Commencement 2011 Address

May 08, 2011

Father Rick, thank you for your meaningful message and for being such an outstanding role model for our graduates. Through your faith and your determination to make a difference, you have shown how God can use each one of us to bring light where there seems only darkness. You have demonstrated how God's redeeming grace can reveal goodness, strength, and joy in the unlikeliest of places, in the midst of chaos, where hope seems far away. We'd like to show our appreciation for your inspiring words with another round of applause.

I would also like to recognize our two other esteemed honorees, Father Thomas O'Hara and Father Scott Pilarz. Both have made outstanding contributions to Catholic higher education in this region and well beyond. I have come to know them not only as wise and dedicated colleagues but also as valued friends. Please join me in commending these remarkable priests and educators with our applause.

As I was reflecting on today's events, I realized that each of the priests we honor today comes from a distinctive order with a cherished spiritual tradition: the Passionists, the Congregation of Holy Cross, and the Society of Jesus. Each has a special charism, or gift from God, that shapes and gives meaning to the lives of their members and the work they do.

The Passionists reach out with compassion to those in need, proclaiming God's love for the world as revealed through the Passion of Jesus Christ. The Congregation of the Holy Cross bears strong witness to the essential nature of community, holding up the cross as a symbol of hope, and living in constant response to the most pressing needs of the Church and society. Jesuits follow the Ignation charism, doing all for the honor and glory of God, following Jesus Christ, and serving the Church.

As a Congregation, the IHM Sisters embrace the Alphonsian charism. We, too, rejoice in the all-inclusive, unconditional love of God and commit ourselves to share in the redeeming mission of Jesus. We reclaim and confirm the core values that impel and permeate our participation in that mission-rootedness in God, community, justice, respect for diversity, and wholeness.

There are many parallels among these spiritual traditions and charisms, as well as qualities that make each one distinctive-yet each is worthy, each is valued, each is needed to proclaim the Gospel message to the world.

As I look out at you today, I know the same is true of you as Marywood University graduates. While your vocation may not be that of a professed religious life, you are indeed called to a greater purpose, directed by gifts of God's choosing within you. When you leave here today, it is not the end of something, but the beginning of something more.

Scripture says, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work." (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

I encourage you to use these different kinds of gifts to shape your lives as leaders in service to others, advancing the kingdom of God along the way. Your time at Marywood has equipped you well for the journey. Claim your calling! Blend your professional skills with a passion for excellence in all that you are and do and have yet to contribute. All of us here believe in you; never stop believing in yourselves; and never stop growing.

As we gather here today, our prayers are with those who have suffered through recent natural disasters, especially those in Japan and in the southern United States. These events are poignant reminders of what it means "to live responsibly in a diverse and interdependent world."

When Haiti was devastated by an earthquake a little over a year ago, I remember how this community came together to support the victims of that tragic event, holding numerous fundraisers and prayer vigils. In fact, our collective efforts raised nearly $14,000 to help those in need. I was moved by how we rallied, not just to send aid to Haiti, but also to support our Haitian students on campus, who needed us to stand with them in that very moment, during those days of uncertainty, as they waited to hear news of their loved ones back home.

One of those students, Chadli Charlot, is graduating today with a master's degree in public administration. He also earned his undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Marywood. When reflecting on his Marywood experience recently, Chadli said:

"Marywood offers a sense of community, a sense of growth where you enter as a freshman and come out a responsible young adult who is armed with a quality education ready to tackle whatever is out there. At Marywood I wasn't a number within my classroom. It was easy to develop relationships with each and every one of my teachers. I will always be a part of Marywood, as Marywood is in me."

I would like to build on Chadli's sentiments in addressing a few words to our undergraduate class of 2011. In 2007, when many of you entered Marywood University as freshmen, I began my first year as President. Along the way, we have both learned and grown. I delight in your success and in the men and women you have become. To paraphrase Chadli's words, the Class of 2011 will always be a part of Marywood and special to me.

On the day of my inauguration four years ago, I challenged you to "engage fully with the world around you." I observed that "each of you has a unique contribution to make to imagining and realizing alternative visions for a world that is conducive to abundant life." I encouraged you to "lean into all of the opportunities" of a Marywood education.

I concluded my inaugural message by saying:

"You have a right and duty to dream. You have a right and duty to hope. You have a right and duty to envision possibilities for a better world. You have a right and duty to make them happen. The world is waiting to be hallowed by you!"

I charged you "to be courageous and hopeful, to become global citizens, to choose life, to claim your goodness and convert your dreams to deeds."

On this day, four years later, I charge all of our graduates, bachelor, master and doctoral, with the same confidence, with deep belief in you and in your power for good. This is your inauguration day, one in which you are enjoying a ceremonial start to a new beginning. This is your "dreams to deeds" moment, a milestone on the journey for which you have prepared so diligently. Embrace it and live it! Indeed, "the world is waiting to be hallowed by you!"

On behalf of all at Marywood University, I congratulate each one of you and rejoice with you, your families, and friends. May God bless you abundantly!