McCarthy provided the homily and recalled the lyrics of a song, "Let the Waters Rise" by Mikeschair, played to the students the day it was announced in January that St. William would close:
"Don't know where to begin
It's like my world's caving in
And I try but I can't control my fear
Where do I go from here?
Sometimes it's so hard to pray
When you feel so far away
But I am willing to go
Where you want me to
God, I trust you"
McCarthy has been reassigned as school minister at SS. John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School in South Philadelphia.
In his homily, McCarthy half-joked to the students that "we are both leaving St. William to go to high school."
Dominic Gallelli, 14, who will attend Roman Catholic High School, said he was proud to be part of the Class of 2012.
"I feel honored because everyone is going to recognize us as the last class," he said.
"I'm just glad he got to finish," said his mother, Nicole Gallelli, 32. "He's been here since kindergarten."
Michael Bautista, 14, who had attended St. William for nine years, was pleased to be among the final St. William graduates.
However, his father, Roque Bautista, 43, was sad for his seventh-grade daughter, who has to find a new school.
"We would have loved to have her graduate from here as well," Bautista said.
St. William School, in the 6200 block of Rising Sun Avenue, opened in 1924. Enrollment peaked in the mid-1960s, with nearly 1,600 students. Enrollment this year was less than 300.
A website maintained by the archdiocese reported that St. William operated in 2009-10 with a deficit of $281,134. The school already lacked full-time faculty for music, physical education, honors math, technology, world language, and the library.
McCarthy said it was important to acknowledge that this was the final graduating class, but added: "I also didn't want to dwell too much on it. This day is about them."
Contact Robert Moran at 215-854-5983, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @RobertMoran215 on Twitter.