By Jack Terry ’21
At the beginning of every school year, the Chaminade family comes together to celebrate Mass in honor of the 56 Gold Star Alumni who perished while defending our freedom. Originally celebrated 75 years ago to honor alumni who died in World War II, the ceremony has remained a valued tradition at Chaminade.
On the morning of Thursday, October 3, the Chaminade Family gathered in the Activity-Athletic Center for this very special occasion. The sight was emotionally moving upon entrance to the AAC as the portraits of each Gold Star alumnus hung from the upper deck of the building, alongside American flags and the image of Christ. An atmosphere of total reverence and respect overcame each person in attendance.
The Marine Corps Color Guard was present to lead the procession as the somber notes of “Amazing Grace” touched the hearts of all. A short introduction from Bro. Thomas Cleary S.M. ’81 preceded the Mass, which was celebrated by Rev. Joseph Scolaro ’06 and co-celebrants Rev. Peter Heiskell, S.M. ’86, Rev. Garrett Long, S.M. ’62, and Rev. Ernest Lorfanfant, S.M. ’55. Bro. Tom immediately acknowledged the honorable characters of all the alumni who gave up their lives. They were certainly ideal Chaminade Men who lived by the mantra of “doing the right thing, at the right time, because it is the right thing to do, regardless of who is watching.” The Gold Star Alumni did not give their lives for glory; they believed that their commitment to their nation and ultimate sacrifice was the “right thing to do.” All of these selfless men put others before themselves, living lives of total humility and dignity. From their model, we can learn tremendously important lessons about how to properly live our lives.
Among the students, faculty, and alumni in attendance, the families of many of the Gold Star Alumni were also present. These people were able to witness firsthand the immense effects that their sons and husbands have had on the Chaminade community. They could feel pride in the sacrifices their loved ones made, seeing how their examples inspire a new generation of young Chaminade Men to one day have the same amount of courage those heroes had.
“Gold Star Mass is one of the finest and most honored traditions at Chaminade. It honors the service and dedication that we try to teach the young men here, but it does so in a dramatic way that provides a real-life example of someone our students can emulate,” explained Mr. Michael Foley ’99, the Director of Campus Ministry.
Bro. Tom’s initial message was beautifully reflected in Rev. Scolaro’s homily. His talk reaffirmed the idea that these alumni were people to whom we must look for inspiration. He declared that the world is changing, a theme we can certainly experience at Chaminade. In this world, we must discover our vocation, something to which we are called to dedicate our lives. He espoused the sacrifices and dedication of the Gold Star alumni to the causes in which they so dearly believed. Only if we find the same passion these men felt in defending their country can we feel truly fulfilled in what we do.
After celebrating the Eucharist, the names of all the Gold Star Alumni were read aloud as a stirring rendition of “Taps” was played. Each man on the list received his due respect. While we cannot bring them back or possibly thank them enough for what they did, we can at least remember them properly. We learn to appreciate those we still have in our lives even more than we already do.
“The sacrifices that the Gold Star Alumni have made, the men that they have chosen to become, both in life and death, reflect like stained glass coloring our lives with hues of overpowering love,” reflected Mr. Daniel Terzulli. He continued, “Each of us stands in their considerable shadow at the Cross, knowing that regardless of whether or not we will be called to give the ‘ultimate sacrifice,’ we will be called to dignify our lives by the quality of our love for others. That love, as the love of our ever-merciful God, must know no bounds in its ability to empty itself of hubris, expectation, and reservation to serve those great and small, known and unknown. This celebration calls us to allow our lives to echo our ever-growing understanding of God’s love of all humanity and the ultimate gift of life.”
Affirming Mr. Terzulli’s thoughts, Michael Sanfilippo ’21 remarked, “The presence of Gold Star families gives us the opportunity to honor their families for the sacrifices they made in their presence. It shows how large of an impact these alumni have on our community.”
The importance of giving thanks to those defending the ideals we cherish most cannot be stressed enough. The Gold Star Mass is not only an occasion for mourning those we have lost and paying our respects to them; it is an opportunity for these departed alumni to teach us.
We give thanks to and commend these brave men for their sacrifices. Their bravery is unmatched by most people who enjoy the privileges they fought to preserve. We ask that God continue to comfort their families who miss them every day. May their souls and the souls of all the departed Chaminade alumni rest in peace.