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TMP graduation relocated

4/5/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Adam Schibi's family was looking forward to his graduation in late May from Thomas More Prep-Marian High School in Hays at Al Billinger Fieldhouse, the site of his parents' graduation in 1992.

Instead, Eric and Kelly Schibi will celebrate their oldest child's milestone event in their home parish, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church on May 25.

TMP's class of 2014 will be breaking a long-standing tradition and making history at the same time, when it holds its graduation ceremony away from campus because of a delay in construction to update fire exits in the fieldhouse.

According to Father Canice Froehlich, it will be the first time since the fieldhouse was built in 1951 that graduation will not be held there.

Froehlich came to Hays to teach at St. Joseph Military Academy, a predecessor of TMP, in 1950 and now is retired and living in St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria.

Coincidentally, it will be the first graduation in IHM, which was built in 2010.

"It's disappointing of course," said Adam's mom, Kelli Schibi, who between her and her husband had five siblings also graduate in the fieldhouse.

"But what do you do? You just adjust, and go on."

Adam Schibi, a fourth generation graduate of TMP -- his grandmother, Susan Schibi, is a graduate of Marian High.

Schibi's great-grandmother, Dorothy Soderblom, graduated from Girls Catholic High School, a predecessor to Marian -- and his classmates have learned much about making adjustments this year.

Their senior basketball and wrestling seasons were held away from campus, too, because of an occupancy limit for the fieldhouse set by the state fire marshal's office.

Work on the fire exits originally had been scheduled for completion this spring. However, Principal Kathy Taylor said she learned following spring break that because of a change order in the type of stairs required for safety and ADA compliance standards, it was obvious the fieldhouse was not an option for graduation.

Two other traditional spring events still will be held in the fieldhouse -- the Auction for Christian Education on April 26 and the Mother's Day Mass May 11 -- because all seating for the events is on the main floor. But the biggest share of people attending graduation is seated in the upper bleachers.

Graduation announcements already had been printed listing the fieldhouse as the location, but a benefactor offered to pay for the reprinting with a reduced price from Jostens.

After visiting with Bishop Edward Weisenburger of the Salina Diocese, as well as Nick Compagnone, superintendent of Catholic schools in the diocese, Taylor said she contacted Father Kevin Weber, pastor at IHM, about using their church. IHM holds approximately 1,100 people.

"He was more than accommodating," Taylor said of Weber. "He was very excited in terms of how to help, giving suggestions."

The baccalaureate Mass, normally held at 10 a.m. in the fieldhouse, will be at noon this year to work around IHM's regular Sunday Mass schedule. IHM's regular Spanish Mass, usually at noon, has been moved to 6 p.m. Graduation will be held at the normal time of 2 p.m.

Taylor said she has been pleased with the how positive the class of 2014 has responded to everything thrown at them in their senior year.

"They are so resilient," Taylor said. "The (student council) chose as its theme this year 'Rise Above,' and I think that fits this year's senior class really well."

She said a lot of the stress of the situation has been the unknown. Now, with a solid location set, people can make plans for the day.

Adam Schibi agreed.

"Everything will be about the same, just in a different place," he said. "We're still graduating from TMP."

Now, Taylor is on a mission for a memorable graduation for the class of 2014.

"The seniors want to retain as many of the traditions as we can," Taylor said. "My challenge is to completely re-look at what we do at the Mass and the ceremony, to get it as close as possible to our traditional graduation ceremony."