Despite occurring later in the year than usual, the Austin Prep community came together on Tuesday, November 17th for the annual tradition of Convocation Mass, which marked the official start of Austin Prep’s 59th academic year. The entire Senior Class of 2021 was joined by members of the sixth grade Class of 2027 and select School faculty and staff in Richard J. Meelia Hall for the Mass. Due to restrictions placed on gatherings, the Mass was livestreamed to the remaining Austin Prep students, either in classrooms on campus or learning remotely from home, as well as the parent community.
With banners representing all seven Austin Prep classes surrounding the stage, TJ Dysart ’21, School-Wide President, welcomed his fellow classmates. Dysart acknowledged that while recent months have been difficult, and settling into a routine to start the school year has been a challenge, our School community moves forward guided by our mission and values.
“Our mission isn’t measured in miles, meters, yards, or even six feet. Our mission is measured by the goodness in our hearts and contributions that we make in our communities,” Dysart said. “It’s important for us to not just speak about our mission, but to live it.”
Each academic year, Austin Prep adopts a theme to help advance the School’s mission. For the 2020-2021 academic year, Austin Prep’s theme comes from the words of Jesus from St. John’s Gospel: “I pray that they all may be one.” The theme resonated throughout the Convocation Mass, with Fr. Patrick Armano, School Chaplain, referencing the theme during his homily.
“We are one community that is made up of individuals, and in order to truly become united, in order to truly become one, each of us has to put our best effort towards that unity by what we do in our own lives,” Fr. Armano said. “That unity requires the effort of each of us, to focus on the bettering of ourselves, so that we can focus on building those around us up.”
Head of School, James Hickey, Ph.D. noted that as another academic year begins, our nation is divided, but Austin Prep’s enduring mission helps support our pursuit of unity. “Think about that: It was the prayer of the son of God that we should all come together,” Dr. Hickey said, referring to this year’s school theme. “We can do that by honoring the command of Jesus, to treat others the way we would want to be treated.”
“As an Augustinian community committed to veritas, unitas, and caritas, we need to model behavior and acts of kindness and compassion that bring people together,” Dr. Hickey added.
During his remarks, Dr. Hickey acknowledged two Faculty members, Assistant Head and Head of Upper School Dr. William Driscoll, ’87 and Science Chair Dr. Maria Blewitt, who earned their doctoral degrees last spring but unfortunately could not participate in their respective commencement ceremonies due to the pandemic. To honor their achievement, Dr. Hickey invited Dr. Driscoll and Dr. Blewitt to wear their doctoral gowns to Convocation. In a touching moment, Dr. Hickey offered his gown to be worn by Dr. Blewitt, who could not secure hers in time for Convocation.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the Senior Class of 2021, led by Senior Class Officers Kayla Russell ’21 and Arya Gupta ’21, continued with tradition and hoisted its class banner to the rafters of Meelia Hall, where it will remain until being lowered at Baccalaureate Mass in May, 2021.