Monday, June 26, 2017

Here's to you - the Good and the True!

Convent of Mercy 'Alpha' Academy Class of 2017



As I look out at the Sacred Heart Building I remember that rainy day when we were having a 'beret war' and suddenly there was a hush in the room - our Principal Sister Mary Bernadette had entered. She looked at us, shook her head and said, 'You know, they say the rain brings out the animal in you!' (laughter)

It is indeed a great privilege and honour to be addressing the Convent of Mercy 
“Alpha” Academy graduating class of 2017.  It is exactly fifty years since I stood on these
 grounds to receive my Alpha High School diploma from the then Bishop John McEleney. 

And now you, my dear graduands are part of this strong and beautiful tapestry which is 
Convent of Mercy “Alpha” Academy.
You carry the ‘Alpha DNA’ – you can shine out the compassion and courage of that great Jamaican woman, Justina ‘Jessie’ Ripoll, founder of Alpha. Yes, it was a Jamaican lady just like you, who founded Alpha . 
Brilliant, dynamic Principal, Mrs Kali McMorris
As history tells us, there was great suffering among the ex-slaves and many passed away leaving orphaned children.  Jessie Ripoll led the first resident, a little orphan girl, to Alpha Cottage, the site of the now Sacred Heart building on May 1, 1880.

Sr. Mary Bernadette Little’s History of Alpha “You Did It Unto Me”, describes the hardships 
that Jessie and her team faced as the population of the Alpha Children’s Home grew. 

Jessie Ripoll entered the Order of the Sisters of Mercy who arrived in 1890 to support her 
work  and later joined the order and took the name Mother Claver.  

These 40 acres were not enough to contain the zeal and passion of Jessie and the Sisters of Mercy for educating Jamaicans of every walk of life.

Sister Theresa Lowe-Ching presents
an Award to an outstanding Graduate
This zeal that took them islandwide.  So there was I, a six year 
old in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, when our ambitious 
widowed mother of humble means decided that her two eldest should go to the best school in town.  That school was run by 
none other than Alpha’s Sisters of Mercy and we were 
welcomed by Sr. Mary Veronica Doorly, yet another brilliant
 Alpha graduate who was Principal.  When my mother 
remarried and we moved to Kingston, she and our Dad 
were sure of one thing: their children would go to Alpha.  

Then there is St. Catherine High, also founded by the Sisters 
of Mercy, from which we have two distinguished graduates: none other than the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Most Hon. Andrew Holness and the Archbishop of Kingston, Most Rev. Kenneth Richards. Their dynamic Principal Sister Mary Paschal recalls four boys being sent to her office and she notiiced that one of them was young Ken Richards. "You're a good boy", 
she said. "You can go back to your classroom."  Archbishop 
Ken loves to tell that story!

How blessed we were – and YOU are -  to be schooled in an environment where the 
emphasis was not only on education but also on the responsibility we have as Christians to look out for the less fortunate. 

I know your outreach activities continue, and I congratulate Mrs. McMorris, the faculty and 
staff  - including my fellow Mercy Associate Mrs Velia Espeut - and all of you graduands for living our Gospel. Indeed, our National Pledge requires this dedication of our love and loyalty 
to our people.

Dear graduands, it is this spirit of giving, inculcated in me by my parents and my teachers at Alpha, to which I ascribe my business success.

I was working for an ad agency which sponsored an outing to the Pegasus Hotel for the National Children’s Home.  I noticed that the children were given only a sweet snack and 
asked if they could be served hamburgers.  The response was that the budget could not include it. 

Board Chairman Mrs Joyce Archibald
rewards a top Graduate
So, inspired by the Alpha motto to be “Good and True”, I went to the Marketing Manager and offered free PR Services in return for the meal.  They accepted, The Pegasus received great publicity and a few months later, they offered me my own office in their hotel in exchange for PR services.  This was how PROComm started in January 1979.

And so, the first of three messages that I ask you to take away today is that you live your National Pledge and your school motto, nurturing generosity of spirit. 

Some of you may be wondering how I can be sounding so positive when Jamaica is faced with so many challenges.
This is my second message to you:  there is power in positivity fuelled by prayer.  I will never forget when Sr. Mary Bernadette Little of blessed memory, said to our Fourth form class “ You are a powerful class and I want you to think big”.  With these words, she woke up our confidence and optimism. 

So I say to you the class of 2017, that you are a powerful class and you have been equipped to think big.  You have been moulded by your proud parents and guardians who are here witnessing your graduation and who have made countless sacrifices 
to take you to this milestone in your lives. 

If they did not think big for their children, you would not be on this stage today.  You have been prepared to step forward with the same courage and resolve that they have for you.  It is said that no one can stretch a dollar like a Jamaican mother and some of you have witnessed such miracles.

Here at Alpha, as a fifth former, I experienced the power of positivity and prayer that morning when my mother was admitted to KPH for surgery.  I had slipped out of assembly to pray 
in the Chapel and there saw my sister Frances, a sixth former also on her knees. 

Our Dad was wheelchair bound so at break-time we called home to check on him.  Lo and behold our Mother answered the phone!  At about the same time that we were on our knees right there in Christ the King Chapel, they were examining her and could not find the lump in her breast! She was home, healed and hearty!  Such is the power of prayer!

And so that brings me to my final message:  please remember the words of a wise person who said, “It is not happiness that makes you grateful, but gratitude that makes you happy”.

When we realise that education is considered a luxury for girls in some countries, there is 
much for which to be thankful.  When you consider the support group that did not give up on you, give thanks! 

Graduate Leila LaFayette
makes a presentation to
Teacher Ms Kadian Parkinson
Our Alpha class of ‘67 is planning a Reunion dance in Florida in November – we give thanks that most of us are still around – 
and that we can still dance!

Give thanks dear Graduands to that great and good God who has blessed you with this very special day in your lives.  It is in 
thanking God that we remain humble, knowing that everything we have is a gift of the Lord’s mercy. 

I close by saluting the VVIPS of today – YOU dear graduands.  Please know how much you are loved and admired. 

First you made your family proud by gaining a place at this very special school that continues to rise in the rankings of Jamaica’s top high schools. 

You have tackled the tough examinations, trained for various sporting events and attended a range of spiritual exercises as 
you participated in the building of mind, body and spirit. 
Today, as you stand here, you deserve the accolades and commendations!

In every sphere of Jamaican life, there are graduates of the
Convent of Mercy “Alpha” Academy who hold high office. 
Like them, you Convent of Mercy “Alpha” Academy Class of 2017 can make a difference 
in the future of this country. 

Our motto “Ad Verum et Bonum” – to the good and the true, is one that can take Jamaica
 out of a cloudy past and into a bright future. 

You have the blessings of the saints of Alpha, strengthening your strides and taking you to heights that you had never dreamed possible.  

My heartiest congratulations to you, your caring families and Teachers.
May God continue bless you and our beloved Alpha!
Ad Verum et Bonum – Here’s to you, The Good and The True!

Thank you so much! 

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