Congrats, Grads and Farewell, St. Camillus


It was a bittersweet day on Friday, June 14 as St. Camillus Catholic Academy prepared for their final graduation festivities after 68 years. The accomplishments of the Class of 2019 were highlighted in services that were held throughout the day.

The day began with a Mass celebrated by Fr. Richard Ahlemeyer, followed by a breakfast reception for the family and friends that attended. During the mass, Fr. Richard praised the graduates and challenged them to take the “light of the Spirit” that lives within them and go into the darkness of the world, and let their light shine and change the world.

The graduates participated in a rose ceremony. This ceremony was the graduates’ way of saying thank you to their parents, the teachers, and their homeroom teacher, Ms. Janet Rodman, for helping them on their journey at St. Camillus. After the Mass, the graduates were met in the hallway of the school in a victory celebration. Each graduate received high fives from the student body and the teachers. This was then followed by the graduation breakfast where the seventh-grade class served the graduates and their families. This celebration was put together by Mrs. Joan Palinkas and Mrs. Dotsy Kearns. Both ladies remarked that it was their pleasure to help put this celebration together because they would do anything for the children.

The evening program began with the graduates being serenaded by the alumni members of the St. Camillus Band, under the direction of Mrs. Lynn Harvey and Mrs. Dotsy Kearns. Approximately, 25 members of the band returned to help celebrate the Class of 2019 as well as say goodbye to St. Camillus School. After playing for about 30 minutes, the band played, “Pomp and Circumstance,” as Mr. Ralph Corso, the school principal, led the graduates into the church.

The graduation ceremony began as the graduates entered the church, and Mr. Corso acted as the emcee of these ceremonies. Frank Brancato introduced the salutatorian, Joseph Foye, who welcomed everyone to the ceremony. After the salutatorian address, the distribution of the diplomas and awards were conducted by Janet Rodman and members of the academy board, Joe Young and Margaret McCambridge. After presenting all of the awards, Ms. Rodman introduced the valedictorian, Daniel Schilling. In his speech, he reflected on the past, invoking memories that spanned from kindergarten to eighth grade. He also challenged his classmates to follow the road less traveled and make a difference in the world, reflecting on the poem of Robert Frost. With the impending closing of the school, Schilling said, “As we leave each other, we know there are new friends to make in our high schools, but know we will never forget each other. Our time here at St. Camillus has created a special bond between us that cannot be broken. Our class graduation picture will not hang in the lunchroom, and we will not have a building to come back to, but I hope the memories that we have made here make you smile when you feel lonely and make you laugh when you are happy.”

Before the graduation ceremony ended with the moving of the tassel, Principal Corso gave his parting words to the graduates and guests. He thanked the students and the families for accepting him and expressed that his action over the past academic year was to protect them and get them ready to enter the “crazy” world. He said, “If you can change a Grinch like me, I have no doubt you can change the world.”

On July 15, the doors of St. Camillus will be closed forever after 68 years of service to the Rockaway community. The closure was announced by the Brooklyn Diocese on February 7, 2019, due to low enrollment.

Farewell, Saint Camillus Catholic Academy! Thanks for the memories!