(This message was originally sent via email to the class of 2020 on May 19, 2020.)
It is a special honor for me to write to you today, May 19, 2020, the date scheduled for your pin ceremony—especially since this is my final act as president of the Alumni Association. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity to have served, and I congratulate Crescencio Ruiz ‘76, who becomes the fifth president of our Association.
Yet I confess that I did not expect to address you this way today. I had expected to speak with you as a class at your pin ceremony, which I do not doubt will eventually come. I had expected to be with you today to receive your lapel pins at Gesu Church, where Belen was born in Miami before moving to 8th Street and 7th Avenue, and later to its current, exquisite campus. And I had expected that Rick Raimundez ‘90 and Tony Abella ‘59 would be there with us, too, with their irreplaceable presence. Unfortunately, these times have profoundly shifted our expectations.
It is true that your class has been denied certain very significant experiences, but do not despair. I ask you to look beyond the difficulties of today to your place tomorrow among our brotherhood. The high school experiences you have had (or missed) will pale in comparison with the lifetime of brotherhood to come. Although your years at Belen may have been great, your best Belen years are ahead of you. I promise.
I have no doubt that like generations before you, when you marry, your Belen brothers will be your groomsmen. And years from now, when you baptize a child, you will be surrounded by your closest friends, including your Belen brothers. In moments of grief, your Belen brothers will be there to console your spirit. And if God blesses you with a son, when he attends Belen, your Belen experience will be even greater than ever before!
You will find instant connections, too, because we’re everywhere. Some have called us a “mafia.” I prefer “famiglia,” as we are a family. No other alumni association even comes close. Ask any Belen graduate if Belen has helped him in his life. Have him tell you about how a job interview went once he discovered that the gentleman across from him was a fellow Wolverine. Believe me, the internships, mentoring and professional networking are among the greatest gifts that Belen offers to you. That being said, to be sure, the pure sense of brotherhood is its greatest reward.
This is our essence, and although much has changed in 2020, the essence of our Alumni Association remains the same. Today you are a band of 203 brothers; as alumni, you join a brotherhood of more than 7,500 across the country and around the world that transcends decades and generations. What unites us and welcomes you to our Alumni Association is not what you have been denied, but what you have been given at Belen.
When the Jesuits were expelled from Cuba and came to Miami, they brought with them three things: faith, tradition, and brotherhood. Our faith is undeniable; it is our rock, in good times and bad. It is an abiding trust in God’s love and salvation. The Jesuit fathers also brought with them their traditions. They retained the traditional name—Belen—for our beloved school (which still confounds many non-Spanish speakers to this day). In fact, back in the day, even the school uniforms proudly displayed the accent on the second “e” in Belén. The Jesuit fathers also brought with them the tradition of excellence—in all things, but particularly in academics. And, finally, they brought this exceptional brotherhood that we share. We, the members of the Belen Alumni Association, are the inheritors of these three gifts. It is what binds us.
For this, it is altogether proper to give thanks. First and foremost, thank God for your God-given talents and His many blessings. Thank your parents for their hard work and sacrifice, for choosing Belen, and for loving and supporting you. Thank your grandparents also, for all their cariño y amor. Thank your teachers, who urged you to learn not just the course materials, but ultimately, about yourselves. Thank our Jesuit fathers (many of whom are also Belen brothers) for their spiritual guidance and example. And thank each other for this brotherhood that pulled you together and brought you forward—for all the experiences and memories, including the all-nighters, the parties and pranks, the close calls and the narrow escapes. Yes, we alumni know them well because we had them too. We are joined together by these blessings.
But God has blessed the Class of 2020 in one other, special way. He has blessed you because no other class has been given the opportunity to claim victory over such a historic challenge. Ironically perhaps, this pandemic has afforded your class—the Class of 20/20—a special clarity of vision: the wisdom to see the fragility of man’s plans, and to discern what is truly important. He has blessed you with a maturity that most classes do not gain until much later. As Alberto Romero said to me, the Class of 2020 has come to miss Belen earlier than other classes, who experience the yearning to be reunited at their alma mater only after they have left for college. I believe that, as a class, you will savor every class reunion as if it were a commencement. This too is a blessing.
In the end, make no mistake: this is your moment. It cannot be taken from you. The courage with which you confront this unprecedented challenge is a promise of what you will accomplish as a class, and it is an example for us all.
So, my brothers of the Class of 2020, welcome to our brotherhood. For all that you have accomplished, and for all that you will accomplish in the future, backed by this brotherhood: congratulations and Godspeed!