YONKERS, N.Y. -- As many as 750 eighth-grade Catholic School students from across Westchester celebrated their imminent graduation with a liturgy in Yonkers on Wednesday, featuring a special guest.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, came to celebrate a Eucharistic liturgy at Sacred Heart Church to honor the students as they prepare to venture off into high school.
The students represented 24 schools across the county.
In his homily, he imparted words of advice to the graduates, stressing the importance of learning the difference between joy and pleasure, and encouraging them not to sacrifice faith for selfish purposes.
"Joy lasts forever, because we find it in heaven. Pleasure only lasts a very short while," he said.
Cardinal Dolan reflected on the value of Catholic education, and how it maintains its worth despite rising costs in a strained economy -- which have shown themselves in rising tuition bills, school and church closures -- by producing quality students with moral education.
Dr. Timothy McNiff, Superintendent of Schools of the Archdiocese of New York, said that while 98 percent of children who attend their schools go on to college, many parents have trouble financing private education for their students.
"That's why we were hoping our tax credit legislation would pass up in Albany," he said.
After the liturgy, the Cardinal greeted students and local dignitaries.
Dolan said of the students: "When you see the results, you rejoice," he said, "When you come to a mass like this, you see what the product and results are. You see these happy and well-educated kids. They're not out drinking, or speeding, or in gangs or protesting, they're thanking God in prayer."
He said he was impressed with the children because they seemed to be immune to the pressures of denouncing religion, and were instead proud to be part of the church.
Priscilla Santofimo, an eighth-grader at Sacred Heart Elemetary from Mount Vernon who will be attending Sacred Heart High School in the fall, said she enjoyed the liturgy, and she's really enjoyed her time at Catholic school.
"I've gotten a great education here," she said.
Xitlali Carranze, an eighth-grader at Sacred Heart Elementary from Yonkers who will be attending public school in the fall, said the Cardinal was inspiring to her.
"The mass was really nice. He's a really sweet man. It's really cool how he started from scratch. He's really inspiring to me," she said.
Schools represented were John Cardinal O'Connor in Irvington, St. Ann's in Yonkers, St. Anthony's of Padua in West Harrison, St. Eugene's in Yonkers, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Scarsdale, St. Joseph's in Bronxville, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Elmsford, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Pelham Manor, St. Paul the Apostle School in Yonkers, St. Peter School in Yonkers, Sacred Heart in Hartsdale and Yonkers, Transfiguration School in Tarrytown, Annunciation Elementary School in Yonkers, St. John the Baptist School in Yonkers, Corpus Christi Holy Rosary in Port Chester, Holy Name of Jesus Parish School in New Rochelle, Immaculate Conception School in Tuckahoe, Our Lady of Sorrows in White Plains, Our Lady of Victory in Mount Vernon and Resurrection School in Rye.