AUBURN — With hugs and snapshots, 47 seniors at St. Dominic Academy graduated Friday into a world they say they’re ready to take on.

“Each of us has big dreams we want to accomplish and tangible ideas for ways to make a positive impact in the world,” valedictorian Rose Smith said.

“Get ready to change the world,” Principal Alanna Stevenson told a class that “won championships, planned retreats, performed on stage and spent hours providing service to others.”

For the graduates receiving their diplomas on a small stage erected in the parking lot outside the John E. Callahan Memorial Gymnasium, it was a day of joy and hope, a proud moment of personal accomplishment, and a bittersweet dividing line between high school and everything to come.

“It’s a special night,” Steve Boulet, a 1986 St. Dom’s graduate, said shortly before his daughter Mady Boulet joined him in the ranks of the school’s alumni. He said her family is proud of Mady, who willingly posed for a slew of photographs with a smile on her face.

But several of her classmates said they felt a mix of emotions as they donned their caps and gowns to prepare to collect diplomas that are “much more than a piece of paper,” as Marianne Pelletier, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Portland, put it.

“It’s sad to leave,” said senior Kate Nicholas, one of 13 members of the class who had been with the school since at least kindergarten. Still, she said, it is also “very exciting” to have reached the end of a long journey.

Her mother, Kim Wiers, shared in the excitement.

“I’m feeling good,” she said. “I don’t have to pay any more tuition.”

Wiers said she chose early on to send her daughter to the private Catholic school because “all we had was Lewiston or this” and, in her view, St. Dom’s “was a hell of a lot better than Lewiston.”

But the class, the largest in years at St. Dom’s, came from a number of communities, not just Lewiston and Auburn – and their reasons for attending varied just as widely.

That most of the students loved the school was obvious.

“One of the most beautiful things about attending St. Dom’s is the relationship you build with your peers,” said Gisele Marie Ouelette, the class salutatorian. Their comradery, she said, carried them through, but it also made it “even more difficult to say goodbye.”

What struck many of the students was how typical graduation turned out to be, something ordinary after 15 months of a pandemic that turned their world upside down.

“It feels surprisingly normal” after so much uncertainty, senior Lauren Theriault said.

The class, like many students across the country, shifted last spring to remote learning as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold.

They spent a year “wearing masks, physically distancing and worry about” friends and family getting sick, Stevenson said.

It made for an experience that students at the school’s previous 75 graduations never had, Pelletier said.

“You’ve given up a lot,” she said, “but you’ve also learned a lot about life and how to cope.”

The Rev. Seamus Griesbach, the school’s chaplain, said God protected and held up students through “countless trials and dangers” and “times of struggle and desolation, especially in this past year.”

They came through it all, mentors and parents said, stronger than ever.

At the end, Theriault said, “Here we are.”

And given all that’s happened, that’s something.


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