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From the Stage to the Seminary: By Katie ’17 and Maggie ’17 Kennon

 

From the stage to the seminary, Michael, “Mickey,” Connolly has had experience on the field playing football, on the stage as an actor, but finally found his calling on the altar. However, the Kennedy Catholic graduate from the class of 2010 has not always known or accepted God’s plan for him. In this article, Mickey shares his journey that led him to accept God’s call to the priesthood.

 

Since Mickey is a KCHS alumnus, we asked him what his favorite part of Kennedy was. Having been a thespian, Mickey shared he loved performing in Kennedy musicals. 

Father Michael Connolly

I honestly loved everything about being at Kennedy. I felt like I was part of a family; I really felt at home in school. The absolute best part for me, though, was performing in the school musicals. I learned so much through Kennedy’s musical theatre program. I learned about singing, acting and dancing. I also learned about myself. I found performing to be a real passion of mine, and I gained so much confidence from my experience with theatre at Kennedy. I also learned that a person can’t be defined by any one thing. I didn’t audition for the school musical in my freshman year because I was on the football team and had the mistaken notion that a person couldn’t be involved in sports and the arts. The next year, though, after having seen how amazing the show was freshman year (Seussical the Musical) and how much fun my friends all had putting it on, I had to try. So, I auditioned for Footloose and had the time of my life! That experience gave me the confidence to branch out, and I started performing at Yorktown Stage as well as a few other places. Despite my freshman-year fears, a lot of my teammates came to the school shows and were very supportive! I will never forget performing in Footloose, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Fiddler on the Roof when I was at Kennedy.

 

We asked Mickey when and how he realized he was being called to be a priest.

Mickey as he was called in high school, was a member of the football and track teams.

For as long as I can remember, I have had a sense that God might be calling me to become a priest. I have been very fortunate to grow up with just about all the right elements in place for me to listen for God’s voice telling me what He is calling me to be. My parents have a beautiful marriage, an excellent example of what it means to give your life completely for someone else. I have always had amazing parish priests who have shown me what it means for a man to give his life completely for the Church. I have also grown up with two incredibly supportive brothers. My brother John has had a very special influence on my faith, let alone my discernment of the call to priesthood. My brother John has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He has had to suffer so much throughout his life, but he has done it with the utmost humility and joy. He has really shown me a glimpse of the suffering of Jesus, endured joyfully and with love. So, all the pieces have been in place for me to ask God, “What do you want me to do?” He has shown me in various ways over the years that the answer is priesthood. I have not always been faithful to Him, though. Many times, I have strayed from the close, personal relationship He so desires to have with each of us. I have, at many times, sought happiness and fulfillment in worldly things, my own plans, ignoring God’s plan. Eventually, though, in my junior year in college, I just felt too empty, too lonely to continue living so selfishly. God mercifully called out to me again and set me back on the right path. I really felt His love completely fill me up, and I vowed I would live for Him again and stop living for myself. He showed me that He was still calling me to be a priest, and I entered college seminary that year! I am now at the end of my third year at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, about to begin my final year of seminary formation.

 

Because Mickey mentioned that his family inspired and encouraged him to enter the seminary, we asked him to tell us more about them.

Michael, pictured with his parents at his college graduation from Fordham University

I have such a wonderful family. My mom and dad have been married for thirty years. They are a beautiful example of the gift of marriage in a current social climate which is very hostile to marriage or really, any kind of commitment. I have two brothers, John and Brian. John is the oldest. As I mentioned before, he was born with cerebral palsy. He has always been and continues to be a great inspiration to me. Brian is the youngest. He has also been a huge inspiration to me. Not only did he earn a college scholarship to play football at Bucknell University, but his perseverance through his career ending shoulder injury has taught me a great deal about patience and fortitude. My brothers are my best friends!

 

 

We wanted to know if there was anyone who influenced or inspired Mickey more than others. He told us about Father Dunn, who, like Mickey’s brother John, is wheelchair-bound.

Michael, pictured with Father Dunn

So many people have inspired me, but the biggest influence I have had is a priest named Fr. Dunn. Fr. Dunn was at my home parish, St. Augustine’s in Ossining, for eleven years. He has always been the most joyful priest I know. As a kid, I was always so attracted to and inspired by Fr. Dunn’s preaching. Fr. Dunn is a master at preaching an incredibly intelligent, spiritually enriching homily which is also bursting with his own unique sense of humor. Fr. Dunn taught me that it is possible to preach an edifying homily using references to The Simpsons! Fr. Dunn has always been there for me. He has been a spiritual father and a true friend. He has always supported me in discerning my vocation without ever making me feel pressured to consider priesthood. Furthermore, despite his Multiple Sclerosis rendering him wheelchair-bound, Fr. Dunn’s enduring joy continues to inspire me to accept whatever cross God gives me with humility and humor. Fr. Dunn continues to be my biggest priestly inspiration and one of my best friends.

 

 

On the flip side, we wondered if there was anyone who tried to influence Mickey not to become a priest.

Thanks be to God, no! No one has tried to dissuade me from pursuing the priesthood.

 

Next, we wanted to know what Mickey felt now that he has entered the seminary. What really interested us was what was Mickey’s favorite part of the seminary.

Michael, pictured with his brothers

I have been really grateful for the relationships I have developed since entering seminary. I have made some really great friendships with other seminarians, priests, and parishioners in different parishes. Ultimately, the best part, is that they have all helped me to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

 

 

 

 

After learning his favorite part of the seminary, we were intrigued as to Mickey’s least favorite part of the seminary, so we asked Mickey what he has found to be the most challenging aspect of becoming a priest.

Being patient! It has been so exciting to be in formation for the priesthood. With each year in seminary I am getting more and more excited to be ordained and get out there in a parish as a priest. It has been very difficult to be patient as I go through the formation process. Some very wise priests have been helping me to slow down and accept every day, appreciating every moment of the process as the gift it is!

 

Knowing that it can’t be easy to dedicate your life to service of God and others, we asked Mickey if he ever regretted his decision to become a priest.

Not once! Seminary formation is not easy, but I have not had a single regret about entering. I truly believe that God is calling me to be a priest, and I am so grateful. I have never been more joyful than I have since I entered seminary.

 

Even though we just established that Mickey, since entering the seminary, never considered becoming anything other than a priest, we were still interested to know what he thinks he would be doing now if he hadn’t entered the seminary.

Teaching at Kennedy!…assuming Fr. Vaillancourt would hire me, of course! I would be a teacher. I’m not sure where exactly, but, before seminary, I was working towards a Master of Science in Education degree at Fordham University. I would have loved to teach at the elementary level, or be a Spanish or music teacher at the high school level. God-willing, as a priest, I can do a little of all of that!

 

 

 

 

 

We are very grateful and appreciative to Mickey for giving such thoughtful responses to our questions, but we felt we would be remiss if we did not ask him for advice for anyone discerning the priesthood.

Be open to whatever surprises God will throw your way! Discernment of one’s vocation is a journey, especially discernment of the priesthood. God will surprise you! You will learn so much about yourself on the way. Be open to it, and let go of any expectations you have of how it should go. I’m working on this myself- it’s easier said than done! But God is always there to help us.

 

Mickey told us he is in his fourth and final year at St. Joseph’s, so his journey from the seminary to the priesthood is almost finished. Being parishioners and altar servers at the same parish as Mickey, we are lucky enough to be able to see his faith and devotion to his calling almost every week at Mass. Being so devoted to Christ, Mickey is an inspiration to everyone. We are all excited to learn where God will send him next year after his graduation and ordination into the priesthood!

Giving Back: By Sophia Brennan ’17

Giving back is a Kennedy Catholic tradition; it is central to who we are and an essential aspect of the Kennedy experience. It is no surprise that charitable drives take place frequently throughout the school year and are strongly supported by the students. This past year alone many drives were held such as the blood drive, toy drive, Thanksgiving food drive, and the ongoing leukemia fundraiser. Currently, there is a Lenten food drive going on to support our local food pantries.

Participating in these drives gives students a very accessible opportunity to give back to our community. Most importantly, they give the Kennedy Catholic student body the opportunity to live their Catholic identity through allowing them to help those in need. The two cornerstones of the Kennedy Catholic philosophy are Courage and Compassion. Through giving alms and developing empathy for the needy, they strengthen their compassion and by having courage to acknowledge that there are problems facing our society, we can take steps to help ourselves and then help others. Through the courage and compassion that the students of Kennedy develop during their time at Kennedy Catholic, they become Christian leaders that make a difference in the lives of our classmates, teachers, and community.

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Interview of Meenu Johnkutty: by Catherine Brennan

Meenu Johnkutty stands and receives her prize for her winning Maryknoll essay

Meenu Johnkutty, a senior at Kennedy, won this year’s Maryknoll student essay prompted “Caring for our Common Home” and received the $1,000 Bishop Patrick J. Byrne Award. Meenu is very passionate about climate change and in her essay, she wrote about ways we can respond to Pope Francis’s call for us to take care of our common home, the earth. Her essay can be read at: https://maryknollsociety.org/publications/essay-contest/ and will also be featured in the May/June Maryknoll Magazine. Recently, I asked Meenu few questions about her essay and her motivation to write about climate change. Here is what she said:

Can you tell me how you found out about the essay contest?

I found out about this essay contest while sitting in Ms. Willis’ AP Literature class! I saw this beautiful poster hanging in 106, and when I took a closer look, I saw that it was advertising an essay contest centered on climate change! As someone who is passionate about protecting the environment, I knew that this essay contest was calling my name.

Can you explain a little about what the prompt was for the essay contest?

The prompt for the essay contest was to describe ways in which climate change was being tackled in the local and international community. The contest was inspired by Pope Francis’ recent encyclical about climate change and respecting the environment.

What inspired you to write the essay?

When I was writing this essay last November, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests were scaling tremendously. As I watched how the protesters battled cold temperatures and high winds to fight for what they believed in, I admired their strength and resilience. Their passion for the environment struck a similar chord within me and I felt moved to write a piece that I hoped would communicate how much climate change meant to me.

Has climate change been something you were passionate about or is it something that you have just recently began to think about?

 I have always been passionate about the environment. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always held a deep connection with the environment. Whether it be riding my bike in the summertime or running cross country, I feel most at peace when I’m outside. Naturally, as someone who loves the great outdoors, seeing the planet being abused and treated recklessly angered me. I just could not stand the thought of living in a society more focused on the “now” than the future. Unfortunately, we cannot continue our dependence on energy sources like fossil fuels that do more harm than good. Luckily, we are blessed with an abundance of clean energy alternatives like wind and solar that are limitless and cost-effective.

Pope Francis is a big advocate for protecting our planet. Can you maybe give some suggestions about what we can do to help support this cause?

 Pope Francis’ encyclical really gives a whole lot of hope for the future. As Christians, we are called to be stewards of this big blue planet that we are blessed to live in. Issues like climate change often seem too big to digest and process. But, when the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics writes an entire encyclical dedicated to raising awareness of climate change, then when we know that this is indeed a problem that demands global action. The first thing that anyone can do to support the climate change movement is to speak up! Climate change is real, not a myth! Individual action is also important. Small things like carrying reusable shopping bags and carpooling reduce our carbon footprint and bring us one step closer to tackling the abuse on the planet. But, all in all, I still do have a lot of hope when it comes to the climate change movement. Once people truly understand the gravity of the situation (which I hope will be soon), then collective global action will be imminent.

Kennedy Catholic’s Science Superstars By: Meenu Johnkutty and Lauren Telesca

Kennedy Catholic Students Compete in Science Olympiad

While the rest of the academic area is silent at 2:45 on Tuesdays, there’s one room where peals of laughter and conversation escape into the hallway: Room 118, also known as the Science Olympiad meeting room. The Science Olympiad team is a new addition to the Kennedy Catholic community. Boasting over 15 members, the Science Olympiad team is the first of its kind, bringing science, mathematics, and competition to an entire new level.

But what is Science Olympiad? The easiest way to describe the purpose of the club would be to compare it to practicing for a colossal academic track meet. Comprised of more than 23 “events,” the Science Olympiad program culminates in a regional competition where a team from every school brings their most talented students to compete. The team with the most wins in each event advances to the state level, and then the school who wins the state competition qualifies to compete at the national tournament. From building helicopters to exploring the complications of human physiology, the Science Olympiad team aimed to grasp science concepts that were well beyond the regents curriculum.

Kennedy Catholic Students At The Science Olympiad

Before Science Olympiad competed at Princeton University and Byram Hills, it first existed as only an idea in our minds. We knew that implementing a Science Olympiad at Kennedy would allow many science-directed students like us to enjoy working with science outside of the classroom. We also knew that the Kennedy science department would be receptive to a science-based club due to its dedication towards science and technology. However, we also had many challenges that we had to overcome in order to implement a fully functioning Science Olympiad team from scratch.

Our first challenge was finding a mentor that would be willing to stay after school and monitor our meetings.With her passion for teaching and science, Mrs. Ioannou willingly dedicated hours upon hours to the Science Olympiad club. From attending meetings to driving all the way to Princeton University at 6 A.M. on a Saturday, Mrs. Ioannou is the reason the Science Olympiad club was able to strive. As a new addition to the Kennedy family, Mr. Reyes jumped in on the idea of belonging to a spirited community enthusiastic about the STEM field. Mr. Reyes is one of our biggest supporters, coming to every meeting and event, and sharing his keenness for science with us. Without Mrs. Ioannou and Mr. Reyes, there would be no Science Olympiad club.

Our second challenge was finding funding for the team. Father Vaillancourt was willing to fund our initial expenditures. Then, the onus lay on us to host multiple bake sales throughout the year to raise money for kits and other building supplies. Our team was able to fund itself completely thanks to the participation of the school community.

After almost six months of practice, our team was eager to take off. We first took a road-trip down to Princeton. While most of the college students were sleeping in on a Saturday morning, high school students travelled from all over the east coast to participate in a competition with their peers. Aside from members of our team being able to build video games from scratch and estimate how many piano tuners there were in New York City, our team was able to learn from members of other schools. The alacrity of other teams to provide help to our novice group was astounding. A week later, our team went to Byram Hills. While only a regional tournament, the competition remained fierce. Surprisingly, we were able to rank in second place out of forty teams in an event. Though we did not advance to the state competition, we ranked decently as a school which only recently started a Science Olympiad team. We hope that our contribution serves as a backbone for future years, and will encourage other students delve into the STEM field and fuel their passions for science.  

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In Memoriam: Sister Barbara Heil: by Written by Hannah Langley ’17

Sister Barbara’s Grotto

Babe Ruth once said, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” On the night of March 4, 2016, Kennedy Catholic lost its very own legend – Sister Barbara Heil. Sister Barbara, a beloved member of the Sisters of Divine Compassion, began working at Kennedy Catholic while it was still called St. Mary’s High School. In 1966, when the school moved to its current location, Sister Barbara once said, “I came along with the moving vans.” Since the beginning of the school’s opening, Sister Barbara was known for her unforgettably cheerful and witty attitude. She was more than just a teacher at Kennedy; she was a mentor, colleague, mother, and friend to all who knew her.

Sister Barbara was considered the “Miss Hospitality” of Kennedy Catholic, as she organized and participated in nearly every school event. She commanded a strong presence in every aspect of school life at Kennedy. She consistently pushed herself every day to provide for each of the students at the school, whom she loved as though they were her own. As a teacher in Mathematics, Latin, and Home Economics, she inspired and touched the hearts of many students. For years, Sister Barbara, along with Mr. Schmidt and other Sisters of the Divine Compassion, worked to support the impoverished migrant families in Goshen, New York, providing them with food and handmade clothing. During the Christmas season, she organized the collections for the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital Toy Drive, and, during Easter, she arranged baskets for Goshen children. For many years, Sister Barbara exercised one of her greatest passions: designing and sewing costumes for the Kennedy Catholic play productions. In addition to her participation in the school play, she was also an avid sports fan who attended nearly every home game for school sports played both in the gym and on the field. Sister Barbara exemplifies the spirit of hard work, and, during her lifetime, she brought out the best in everyone she knew.

Sister Barbara’s stone in the grotto

Following her passing, many former students and parents have returned to speak on behalf of Sister Barbara and the legacy that she left. Annette DiGrandi, mother of 2016 graduate Nicholas DiGrandi, shared a personal relationship with Sister Barbara, as the two worked together in costume design for Kennedy Catholic performances of The Sound of Music and Cinderella. This year, Mrs. DiGrandi wishes that Sister Barbara was here t
o volunteer with her, but she is grateful to have known and worked with her. She describes Sister Barbara as an “example of kindness and compassion not only for our children, but for all of us”and commemorates her by saying, “We miss you but know you are with us, looking down on all the kiddies with your beautiful smile.”

In remembrance of Sister Barbara, Kennedy Catholic has launched several memorialization projects, including the renovation of the grotto at the entrance of the school, as well as a bench crafted in dedication to her. The bench, which will be unveiled toward the end of this school year, will be engraved with Sister Barbara’s name, a Latin quote, and other items that she cherished. On May 22nd, Cardinal Timothy Dolan will be coming to the school to bless this monument and pay respect for such a wonderful woman.

It has been one year since Sister Barbara’s passing, but she continues to be, and will always remain, a legendary woman in the hearts of the entire Kennedy Catholic community. She embodies the virtues Kennedy Catholic was built upon – courage and compassion. Sister Barbara’s endless love and support, as well as her unfailing spirit, will never be forgotten.

 

 

 

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Junior Ring Night: By Megan Cleary ’18

Every year Kennedy Catholic celebrates the junior class by having a mass and school ring ceremony. This year’s ceremony was held on Friday, January 20th from 7-8:30 pm. On this day, the students belonging to the class of 2018 put on their dress attire and celebrated being part of the Kennedy Catholic community. Juniors were encouraged to invite their families to this wonderful event with them. During this night, Father Vaillancourt celebrated mass with the entire junior class and their families. After mass, the rings were blessed by Fr. Vaillancourt and distributed to each student. This event is something Kennedy Catholic juniors will truly never forget. Many seniors have even said that the ceremony is a memory they cherish. Class rings represent a multitude of things. It represents the good times, stressful times, sad times, and some of the best times of our lives that were shared with lifelong friends and supportive teachers. This ceremony brings us a step closer to our impending future. Receiving a class ring is an achievement in itself and is something that is hard to forget. These rings are a perfect symbol for each student to remember their time at Kennedy Catholic High School.

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Ski Club: by Carley Gilmore ’18

School is back in session, marking the bittersweet end of winter break for Kennedy Catholic students and the start of a new year. There is exciting news for those who would like to continue making the most out of the winter season: The newest Kennedy Catholic club, the Ski Club, will begin this week! The Ski Club is open to all students interested in skiing and snowboarding, including beginners and those with experience. On Thursday, January 5th, Ski Club members will launch their first trip to Thunder Ridge after school, and will ski from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. Students are encouraged to join, as larger groups may receive rentals and lift tickets at discounted prices. Joining the Ski Club is a great opportunity to set aside time during the school week to relieve stress, make memories, and have the chance to experience the accommodations of various ski mountains. The Ski Club is anticipating a fun-filled season with many more ski trips to come.

 

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Kennedy Catholic Blood Drive; By Julia Feeney ’17

Kennedy Catholic 2016 Blood Drive Information

This year Kennedy Catholic’s annual blood drive was on Wednesday, December 14. Kennedy alumni, students, parents and members of the Somers community came out to show support for this most worthy cause. In the past, the event has been spearheaded by Mrs. Normile. However, this year as she continues to recovers from surgery, the student council ran the event. The drive had participants ranging from 16 to over 70 who each donated one pint of blood. There were many first time donors in attendance braving the needle to give blood to their fellow man. Kennedy junior, Caitlyn McKearney, donated blood for the first time at the drive. She was nervous about giving blood but had been inspired by her dad’s frequent donation of blood and wanted to follow in his footsteps. The event also brought out many veteran donors one of whom donates blood 6 times a year. According to one of the nurses working the drive, one pint of blood can potentially save three lives in the tristate area at one of the countless hospitals the blood center has contracts with. Each day the New York Blood Center collects on average 2,000 donations but that is still not enough. The Blood Center is actually experiencing a massive shortage at the moment. The New York Blood Center holds drives all over the area year round. Every time a person donates blood they get points towards gift cards or the option to make donations to other charities. As a previous donor myself, I can attest that giving blood is painless and makes you feel like you’ve done something wonderful for another person.

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Christmas Toy Drive: By Hannah Langley ’17

Christmas time is known as the season of giving, and in this spirit, several students at Kennedy have undertaken the job of organizing a toy drive for the children at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. For several years now, a group of students has been responsible for managing this toy drive, but the girls who usually ran it graduated last year. However, when students Aidan Dooley, Tom Young, Matt Vigna, Vin Conte, and Kyle Knox recognized the absence of the toy drive, they decided to take initiative and run it themselves.

Kennedy students pictured while dropping off their toys at the hospital. (Picture courtesy of Donna Dooley)

This toy drive is extremely important to the hospital, as it provides not only toys, but also happiness, to those being held there for the holidays. These children are there for various reasons, including cancer treatment and terrible illness. The Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is an important part of the Westchester Medical Center, as well as the Westchester community, as it provides children in any family or financial situation with health care. The hospital was founded by the parents of Maria Fareri, a young girl who died of rabies because she was not provided with quality healthcare due to her young age. After losing their child, the parents made it their mission to improve the health and well-being of children all over the world. The Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital has done amazing work to help these sick, disabled children recuperate and heal.

Christmas time is especially important to the hospital, as these unfortunate children and their families will not be able to spend the holidays at home. The toys help cheer up the children and help them forget their current situation for a time, something irreplaceable for the struggling parents and families. The boys running the drive ask that students bring in unwrapped, new toys by Friday, December 16th, and place them in the boxes throughout the school. They also suggest donating money to the hospital if students don’t have time to buy toys before Friday, as this can help in numerous ways at the hospital. There are only a few days left to bring in these toys, so act quickly. Remember, what may seem like just buying one inexpensive toy to you is a priceless Christmas gift to a deserving child.

 

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Christmas Concert 2016: by Meenu Johnkutty ’17

The night of December 7 was an evening featuring Kennedy’s brightest stars. Kennedy Catholic’s Christmas Concert, featuring the band, chorus, and string ensemble, displayed their musical talents in a series of performances which kicked off the remaining three weeks left till Christmas Day.

The Chorus started the night filled with holiday cheer singing their rendition of “These Alone are Enough.” Then, it followed with the Christmas classics which included “The Little Drummer Boy” and “O Holy Night.” Ava Gallo (11) sang a soulful “Mary, Did You Know” and Tingya Zhang (10) dazzled the audience with her piano solo titled “Senbonzakura.” The Chorus followed with “Panis Angelicus”, featuring soloists Kiely Beltran and Megan Collina, and ended with “We Need a Little Christmas” in unison.

If the Chorus’ performance wasn’t enough of a treat for the audience, then our String Ensemble and Band could most definitely fill the void. The String Ensemble started off with the Brandenburg Concero no. 5, composed by Bach. Then, Erin Glendon, Meenu Johnkutty, Hannah Tracey, Dominic Dudek and Minji Gwon played Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D Major. The band then showcased its first piece titled “Sleigh Ride.” The String Ensemble followed with music from Pirates of the Caribbean. The Band played a joyful medley of Christmas music as part of an arrangement titled “A Christmas Fantasy ” and saved the best for last with a dynamic rendition of “Carol of the Bells.” The String Ensemble ended with “String a Song of Christmas” the second to last piece of the night.

The Band, Chorus, and String Ensemble (the audience was invited to sing along too!) ended with a soulful “White Christmas.” Though the music-related performances for the night were over, the audience was in for another treat made possible by Kennedy’s visual arts students. Using claymation, Mrs. Glembotsky’s art students depicted a story which hit very close to home for one important member of the Kennedy Catholic community: Father Vaillancourt. Illustrating the redeeming power of Christmas after the death of a loved one, the claymation video didn’t leave a single dry eye within the audience.

The Christmas Concert was truly a validation of the tremendous amount of hard work and talent constantly put forward in Kennedy’s fine arts program. Though the Christmas concert may be over, the Spring Concert will soon be right around the corner, where Kennedy’s brightest stars will showcase their talents once again!


To see images from the concert, please visit our gallery of images page.