College Grads Told To Change the World

by Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) – At Catholic college and university graduations across the U.S., the graduates were urged to make a difference in today’s world, equipped with tools gained in their college experience.

At the University of Notre Dame’s May 19 graduation, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged graduates to look upon their future endeavors with a broad view, recognizing that “here our goal is not just a career, but a call; not just a degree, but discipleship; not just what we’ve gotten, but what we’re giving; not just the now, but eternity; not just the ‘I,’ but the ‘we’; not just the grades, but the Gospel.”

The cardinal, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree at the ceremony, called the 2,078 students receiving undergraduate degrees his “new classmates.” He urged them to recognize that the “secret of Notre Dame” isn’t its library, the professors, courses, the campus, the football team or service projects but the presence of Mary, the university’s namesake.

At the Notre Dame ceremony, Providence Sister Susanne Gallagher, Sister Mary Therese Harrington, a Sister of the Society of Helpers, and Father James McCarthy, a priest from the Chicago Archdiocese, received the university’s 2013 Laetare Medal for founding the Special Religious Education Development Network. Known as SPRED, the organization works with parents, special educators and catechist volunteers of several parishes to make Catholic liturgies and catechesis more accessible to children and adult parishioners with developmental disabilities.

“May you be surprised by joy as you undertake your life’s work,” Father McCarthy told the graduates. “May you go beyond your comfort zone to help those in need.”

Build Character Through Virtue

At Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., May 12, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori advised the graduates to be conscious of each moment in life and build character through habits of virtue, not vice.

“Your education at Mount St. Mary’s has given you the tools to be men and women of virtuous character, so as to inherit everlasting life,” he said. “But whether and how we use those tools is, of course, up to you.”

He also urged them to find their identity in Christ.

“If you want to know who you are and who you can become, follow Jesus,” he said. “If you want to know what real virtue is, follow him.”

At the May 18 graduation at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and professor of poetry and public culture at the University of Southern California, spoke of the importance of a Catholic education.

He said the hard work and love of the religious sisters, priests and brothers who taught at the Catholic schools he attended prepared him for successes in life.

Gioia, who received an honorary doctorate of fine arts during the ceremony, praised his former teachers for always linking academics to “the things of the spirit,” which he said enabled him to develop “a Catholic sense of life as a purposeful journey.”

At the May 19 graduation at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., comedian Bill Cosby urged the graduates to always rely on the values they learned at the Jesuit university: respect, integrity and a responsibility to serve others.

Cosby, who received an honorary doctor of letters from Marquette, encouraged graduates to strive to help others and always keep their integrity.

This year’s college commencement season did not have its usual set of controversies concerning speakers although it was not completely free of disputes.

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley decided not to attend Boston College’s commencement ceremonies because the college planned to honor Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland, who has supported a bill to introduce legalized abortion in that country.

Cardinal O’Malley gave the commencement address May 11 at Regis College in Weston, Mass., and received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the school.

The announcement that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would deliver the commencement speech May 11 at Benedictine College in Atchinson, Kan., was initially met with opposition by students, faculty and alumni who said the Catholic congressman’s proposed budget cuts did not go along with Catholic social teachings.

In his address to about 350 graduates, Ryan told graduates, “I hope you will always walk with God.”