Profiles in Excellence: Saint Basil Academy’s Emily McCloskey

Emily is the valedictorian for the Class of 2013.

St. Basil Academy

Emily McCloskey is a parish member of Saint Cecilia Roman Catholic Church in Fox Chase. During her time at Saint Basil,

Emily has been a member of the band, as well as the pit orchestra for the musicals, and the fashion club. This year she was a Diocesan Scholar, taking courses at Manor College. Outside of SBA, Emily is very involved with playing her flute. Emily is in her ninth year of flute study and has studied privately with Mrs. Melissa Klauder Freilich of Fort Washington for the past four years. She has received ensemble instruction from the Settlement Music School and participated in the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts Chamber Music summer camp. Emily also participated in the All Catholic Band and Orchestra and, this year, was a member of Philadelphia Sinfonia, a youth orchestra for musicians in the tri-state area. She has also accompanied her parish choir at Saint Cecilia for various occasions and participated in the Jenkintown Community Band throughout the past four years. Last summer, Emily began teaching flute to students in the Fox Chase area and has continued throughout this academic year.  Next fall, Emily will be attending Boston College in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Here is the speech Emily will be giving at graduation.

 The Message of LOVE

Good morning Sister Lydia, Mrs. Kost, (Master of Ceremonies), faculty and staff, honored guests, family and friends, and, last but certainly not least, my 76 sisters. May I first take the opportunity to thank you for the true honor and privilege you have given me in allowing me to speak today. I think it’s safe to assume that half of you are expecting me to use this honor to impart some amazing, mind-boggling, awesome truth no human has yet realized or revealed while the other half of you are trying to remember what was best on the menu at the place you are going to after this. Well, sadly, I do not have a mind-boggling, amazing truth to reveal to you today and, rest assured, you probably know much better than I what’s best on ANY menu. I do, however, want to take advantage of this blessed honor to help all of us here gathered to recognize three things before we leave today.

The first thing that we must recognize is how we all came to be here on this, our graduation day. Let’s start with us: the Class of 2013. Whether or not we made the choice to come to Basil’s ourselves, we DID it: we are finally graduating. We sacrificed hours upon hours and, yes, blood, sweat, and tears at times in doing all that was necessary to bring us here. From memorizing “Who can sing?” (“Anyone who possesses a voice with which to speak can learn to sing. The vocal mechanism is the same for both. Singing is not a God-given gift to a chosen few.”), from learning the Ukrainian alphabet, from doing mandalas, illuminations, and modern art way into the night, from doing a geometry project way into the night, from essentially surviving junior year, from stressing out over prom, from learning Spirit Day dances and a nun dance for Halloween also, from memorizing the Old Testament, from cheerleading competitions, soccer games, track meets, forensics competitions, from pulling the best prank ever….guys, the list obviously goes on and on but, yes, we sacrificed a lot of ourselves to get here today. These sacrifices would not have ever been possible without the sacrifices of our parents, guardians, family, and friends who have supported us throughout our years here at Saint Basil. Those sacrifices would not have been possible without the dedicated service of our faculty and staff here gathered and those not present with us today. Most especially, we would not be here gathered today if it were not for the sacrifices of the Sisters of Saint Basil in continuing to keep the SBA Community alive. We would not be here if it were not for the founder of SBA Mother Helena’s sacrifice. And ultimately, tracing back for ourselves many, many, many sacrifices made before Mother Helena, we would not be here on this, our graduation day – this is a stretch that, I promise you, will make sense - if it were not for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s sacrifice of her life in bringing Jesus Christ to the world: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” Luke 1: 38.

This brings us to the second thing we must recognize before leaving today. The Blessed Virgin sacrificed her life whether She knew it or not at the time for the salvation of all humankind. Like Mary, whether we knew it or not at the time, we all made the described sacrifices to receive and educate ourselves on the message of love. Yes, whether we 77 have realized it or not, we have received the ultimate message of love and life here at Basil’s and learned what it embodies. Whether we received this message via a teacher, staff member, the good example of a peer or friend….maybe not even in the parameters of this school by the example of a parent, family member, or maybe even a mere stranger…regardless, during our time here at Basil’s, we HAVE received this message of love that will help us to live life to its fullest –this is what we sacrificed for.

Family and friends here gathered, let us try to describe this message of love in a relatable, personal, simple way. Through our time here at Basil’s, we 77 graduates have mastered the art of cramming information the night before a test, taking the test, and then, twenty minutes afterwards, forgetting what chapter the test was even on. So, maybe using something a little more recent will help us to best describe the message of love. The last test we had in Sister Rita’s love and relationships class incorporated Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. Let’s use this parable to impart to you what the message of love is truly about.

A father has two sons. The younger of the two asks for his inheritance of the property, which he uses to live a loose, hedonistic life. Soon, this younger son “runs out” and is forced to return to his father. The father, upon seeing his son returning from afar, does not scold him but runs to him in ecstasy. He throws a huge celebration for his son’s return, even having the fattened calf slaughtered for him.

This parable imparts to us the two key things about the message of love: God’s unending and unconditional love for us and His desire for us to return that love in the same way. In terms of His own love, God says to us in this parable….I don’t care how far or how long you’ve strayed. I will always love you as I always have, which is A LOT. I am always with you and will never forsake you. You will face hardship and trials in your life but know that I am with you and carrying you through it all. Please don’t go on living life without knowing and trying to understand this. In fact, my love for you is so infinitely large that I loved you even before I created you. Jeremiah 1:4-5 underscores this: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The message of love tells us….Maura, Kiersten, Anna, Paige, Maureen, Cait, Emma, Gabby, Allie L., Allie M., Katie, Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria, Brynn, Chrissy, Lauren, Julianna, Em, Kathleen, Maura, Devyn, Mairead, Casey, Marykate, Alex, Morgan, Chrissy, Alexis, Pam, Liz, Laura, Molly, Maeve, Ellen, Ter, Jenn, Mel, Allison, Colleen, Gabby, Jadae, Breelyn, Emily, Nicola, Meg, Theresa, Tara, Allison, Christine, Meg, Bridget, Kiersten, Maddie, Vera, Steph, Kylee, Meg, Jenn, Gianna, Val, Amanda, Erin, Nicole, Maggie, Lauren, Jess, Jules, Sam, Mal, Coeli, Lauren, Julia, Steph, Lexie, and Syd… “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…” I created you unlike any other human being. You have something to offer to the world that no other human that I created can offer and that is the gift of yourself. I don’t care what you “do” with your life as long as you are your beautiful, loving self in doing it. I do not measure by the world standards (Titles, accomplishments, degrees, etc.), but I put a tape measure around the HEART (As my grandmother said). Remember the summary of the covenant in Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” I want you to remember that you don’t have to do anything “special” to receive my love: YOU already are special. Sharing your special, loving self with the world is “special” enough. You have 76 sisters that agree with me and will reassure you of this for the rest of your life, too.

So, God is like the hedonistic son’s father: always showering his boundless love on us and ready to receive us no matter how far and how long we have strayed. God wants us to be like the young son’s father also: to have that same, unconditional kind of love He has for all people. We learned the different kinds of love in second semester religion: agape, philia, and eros. Agape is the kind of love we are called to: love all people regardless if you like them or they like you. God says: I want your love to be boundless also. Love all people, INCLUDING yourself.  What that entails, you will know in your heart: but that’s really it. Love yourself. Love others. You don’t have to cross an ocean, have a Ph.D. in your field, or have an “important,” as the world calls it, job, to do that. Just be a lover. Just be completely and beautifully yourself because I created you totally good. Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” This is the message of love.

Yes, there is one last thing to recognize: We made sacrifices to understand this message of love, yet it is up to us if we would like to make those sacrifices worth it. It is up to us every single day of our lives to choose to live this message of love…to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with God. Like Mary, let us every single day of our lives wake up and say, “Yes. I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your Will” even when we feel like we don’t have all the answers. Like Mary, let us get up every day and say “YES” to the message of love. Our Basil experience amounts to nothing if all we remember are the presidents in order, how to factor a polynomial, or even just the “good times” that we had together as a class. We must remember the message of love if we want our sacrifices and the sacrifices of many not present with us today to mean or amount to anything.

Maybe you are familiar with Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree”…the story of the tree who continually gives everything to the boy she loves…her apples, her branches, her limbs, her everything until she is nothing more than a stump. God, help all of us here gathered, particularly us 77 graduates, continually give ourselves every single day to a world that may never seem to love us back. Like Your Son Jesus, help us continually to give our individual unique gifts and talents in the name of Love to a world that may hate us, persecute us, and/or never appreciate us or give us anything in return. Please carry us through the rough times. Help us to say “Yes” to Your message of love and life today and every day of our lives. Thank you for allowing us these past four years at SBA and in doing so allowing us to receive the message of love. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of 77 sisters for life. Amen.          

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