By Tony DeGol
Austin Oravec was supposed to play the lead in the Bishop Carroll Catholic High School spring musical. Instead, he is starring in a real life drama no one would have ever predicted at the beginning of his senior year.
Just days before Easter, Governor Tom Wolf announced that schools throughout Pennsylvania would not reopen this academic year because of coronavirus precautions.
The news is sad for all students, but it is especially unfortunate for graduating seniors.
Although continuing their studies online, seniors at Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown are also missing out on end-of-the year extracurricular opportunities and other memorable events like field trips and proms.
For Oravec, not only is the musical scrapped, but also his senior baseball season.
“It’s hard,” he admitted.
A member of Holy Name Parish in Ebensburg, Oravec tries to get outside at least once a day to stay active and keep some perspective. After the school day, he engages in FaceTime calls and online games with friends.
“That way we we’re not too far away from each other even though we’re stuck inside during this time,” he added.
Although equally disappointed about missing out on so much, fellow BCCHS senior Faith McMullen is also keeping in touch with classmates and teachers and maintaining a healthy attitude during these unbelievable days.
“We understand why these events are getting cancelled and why we’re not allowed to go school – to keep everyone safe and healthy, and that’s the most important thing,” reminded the parishioner of the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto. “That’s been the only thing getting me through – knowing that.”
Despite the situation, BCCHS Director of Admissions and Social Studies teacher Jonathan Nagy pointed out that the Huskie family is showing its resolve.
“We’re coming together as a school community like I’ve never seen before,” he acknowledged. “It’s not ideal, however we’re still educating the students. The students are still learning. We’re missing out on a lot of things, but we’re also building the students up to be better people in the future by knowing how to endure hardships and to get through things the best way they possibly can.”
Nagy is confident the Class of 2020 will use the tools and values they acquired through their Carroll education to make the world a better place.
If Oravec and McMullen are any indication, all of students are well on their way.
“Bishop Carroll has been amazing,” insisted McMullen, who will attend Saint Francis University to study Occupational Therapy and Psychology. “I had the best four years here. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Oravec plans to major in Computer Science at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in the fall.
“Even though it has been a hard ending to my four years at Bishop Carroll, those four years were some of the best years of my life,” he stressed. “I’ve made great friends, I’ve gotten a great education, I’ve gotten closer to God and my faith. It has just been so amazing. I’m going to miss everybody that was in class with me. It was a lot of fun.”
McMullen’s parting message to her classmates is one for all of us to keep in mind.
“Hang in there and stay strong,” she advised. “We’ll get through this and there will be better times ahead.”
Editor’s Note: See more of BCCHS Seniors Austin Oravec and Faith McMullen on the April 26 edition of Proclaim! at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.
[Photos: (top) Oravec and McMullen; (first inset photo) Oravec and a fellow BCCHS student playing guitar during a school Mass earlier this year; (second inset photo) McMullen (behind check on the right) participating in a BCCHS community outreach effort.]