by Michael Rizzo
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio – in his invocation at St. John’s University’s graduation ceremony on May 19 – recalled Jesus’ command to all of us: to love one another as He loves us. The bishop’s prayer at the beginning of the graduation ceremonies on the Jamaica campus has been a regular occurrence since he became bishop of Brooklyn in 2003.
In an interview beforehand, he praised St. John’s for the Catholic values it imparts. He said the graduates will face many challenges and have many paths to fulfillment, and he encouraged them to be able to adopt to the changes that will be part of their lives. He said attending the graduation is always good because it allows him to see young people who have accomplished their goals. “There’s a sense of achievement,” he said.
Then, reflecting on his own years as bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, he said, “I feel that way myself after almost 16 years at the diocese. I’ve achieved things that are important. There are still things I want to do, but you need to know when to look for another path in life. There’s a time to rest and to reflect.”
A light drizzle had passed by the time the commencement got underway. Bishop DiMarzio began his invocation by recalling the fire that devastated Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris last month.
He mentioned the different views people had of the blaze. Some lamented the damage done to a historic building, others the loss of a place of worship for the faithful. Bishop DiMarzio noted how when St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the religious order the Congregation of the Mission, known more commonly as the Vincentians and the religious organization that established St. John’s University, visited Notre Dame, he saw not just a place attended by kings and queens, but as an inspiration to help the poor.
“He saw not the work of human hands, but the glory of God in the pinnacle of God’s creation, humanity,” Bishop DiMarzio said of St. Vincent to the 2,382 graduates and their families.
Margaret Keane, an alumna of St. John’s and former Queens’ resident who is now president and CEO of Synchrony Financial, gave the commencement speech. She is encouraged the graduating class to dream big and work hard, and to do so with kindness and empathy. That, she said, is when you will be a success.
The 2-hour and 20-minute commencement concluded with the time-honored tradition of students moving the tassel on their academic caps from right to left to signify they are officially graduates. Moments later, confetti was shot into the sky to rain down on the university’s new alumni.
As Bishop DiMarzio and other dignitaries on the stage smiled at the cheering new graduates, one student was heard making a comment that seemed to bring the commencement events full circle to the bishop’s invocation. “What a glorious day,” the student said, “what a blessing.”