EL CENTRO – Catholic educators threw a Graduation Parade for the Imperial Valley’s Class of 2020, attended by around 80 high school graduates who rolled up in their cars one by one to receive an individual benediction.
A parade for college graduates is planned for Sunday, June 7, at 8 p.m., and also will be held at the St. Mary Church parking lot. It had been scheduled for June 1, but a protest held that evening prompted a postponement.
The El Centro Catholic community organized the parades because it could not hold the traditional Baccalaureate Mass for the valley’s graduates, due to the restrictions ordered to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The community staged the first parade on the evening of Pentecost Sunday for high school graduates. The speakers who participated are Catholics who came from the Imperial County Office of Education, Imperial Valley College, St. Mary’s School, among other institutions.
They delivered hopeful messages while acknowledging the many high school events had to be cancelled due to COVID-19.
“While some may say that you were cheated, in this, your final high school year, I say to you that this experience -– while a huge disappointment – will make you stronger and provide you with the ability to overcome many other barriers that you may face in life,” said Victor Jaime, St. Mary’s School Rector, vice president of the Imperial County Board of Education and former Imperial Valley College (IVC) Superintendent.
The graduates, some wearing caps and gowns and all wearing face masks, lined up in their cars with their families. Many cars displayed the graduate’s senior class picture, posters and writing congratulating the student.
The graduates joyfully greeted one another from their vehicles, yelling to each other out of the windows. Some blared their car’s horns, particularly after Jose Martinez, host of JP2 Radio’s “Sacred Heart Narratives,” played a song he had written for them.
They waited in the line of cars until reaching the front of the Parish Center, where an altar had been erected, and then stepped out of their vehicle and onto a red carpet.
Each received a blessing from Father Mark Edney, who held the Holy Eucharist, housed in the Monstrance.
“So, high school students: I know that this is not exactly what you imagined a Baccalaureate Mass to be,” said Father Edney, pastor of the El Centro Catholic community, Superintendent of St. Mary’s School and president of the IVC Board of Trustees.
“My heart goes out to you for the ceremonies, the celebrations, the parties and the festivities that have not been possible to you at this time — this great moment in your life when you’ve achieved so much -– (where) we’ve had to tame our festivities,” he said.
Daniel J.M. Ramirez chauffeured his family to the parade to celebrate his daughter, Isis’s, graduation from Central Union High School. Himself a teacher at Calexico High School, he said he has seen the negative effects the quarantine has had on his students.
“Everyone says they’re staying awake through the night, eating more and gaining weight because they can’t go anywhere…they’re broken from staying at home all the time,” Ramirez said. “This (event) was nice since it’s a real, radical change from the routine. This was a nice change of pace.”
His wife agreed.
“I think the exposing of the Blessed Sacrament was really nice because it’s the first time they’ve been able to be in front of Jesus since the quarantine,” said Arlene Ramirez.
Their daughter said she was thankful for the parade.
“I was like wow…it makes it double special (that it was held on Pentecost Sunday),” said Isis Ramirez, a member of the El Centro Catholic’s Youth Group.
“It made me really feel loved by the Church,” she said. “And reminded us that we’re not alone, especially in this time where not all of us can see each other.
“It made me feel like I was graduating.”