him, including Thomas Morey, Sister Carol Anne, Mrs. Leslie Meehan, and Nick Tavares, and Coach Mike Quigley.
“Hendricken is a school that prides itself on doing the big things right. Just look at this class,” he said, reflecting on the class’ accomplishments, like state championships, athletic titles, acceptances to top colleges and universities, and talent that is “nothing short of exceptional”.
“Yet each of these massive accomplishments starts with the small ones. They start with the little memories, the building blocks that create this environment. This class, and Hendricken, has excelled because we have paid attention to these things,” said Miranda.
The graduation was a bittersweet experience for Vincent F. Mancuso, Dean of Academics who delivered the school welcome and served as master of ceremonies. Mancuso who started working at Hendricken 27 years ago is leaving to become assistant superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Fall River.
The focus of the evening with lights reaching high in the sky was on the graduates and the moment when they stood to be recognized individually with their diplomas. Diplomas and awards were presented by the Most Reverend Robert Evans, Auxiliary Bishop of Providence; Father Robert Marciano, president of Hendricken; Mark DeCiccio, principal and Father Brian Moris, chaplain.
“Tonight we leave our nest and find out what else life holds in store for us,” said the Class of 2021’s salutatorian, Sean Jacob Alcordo, who also addressed his classmates at the graduation ceremony last Friday. “What doesn’t matter from these past four years weren’t things like whether or not you tied your tie correctly on your first day, or that one acronym that you learned for biology, or even if you forgot some textbook to bring to school. I mean, unless you wanted to be up here and give your own speech to the rest of the class, your grades did not mean as much as you probably thought they did. What did matter were the experiences you had throughout high school, whether it’s tearing your underwear during a theater production (which I did), or going out with friends after a football game.”
Like Miranda, Alcordo reflected on the impact the Hendricken community had on him, reminiscing on memories from freshman orientation to extracurriculars.
Alcordo also brought up the topic of mental health during his speech.
“Being at an all guys school, mental health is often something that gets passed over, and sometimes even scoffed at. You may have been told by someone who may have had good intentions to ‘toughen up’ or ‘not to be soft’. I want you all to get that idea out of your head,” he said. “The fact is, you really don’t know what people are going through around you, whether or not they may be going through some really hard times.”
Alcordo encouraged his classmates to “have a talk with someone who may be under a lot of pressure, normalize checking in on someone’s mental health, and to anyone who may go and trivialize someone’s struggles, please reconsider doing so.”