A Catholic school in Vineland, NJ graduates its last class

VINELAND, N.J. - June 3, 2013

But this was not a typical graduation for this small but proud school. This was the last graduation.

Inside Sacred Heart Church in Vineland, you'll find a lot more than pomp and circumstance for these happy graduates.

"Everyone here is like a family," said class valedictorian Katie O'Rourke. "And that's not something you can get anywhere else."

Carole Dorrington was Sacred Heart High School Class of 1963. 50 years later, her grandson Matthew Anderson is graduating with honors.

"You want me to cry? It's sad," said Carole.

Sad and bittersweet, because this Class of 2013, 53 seniors, will be the last for this 86-year-old school. The Camden Diocese is closing Sacred Heart due to low enrollment.

"I wish that my great grandchildren could have that experience, that wonderful charisma that goes on here," said Carole.

"I never thought it would happen," said graduating senior Matthew Anderson. "So just hearing people say, 'This is the last graduating class,' I just don't believe it."

Matthew's family owes a lot to Sacred Heart. His mom and dad met in this gym when they were students so many years ago.

Parents, who are still upset, raised money and fought to save the school when the diocese tried to close it last year.

"I feel not enough emphasis is being put into our Catholic schools now," said Matthew's mother, Daria Anderson. "I feel like we're just being left by the wayside."

So it's on to the next chapter for these young men and women and the final one for Sacred Heart.

But generations of graduates who watched them with pride on this night say the legacy of this school will live on.

"Through all the families, in each family. Yes, it will live on," said Carole.

There are 113 students left at Sacred Heart. They'll take their memories from here and head to other Catholic and public schools in this community.

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