By: Mike Swanson
A convocation is a group of people that comes together, formally assembled for a unique purpose. St. Rita of Cascia High School is a very unique and special institution for many Chicago-area families.
On the morning of Wednesday, August 22, 2018 the St. Rita of Cascia High School community, including parents, gathered in the St. Rita Shrine Chapel for the Annual Academic Convocation that has quickly become a cornerstone ceremony for the members of the St. Rita family. The tone of the day was set by the music which was provided by the legendary St. Rita Band under the direction of Mr. KC Perlberg. The convocation (which marks the official beginning of St. Rita’s 114th academic year) celebrates the school’s academic excellence, ancient and venerable Augustinian heritage and the traditions that developed over the course of the last 113 years the greatest of which is the bond that exists among all Ritamen brothers.
"We are indeed blessed and that is why the theme of this year will be “Thankfulness.” We have been given much and so we must give back much." - Fr. Paul
For this year’s freshmen class, that bond is especially relevant. The 158 freshmen, the Class of 2022, physically signed their names on parchment paper, enrolling them in the sacred “Book of Brotherhood” at St. Rita. After signing, each freshman received from a student government representative his St. Rita chapel tie which is worn each Wednesday for all-school Mass.
The event's master of ceremonies, Dean of Student Leadership Mr. Josh Blaszak '02 introduced three student government leaders, Stedmon Ihejirka, Michael Henze and Liam Ohle who spoke about St. Rita’s core values: Veritas (Truth), Unitas (Unity) and Caritas (Love), respectively.
As the ceremony continued, the crowd heard remarks about St. Rita’s academic excellence and college-preparatory curriculum from Mr. Wes Benak ‘81, Dean of Academics. Mr. Mike Zunica, President, gave remarks about the storied history of St. Rita.
Finally, St. Rita’s Head of School and CEO, Fr. Paul Galetto, O.S.A., Ph.D., gave the crowd an overall “State of the School” address and then took the time to speak directly to the freshmen telling them what is expected of a Ritaman and what the school community has to offer them. At the end of his remarks, Fr. Paul lit the 2018-19 “Lamp of Learning” from the flame of the Easter Candle in the St. Rita Shrine Chapel.
Fr. Paul said, "St. Rita of Cascia High School is a Catholic college-preparatory high school in the Augustinian tradition. The beginning of the academic year is a rite of passage for our freshmen. The Academic Convocation marks this important milestone while teaching new students and families the history and traditions of our school and reminding us all of the unique opportunities that exist here. This is a very exciting time at St. Rita with multiple new construction projects nearing completion and enrollment increasing. The excitement for our future was palpable at the Convocation. People want to be a part of St. Rita. I’m very pleased with the direction our school is headed thanks to our dedicated and talented faculty, staff, parents and students. We are indeed blessed and that is why the theme of this year will be “Thankfulness.” We have been given much and so we must give back much. We must be the example for others to emulate."
After the formal gathering was over, St. Rita parents and students enjoyed a quick reception with light refreshments.
St. Rita’s Academic Convocation is a unique tradition. It’s very important to Ritamen and their families because it is a public statement of all that St. Rita stands for: academic and athletic excellence, student involvement and Catholic, Augustinian affiliation and leadership. The Convocation displays and solidifies St. Rita’s welcoming environment for all to see.