As we mentioned earlier, today is the Feast Day of St. Columba, the Patron Saint of our parish, and one of the Patron Saints of our school. Twenty-five years ago, Cardinal O’Connor split the parish of St. Denis and created the new parish of St. Columba. Fifty years ago, the people of St. Denis Parish, which included the Mission Church of St. Columba, founded our magnificent school. And so, we are celebrating two significant milestones this year!
St. Columba was born in Donegal, Ireland many years ago. When he began his studies for the priesthood, he used to spend much time praying in church. His fellow students called him Columkille – the Dove of the Church. He was a brilliant man who would travel about Ireland teaching about Jesus. He founded many churches and monasteries.
Eventually, St. Columba left Ireland with a small group of monks and landed off the coast of Scotland on Iona Island. There he founded a monastery that became famous all over Europe. From there, Columba and his monks spread the faith all over Scotland. At one point, he even banished an evil creature to the deeps of a lake – the Loch Ness Monster! Years later on Iona Island, his monks created the famous “Book of Kells” which can be seen today at Trinity College, Dublin.
Two years ago, I traveled to Iona to visit his monastery and his grave. Sadly, the Vikings beat me there. To protect his relics, they were moved to Downpatrick in Ireland where he rests next to St. Patrick & St. Bridget.
Monasteries were and still are special places of learning. Throughout history, Catholics have built schools and colleges to educate their young. Fifty years ago, the people of Hopewell Junction stepped out in faith to create a school. It has educated generations of young people like yourselves. A school cannot work without a dedicated principal, outstanding faculty and staff, supportive parishioners and parents who understand the unique role of Catholic education – Education of the Whole person: Body, Mind and Soul. My dear graduates, you have much to be thankful for tonight.
As you go forward from St. Denis – St. Columba, what is my wish for you?
Before age of cable TV and cell phones., town streets were lit by gas lamps.
Couldn’t just hit a switch, had to have a lamplighter who would go out each evening and light the lamps.
One night, an English writer named John Ruskin was sitting on his porch.
Across the valley, he could see the torch of the lamplighter as he went to each gas lamp.
Because it was getting dark, he could not see the lamplighter.
After a while, he pointed to the trail of lights and said to a friend:
That is a good example of how Christians are to live. You may never have seen them. But you know they passed through the world by the trail of lights they left behind.
Jesus said, you are the light of the world – in a world where there is so much darkness - my dear graduates, let your light shine!!! God bless you!!!