'Today is an awesome day'

Stacey Hartley • Updated Jun 2, 2019 at 8:52 PM

Fifty-two Norwalk Catholic School (NCS) kindergarteners were celebrated for “outgrowing” the Early Childhood Center (ECC) at a graduation ceremony Tuesday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

“Today is an awesome day; it is a great day,” said the Rev. Francis Mariadas, the pastor.

“What are we here to celebrate?” he asked the children. “We are not just here because you learned to read and write. We’re here to celebrate you expanding your relationship and friendship to God and others as you grow.”

The pastor congratulated the kindergarteners for their achievement, and thanked parents and family.

“Thank you for letting us (the St. Mary’s faculty) be a part of this celebration with your family,” Mariadas said.

Deacon David Rospert spoke next. He with the kindergarteners a lesson he learned from one of his favorite shows. 

“Maybe you kids have seen it before. Do any of you know ‘Paw Patrol?,’”he said, eliciting a collection of laughs from the parents in the audience. The deacon continued, using as an example how the Paw Patrol dogs help anyone, even their “natural enemy” — cats.

Rospert said it got him thinking about the soon-to-be first-graders. 

“As Christians, we help other people, but not just the people we like — we help the people we don’t like. Just like they do on ‘Paw Patrol. You guys could do that too, but instead you’ll be the ‘Jesus Patrol,’” he said.

“And to be a part of the ‘Jesus Patrol’ … is to help others in need — others (who) need help.”

Before the two classes were announced and handed their diplomas, the ECC’s director Angie Smith, took the lectern. After producing a bottle of mustard seeds, Smith likened the life cycles of the seeds to the students’ growth from nervous students who couldn’t yet write their own names to graduating kindergarteners.  

“Take a mustard seed ... because it starts so small and then it grows into a bush and then in the end it becomes a tree. Trees become helpers,” she said.

“You’re becoming helpers. Jesus wanted to make the point to us that it’s our job to grow up and help the people around us. … And while it’s sad that you’ll be leaving us (ECC), it’s also exciting that you’ve learned so much that you outgrew our school. We’re so proud of you.” 

After briefly announcing that this ceremony would be her last with ECC, Smith was thanked and presented with farewell gifts by the kindergarten’s teachers, Gail Reynolds and Jen Nardecchia.

The students then were given a diploma and after pictures with Smith, the pastor, Rospert and NCS President Dennis Doughty, were released from the church to their reception. 

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