Families and friends of the Mother McAuley High School senior class gathered on May 16 to celebrate the more than 200 graduates of the Class of 2021.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony took place outside on Br. Rice High School’s Coach Tom Mitchell Field.
In adhering to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s orders, students sat on the football field and were socially distanced. Each student was permitted to have two guests attend the ceremony and sit in the bleachers. The ceremony was also live-streamed for family and friends to watch from home.
A nod to a McAuley tradition dating back to the mid-1800s, graduates donned floor-length white dresses, complemented by long white gloves and the carrying of red roses.
The Class of 2021 earned over $52 million in college scholarships, among other noteworthy accomplishments:
•For the ninth year in a row, 100 percent of the graduates were accepted into college.
•Eighty-five percent of the class was accepted into their first-choice college or university.
•The Class of 2021 is attending 100 different colleges and universities in 30 states.
•Eleven students are attending nine different HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
•Eight students are A. Franklin Pilchard Foundation Scholars.
•Fourteen students signed commitments to play college athletics.
•Thirty-five students are Illinois State Scholars.
Traditional components of the commencement ceremony included remarks by the administration and student speakers. Principal Eileen Boyce O’Reilly welcomed attendees with an opening prayer thanking the McAuley community for its strength and fortitude during this remarkable school year.
Then, the valedictorian, Grace Rowan, and alumna speaker, Kerry Ryan Lynch, shared remarks. Finally, the salutatorian, Colleen Rooney, introduced the chosen faculty speaker, Kevin Czarnecki, who shared his words of wisdom.
Valedictorian Grace Rowan completed her senior year with the highest grade-point average (GPA) among her classmates. She will attend the University of Chicago on a full scholarship as a Chicago Fire Scholar. Grace was a member of five national honor societies, is an Illinois State Scholar and an A. Franklin Pilchard Foundation Scholar. Rowan was a member of the Math Macs and Tightly Knit Community, as well as on the cross-country and track-and-field teams. She is a graduate of St. Cajetan Elementary School.
Grace shared these words with her fellow graduates:
“Tomorrow, we will still have all of the lessons, the skills, the friendships and the experiences that our McAuley years have imparted to us. None of those things will go away overnight, nor even in an entire lifetime. I have witnessed how all of you have overcome struggles in your efforts to prepare for our lives beyond McAuley. I am proud to have walked each day beside you, never being fully certain of what the day nor even the next minute would bring—but anticipating nonetheless. Our future is as soon as right now, and our time at Mother McAuley has provided all of the preparation we have ever needed. What lies ahead has never been promised to any of us, but I believe it looks very promising from here.”
Salutatorian Colleen Rooney maintained the second-highest GPA among her classmates. She will attend Marquette University. She was a member of four national honor societies, a governing board member for Catherine McAuley Honors Scholars and awarded the Catherine McAuley Award out of all of her peers. She was also co-editor-in-chief of the student magazine and yearbook, a vice president of Professional ABCs (Advice Beyond the Classroom) and was on the cross-country, basketball and lacrosse teams. Outside of McAuley, she was involved with the St. Christina Youth Ministry program, A New Direction and Pat Mac’s Pack. She is a graduate of St. Barnabas Elementary School.
Alumna Speaker Kerry Ryan Lynch is the founder of the Choose Kind movement, was inducted into the McAuley Hall of Honor and was a recipient of the Little Company of Mary Mary Potter Award and the Cook County Unsung Hero Award. She shared these impactful words to the graduates:
“I know firsthand—through my family’s journey—that struggle makes us better. Challenges and hardships give us a brighter and more beautiful lens in which to see the world going forward. Because of COVID, and in spite of COVID, you are better; you are stronger; and you have learned early to always lean on God and this sisterhood you have formed with your classmates to find hope in any situation.”
Student Speaker Jane Hynes was voted by her peers to speak at the commencement ceremony. She will attend DePaul University. She was a member of two national honors societies, became the Mighty Mac mascot and was a member of the cross-country, soccer and bowling teams. She is a graduate of St. Christina Elementary School.
Hynes spoke about how McAuley has become her second home and shaped her classmates into who they are today.
“You should also notice that the core of the McAuley community is us: the students. We are the ones who set the standard for those younger than us. We are the ones who further the McAuley traditions in our everyday lives. You can take the girl out of McAuley, but you cannot take ‘the McAuley’ out of the girl. You can take away the chocolate chip cookies and put the kilts in retirement, but you cannot take away what those represent. Though some seemingly small or insignificant, each part of our experiences here at McAuley have been formative pieces in the shaping of our characters.”
English teacher Kevin Czarnecki was selected as the faculty speaker and delivered these words of wisdom to the graduates:
“The challenge of this day for you is not to see your time at Mother McAuley as culminating so much as germinating, to know that these past four years have contributed to a process leading you to become women of mercy, women of purpose, women of action who not only hold fast to a vision of a better world but who go and make it so. In many ways, your last four years have provided you with some shelter, some sense of safety that you might find your best footing to take strong measured steps beyond the hallways of Mother McAuley. These four years have come to an end, but the shelter remains; it abides with you and with whomever you choose to share it.”
To conclude the ceremony, senior members of the McAuley Advanced Chorus sang “You Will Be Found” from the musical “Dear Evan Hansen” and ended with the Suscipe, the school song and tribute to a written work of Catherine McAuley.