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WATCH NOW: Bishop Noll celebrates virtual mass, commencement
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WATCH NOW: Bishop Noll celebrates virtual mass, commencement

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GARY — Bishop Noll Institute celebrated its Class of 2020 in two virtual events Thursday.

New Diocese of Gary Bishop Robert J. McClory led his first mass for the Hammond Catholic high school after being ordained in the Gary diocese in February.

The mass was livestreamed on social media and posted to the Bishop Noll Institute Facebook page. McClory, Bishop Noll Institute Principal Lorenza Jara Pastrick and others spoke in the school's baccalaureate mass from the Cathedral of Holy Angels in Gary, where graduating students have traditionally met in past years.

McClory said Thursday the last school mass he attended before the spread of the novel coronavirus led to school closures across the state this spring.

"We see a hurting world right now — there is no doubt — I mean a physically hurting world as we still overcoming the after affects of the coronavirus and a spiritually hurting world in terms of injustice and racial tensions and racial injustice that we also know is part of our hurting world right now."

McClory advised graduates to approach today's challenges with a love of God and for their neighbors.

"If we get that right, and if in your lives and our lives we do that, that is not only a live well lived, that's a life that makes an impact," McClory said. "That's a life that is at the service of God and at the service of our neighbor."

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The mass was followed by a virtual drive-thru graduation and online ceremony later that day.

Nearly 25 students and parents protested last week outside the Catholic Diocese of Gary Pastoral Center in Merrillville, calling for an in-person graduation ceremony later this summer. One parent organized his own backyard commencement.

Long before the coronavirus pandemic set in, Bishop Noll staff selected the word "embrace" as a guiding principal to instill in students this school year.

"Although you're in the screen, although you are with your families, we, more than ever, need to embrace each other in the world," Pastrick said through tears. "Class of 2020, I love you dearly. I love you responsibly, too, so please know that for myself and for our staff, you are an awesome class. There is no greater group of kids that I am honored to virtually embrace today."

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