Georgetown Prep celebrated its 219th Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 26. Baccalaureate Mass was held in the morning in the Hanley Center for Athletic Excellence. Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., president of Georgetown Prep, was the celebrant.
In the afternoon, family members, friends, and members of the Prep community gathered in the Yard outside of the George Center for Academic Excellence to celebrate the achievements of the graduating class. Prep's Headmaster, Mr. John Glennon Jr., served as the Master of Ceremonies at the Commencement Exercises.
John Davin received the Hillenbrand Medal, which is awarded to the President-of-the-Yard. Fr. Pilarz also presented Hakeem Smith with the Jeffrey L. Jones award in honor of Prep's former Headmaster, Jeff Jones.
Sebastian Montoya, who will attend Purdue University, delivered the Commencement address.
Speaking to his classmates, Sebastian shared what Georgetown Prep has meant to him. The following is an excerpt:
If we are to set the world on fire, we must be motivated by a higher purpose. One of the most important moments for all Prep students is Kairos. We had the opportunity to grow closer to God, and equally important, to grow closer as a class. Without divulging too much, I will say that during this time, the most valuable lesson I learned was the importance of being motivated by a higher calling, something greater than myself. It is what drives us to pursue the Jesuit principle of magis. If we follow the magis, we commit to asking ourselves what more can we do for the greater glory of God. I see examples of this higher calling in my fellow students all the time. For example, Marco Davis hopes to make it his life's mission to help rebuild Puerto Rico, his home island, after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Or the leaders of the Black Students Association, who called our community to the table of healthy dialogue at a town hall meeting this fall. Or John Besche, who organized a moving prayer service for the victims of the Parkland shooting. Or Michael Rifka, who was inspired by his brother's condition to lead one of the most successful Best Buddies Clubs in the DMV. If we are to set the world on fire, we must be motivated by a higher purpose, otherwise our efforts will feel empty.
Each of these acts, big or small, are what make us light for others. This is fire we will share with the world by becoming responsible leaders and loving family members, by reaching for our dreams of becoming doctors, scientists, lawyers, writers, actors, businessmen or anything we want to be.
In conclusion, I believe that the bonds of community are what can save the world from its current situation. If we look out beyond these grounds, we realize that not every place is as wonderful as this one, that we are fortunate to have these opportunities. Out there, in D.C. and Baltimore, there are thousands of people struggling to find a home. Across the U.S. and Europe, millions of people are facing the disintegration of their communities through deportation. In Venezuela and Syria, thousands of people have become refugees due to a failing government and war. All over the world, our brothers and sisters are struggling just to survive. Therefore, we are called to do what you did for me when I first arrived. We are called to open our hearts and our minds to people who are alone. We are called to welcome the stranger.
So to me, setting the world on fire is helping others rebuild their communities, build bridges of understanding. Fire means light, it means warmth, it means brightening the lives of others; it is the spark that comes when you strike two rocks together. It can cut through the dark in cold times. And my friends, the world is a hard place. It will at times be unfriendly, unfair, and even cruel. But the stories I just shared with you tell us that we can be the light of hope. Because, yes, we ARE fire. You sparked hope by inviting a new kid to lunch on that first day; you were warmth when you welcomed the transfer to the homecoming dance; you were comfort after a crushing defeat; you motivated each other to never give up. And now we can join so many others around the world to "renew the face of the earth." Because we build community. We are community. Class of 2018, let's set the world on fire! Hoya Saya. Thank you.