Christendom College celebrated its commencement weekend on May 13-15 by awarding degrees to 81 graduates, as well as honoring the Most Reverend James Conley, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, and Dr. Robert P. George, author and professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. Bishop Conley celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass on Friday, May 13, and was awarded an honorary doctorate during the commencement exercises on Saturday, May 14. Dr. George was awarded the college’s Pro Deo et Patria Medal for Distinguished Service to God and Country and delivered the commencement address.
“Higher education today reflects a profound divorce of faith and reason,” Bishop Conley said during his homily on Friday. “In academia today, reason alone is seen as the credible source for the truth about things. Only what can be proven by the canons of the scientific method is considered true or real. My friends, you can’t fly with only one wing. The wing of reason is not sufficient. Without the wing of faith the human search for truth can’t get off the ground.”
Bishop Conley, who taught Christendom students who participated in the Semester in Rome program from 2004-2006, told the graduates to be grateful that they received an education at Christendom.
“Give thanks for the administration, faculty, your fellow students, and most of all your parents. You’ve had the privilege to truly seek and contemplate the truth during your years here. You have built your education of the foundation of faith and reason,” he said.
His Excellency told graduates that faith is a gift and that God gives us the gift to share. Thus Faith is always a mission and this graduation is a commissioning.
“You are being sent forth from this campus and into the world to spread the good news of the gospel. To share the gift of faith,” he concluded. “My prayer for you, dear graduates, is that in everything, you work to build the culture of life and the civilization of love. Use your education to spread the light of Christian charity and truth. Wherever you go, offer everything you do for the love of God and for the love of neighbor.”
During Saturday’s commencement exercises Bishop Conley received an honorary doctorate from Christendom College President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell.
“You are the real change-makers in our culture even though, relatively speaking, you lack the size and endowments of so many larger Catholic institutions of higher learning,” the bishop said in his remarks. “Speaking from the heart of the Church with a confident Catholic identity, you are forming talented and creative disciples, equipping them with a Christian vision of life, culture, and history and sending them out well prepared to be leaders in the contemporary world.”[Read full address here.]
After receiving the Pro Deo et Patria Medal, Dr. Robert George delivered his address to graduates, exhorting them live a life filled with faith and trust in God. George recounted the story of the rich young man in the Gospel who, after encountering Christ and being asked to give up all his possessions, turned away sad.
“All of us, every single one, rich or poor, has riches in the sense of things we desire and cherish and don’t want to give up or place at risk,” he said. “And it will be riches of some sort that we will be asked by Jesus Himself to sacrifice or place at risk.”
George explained that the vocation of every Christian includes a demand that, humanly speaking, is impossible. The call is always a demand for self-sacrificial love for the sake of the Gospel, but we must not suppose that it will be about material riches.
“I assure you, it will not be,” he said. “Perhaps Christ is calling you or me to take a stand right now. Perhaps even to dedicate our lives to a cause that is unpopular in influential and elite sectors of our culture: the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage, religious liberty, and the right of conscience—the principles at the foundation of our civilization and polity that are so much at risk today, under so much ferocious assault from the most powerful.”
Concluding, George implored the graduates to have “the strength and courage, the hope and the faith, and above all the soul-ennobling, world-transforming, passionately-burning love that will enable you to go and sell all that you have and follow Christ.”
Saturday’s ceremonies began with a bagpipe-led procession from Christ the King Chapel to St. Louis the Crusader Gymnasium. Salutatorian John Killackey of Wayne, N.J., welcomed all the attendees and told his classmates that it was in their studies and experiences at Christendom that they found humility.
“A humility that is not a false sense of sadness, or even despair, over our condition, but one that is centered on truth and fills us with joy and hope, because truth is Christ,” Killackey said. “Humility teaches us that though we have learned much in our experience here, we have only begun our search for knowledge and wisdom, and we must continue this search all of our lives for the good of all those around us.”[Read full text here.]
The Alumni Association’s Student Achievement Award was given to Matthew Rensch of Williston, Vt., for his dedication to the community. Rensch made great contributions to the academic life of the college and was active in varsity sports, mission trips, and many other facets of student life. In all that he did, he maintained a cheerful disposition and showed exemplary leadership.
Following the presentation of awards to Bishop Conley and Dr. George, Valedictorian Elise Anderson of Fredericksburg, Va., called on her classmates “to take the world with a storm of joy and laughter.”
“While there will be some people who will find us distasteful for our religion and ethical practices, I want to remind my classmates that there will be others who will be intrigued by us and the joy that we have,” Anderson said. “I firmly believe that our joyful responses to life will excite their curiosity. So even on those days when you least desire to act cheerfully and to exhibit Christian charity, make sure you do anyway. You never know how many people your actions may affect.”[Read the full address here.]
Closing the ceremony, College President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell delivered his charge to the graduates. He told them that they were entering a world where humanity has no origin or destiny—where the light of Christ has been shut out in countless ways and areas of life and culture.
“Many in our world today, of my generation and many people who are over 40, have lapsed into a type of agnosticism or skepticism,” he said. “Your studies here in philosophy, in theology, in history, in literature, and in the other disciplines have nurtured you in the resources of the rich Catholic Christian heritage. You have not been cut off, but immersed. This places a serious but glorious obligation on you.”
Concluding, he charged them to never be cut off from their heritage and the Faith.
“Always stay close to those unhealed wounds [of Jesus], which alone can heal the world and heal your souls. Stay close to that great beating Heart, which is so in love with men. Do that and you will be witnesses to hope,” he said.
Eighty bachelor of arts degrees were awarded to Ben Allen, Richard Allington, Elise Anderson, Jack Anderson, Margaret Antunes, Francis Aul, Daina Bowen, Catherine Briggs, Jacquelyn Brogley, Brittany Buckner, Jimmy Canvin, Jordan Chenette, Peter Ciskanik, Katie Cruser, Steve Curtin, Noreen Daly, Amanda Dean, Jack Donohue, Claire Finlay, Joe Flaherty, Lynn Fraysier, Nick Freeman, Karl Haislmaier, James Hannon, Mary Harrington, Mary Hill, Bernadette Horiuchi, Mike Inzeo, Lisa Irwin, Lauren Kavanagh, Thomas Kelly, John Killackey, David Klosterman, Rocco Levitas, Tyler Lowe, Nick Lowry, Scott Lozyniak, Emily Martin, Sarah Massett, Katie McCloskey, Emily McConnell, Maggie McGann, Sam McMahon, Margaret McShurley, Denise McWhirter, Matthew Van Mirus, Liz Newcombe, Brian Nysewander, Rory O’Donnell, Peter O’Dwyer, Lauren Oligny, Nick Petersen, Ben Ranieri, Miriam Rauschert, James Redlinger, Matt Rensch, Megan Rolla, Kate Rollino, Joseph Ruhl, Kerri Sciscilo, Emily Scrivener, Rebekah Skiba, Jane Snyder, Marc Solitario, Troy Spring, Douglas Streeks, Angela Sus, Aaron Tatum, Joe Townsend, Elizabeth Twaddle, Mary Kate Vander Woude, Joe Wagner, Bill Waller, Elizabeth Walsh, Madeleine Walter, Megan Walters, Janie Wells, Brady Wilson, Ryan Wityak, and Anna Zganiacz. One associate of arts degree was awarded to Bethany Hepler.
All addresses and remarks from Commencement Weekend can be downloaded for free at Christendom on iTunes U.
View more pictures from Commencement weekend at Christendom’s Picasa Web Albums.