Commencement 2013 Address

May 12, 2013

Dear graduates, your experiences have been transformed by the knowledge you have pursued and gained; by the people you have met—many of whom, I am certain, are now your lifelong friends; by the goals you have set and achieved; by the encouragement of family, friends, and faculty; and by other life events and decisions that have somehow influenced, inspired, and guided you to this day. It is indeed a day of celebration!

So, as you commemorate this important occasion, reflect on those who have supported you, loved you, and generously encouraged you along this journey. Some of them are here with you. Some of them are only here in spirit. Let us take a moment, as well, to remember family members, faculty, staff, and students who have died, as we give thanks for all those who have been part of your journey to this significant moment of endings and beginnings.

Today I would like to remember Stacy Elias Davis, Coordinator of Transfer Enrollment and a doctoral student at Marywood who died unexpectedly last July.

I mentioned that the Redemptorists and the IHM Sisters share an Alphonsian heritage and spirituality. In addition to being loving and inclusive, St. Alphonsus lived out a practical spirituality. His teachings resonated with people and their daily experiences, making a real, transformative difference in their lives. They were empowered to think, act, and engage more meaningfully with God and with those around them, in ways that made sense and brought great joy—fitting who they were as individuals, yet, at the same time, enriching the common good.

Graduates, you have been shaped by this same practical spirituality; it is part of the framework of a Marywood University education. We believe in educating the whole person—in spirit, mind, and body. You leave here today, not just with a diploma, but with a true education that will serve you well throughout life. You have learned to think, act, serve, and lead beyond yourself.

Even in our chaotic society, you are equipped to build and sustain the life of the world. Sometimes it is difficult to remember that we have a wellspring of hope and promise from which to draw...but I ask you to be strong and courageous and to persevere in hope.

When the tragic events occurred at the Boston Marathon just about a month ago, we came to know many stories of strength, courage, and hope, even in the face of deep loss and pain.

The story that most inspired me was that of little Martin Richard, the eight-year old boy who lost his life—the youngest victim of an unspeakable tragedy. In the days and weeks to follow, a photo emerged of young Martin holding a sign that said: "No more hurting people. Peace." The sign was created when Martin's class was studying non-violent protest.

It can be difficult to look at that picture when you consider how Martin lost his life. Yet, his pure heart and the simple words he wrote must serve to inspire us—to dream big, to step forward, and to accomplish worthy deeds—taking events meant for harm and transforming them into positive actions for the life of the world. This transformation was reflected in the quick actions of those who rushed in to save the severely injured, without any concern for their own safety. Emergency responders, members of the military, and courageous citizens worked together to preserve and protect the lives of as many as they could.

Today, you will notice the presence of many in uniform; they are called to serve, and they do so with great distinction. I want to take a moment to recognize them. Be sure to thank these women and men for their service and their sacrifices, day in and day out, as they are ready, at all times, to support and defend the noble ideals of our nation and its people.

Scripture says we are called "to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with God." (Micah 6:8). Understand that whatever path you are called to follow, you can and will make a meaningful difference. Our university mission encourages us to, "seek sustainable solutions for the common good." Your individual journeys will take you far and wide. You will count challenges among your joys. Yet, in all things, you are called to a greater purpose.

Today is a day of celebration. As you step forward, you are more than graduates; you are global citizens, charged to live responsibly in an interdependent world. Wherever life takes you, know that hope and trust are foundational to living interdependently. You must nourish both qualities, within yourselves and within others; to enjoy them fully, you must also share them.

I leave you with an excerpt from the poem "Loaves and Fishes" by David Whyte:

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time
of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

Congratulations, and may God bless all of you abundantly!