Leaving Cert Graduation Ceremony Address St. Anne’s Killaloe

Graduation Mass Killaloe 2018


I love the theme that you have chosen for this graduation ceremony this evening.  The Journey Of Life Gives Us Memories We Can Cherish Forever.


The journey of life.  Memories we cherish forever.


Journey of Life

There are 3 lines of advice that are part of a wise saying or sean-fhocail in Irish that I have occasionally used as couples embark on the journey of marriage and it goes as follows:


  • If you’re going on a journey pray once.
  • If you’re going on the sea pray twice.
  • If you’re getting married pray three times.


We celebrate the fact tonight that you are ready to mark a stage on that great journey of life as you embark on the next phase of the memorable journey.


A famous writer once said that “what we fail to celebrate, we will soon cease to cherish”.  That is so true of what we are doing tonight, cherishing, marking, celebrating this important rite of passage on your personal journey of life.


An evening like this evokes different things for everyone here, nostalgia, sadness, memories, jubilation, joy, delight, possibly a mixture of all rolled into one. Milestone events like this are always special, memorable and hopefully truly meaningful, especially when the event is celebrated and prepared so well like you have done here this evening.


The Idea of a University

I have here with me a book called The Idea of a Universityone of my most treasured possessions.  It is over 150 years old.  The book was written by a giant of the worlds of English Literature, Theology and Spirituality, Cardinal John Henry Newman.  This book was one of the key texts on education that formed the basis of much of the modern thinking on Education that was to follow for a long, long time and is still relevant to this very day – this special day that we mark the end of your formal second level education.


Vision of Education

In this work Newman outlines his vision for the shape of education which he claims should be broad and wide ranging, expanding the mind, the soul, the personality, the intellect, exploring the true sense of beauty as expressed in the natural world through science, nature, music and good literature.  From his point of view all of this thrives when embedded in a Christian ethos that promotes respect and reverence for God and humankind.  In my view from what I have heard in talking to some key people in your school here in advance of this occasion – the education here in St. Anne’s makes a fair stab at putting this vision into practice.  Well done to you all in being partners of this Christian vision of education in your role as teachers and pupils!


Newman Quote

Despite all that Newman has to say on the importance and value of Education – one of his most famous lines that is often repeated is that “education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school”.  The giant of Irish literature Máirtín Ó Diréain coined the great phrase Olscoil an tsaoil!  The Univeristy of Life! Of course we forget the hard content of the text books, but build and expand on the skills and experiences that we have gained along the way.



Having been a maths teacher for a number of years – I love the whole idea of play on numbers!


Story of School and Sporting Numbers…  7 and 13.


I love the interplay around the number 40 in the bible and religious imagery.

Jesus 40 days in wilderness.

40 days from Christmas to Presentation.

St. Patrick 40 days and 40 nights on Croagh Patrick.

40 days from Resurrection to Ascension.

50 days from Resurrection to Ascension.


Les Miserables

I was delighted when I heard that many of you in Graduation Class, 2018 were part of one of the greatest shows going – Les Miserables.

Les Miserables, based on the Victor Hugo 1862 novel.  I have no doubt that you that have seen the musical will remember a significant number central to the life of the hero of the show – Jean Valjean 24601.  24601 was the number Valjean was given when he was a convict in jail having stolen a piece of bread to feed his sisters children. When Valjean was released from jail – he was given refuge in the local bishops house.  However, Valjean stole valuables from the bishop’s house and was at risk of being sent back to jail for the rest of his life.  However, the bishop forgave him his misdemeanour and encouraged him to make something of his life and from that moment – he became an outstanding citizen of the troubled revolutionary France he was living in.


Key Moments – Turning Points

For many people they have key turning points, key moments in life that make or break them and form them into the great people they can potentially be.  It is my hope and wish that your 5 or 6 years here in St. Anne’s have been a key spring board for you to propel yourself into the potential greatness you can and will achieve in the great life that is ahead of you.


Potentiality of Youth

You young graduates of today are so full of potential, enthusiasm, idealism, hope.  The world is literally your oyster and I hope that they will use the springboard of the solid education you have received here in St. Anne’s to realise that potential.


Man of La Mancha

Apart from Les Mis – There is another great musical called Man of La Mancha.  In that show Don Quixote has these two verses and they somehow sum up the dream of you young women and men of today:


To dream the impossible dream,

To fight the unbeatable foe,

To bear with unbearable sorrow,

To run where the brave dare not go.


To right the un-rightable wrong,

To love, pure and chaste from afar,

To try, when your arms are too weary,

To reach the unreachable star!



To reach that unreachable star!  Why not throw caution to the wind, let the air and the oxygen in to fully light up and use your talents to the full and head for that unreachable star, whether you get there or not.  The Glory of God is human kind fully, fully alive, St. Ireneus tells us.  In my books one the greatest sins of life is not to live life, not to use the God given talents we have been given, to reach our full and mighty potential!


Mary Oliver – The Summer Day

One of my favourite poets is a lady called Mary Oliver who asks a great question at the end of her powerful poem The Summer Day:

Tell me what it is you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life.


Do not be afraid

Today’s Gospel reminds us not to be fearful, not to be afraid, with faith and belief in the saving power of Jesus – who and what can go against us! One of the great symbols of Jesus Christ is the torch or light on fire.  That’s why we light candles on an altar.  “I am the light of the world” Jesus reminds us lighting up our torch and the light of our lives. What a great help this can be to us as we journey through life’s many storms.  One of the key things in this is that you are not alone in beginning that great and exciting journey of life that lies ahead, with the support of family, friends, Church and community to help you every step of the way.



It is my hope today, that you, young women and men remain literally remain on fire with the light of that divine energy, burning brightly!  If you remain in contact, in touch with the values taken in, in your education here in St. Anne’s College,

  • development of the mind,
  • emphasis on team work and co-operation,
  • care and respect for all forms of life, God and people,
  • if you remain on fire with the light of Christ

then you will make the most of the wonderful potential already partially realised.  You now pass on your Torch to the next generation of St. Anne’s and bring the brightness of what you have gained here to illumine your way towards what we hope and pray will be a very brightly lit and warm future.



The End