Christendom College celebrated its Commencement Weekend on May 16-18 by awarding degrees to 69 graduates, as well as honoring renowned author and philosopher Dr. Peter Kreeft and Rev. Terence Henry, the chancellor of Franciscan University. Fr. Henry celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass on Friday, May 16, and received the college’s “Pro Deo et Patria” Medal during the commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 17. Dr. Kreeft was awarded an honorary doctorate before delivering the commencement address on Saturday.
Dr. Kreeft delivered an address filled with both humor and deep insights. He encouraged the graduates to practice for heaven by letting Christ reign now here on earth through prayers and supplications to Jesus.
“Your college is nobly named after that reign [of Christ],” Kreeft said. “Christendom means Christ’s kingdom. You are part of that atomic fission that explodes and spreads the radiation of that kingdom. Once, that kingdom was tiny… It was once a one-celled zygote in Our Lady’s womb. Nine months later it was still as small as a crèche. It has been expanding for 2,000 years, transforming this world into Christendom.”
The growth of Christendom—Christ’s kingdom—is unstoppable, even by the gates of Hell, Kreeft said, and he encouraged them to never forget the big picture.
“And never forget your absolute and essential job,” he said, “to change this world into Christendom.”
On Friday, Fr. Henry gave a stirring homily in which he described life as an adventure and a unique mission given to us by God.
“We simply would not be if we did not have a mission,” Fr. Henry said. “What is our task? To discover the unique gifts He has given us. You did a lot of discovery here in four years, but you’re not done. You’ve only scratched the surface of the iceberg… that is your challenge, dear graduates. To discover His mission and to discover the unique gifts He has given you to accomplish it. You are needed on the front lines wherever the culture of death is pressing in.”
Fr. Henry said that the culture of death is attacking from all sides and that the graduates need to stand up against it. He explained that regiments in the Civil War would stand and fight and know that they were protected to their left and right because they would feel the elbow of the soldier next to them.
“No Catholic in the United States today who is standing for pro-life, who is standing for the family, who is standing for the aged or the very young, is ever not going to feel an elbow, because they know that the graduates of this fine college—Christendom College—will be standing there with them. Standing there combating that culture. May you always be on the front lines fighting that culture of death and may God bless you for that as you leave us.”
Saturday’s ceremonies began with a bagpipe-led procession from Christ the King Chapel to St. Louis the Crusader Gymnasium. Salutatorian Maribeth Kelly of Front Royal, Va., welcomed all the attendees and, in her address, noted that although it was time to say good-bye to Christendom, she and her graduates should rejoice in the education, formation, and experience that they have received.
“We must joyfully embrace the vocation that God has placed before us,” Kelly said. “As Christians, we are called to maintain joy at every stage of life… The joyful soul keeps his eyes on eternity unshaken by the difficulties of the world embracing the reality that the human person was created for everlasting splendor and joy with his Creator.”
Director of Admissions Tom McFadden, along with Director of Donor and Alumni Relations Vince Criste, presented the Student Achievement Award to Jacob Morgan of Front Royal, Va., for his dedication to the community. Morgan made great contributions to the academic and social life of the college as the president of the Student Activities Council.
Following the presentation of awards to Dr. Kreeft and Fr. Henry, valedictorian Lauren Enk of Madisonville, La., delivered her address. Enk said that living in the community at Christendom College reinforced a reality that everyone there knows to be true: life is beautiful, people are made for happiness; and that happiness is attainable.
“Our time here at Christendom exposed cynicism for what it is at its root, a spiritual poison, and drove home with unutterable certainty the antidote that, in the words of G.K. Chersterton, ‘the world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder.’ I never faced a day here without seeing reflected in my fellow classmates and in our experiences an unshaken confidence in the power of wonder and a joy at the education we have received together,” she said.
Enk went on to describe the graduates’ time at Christendom as a type of Tabor experience, referring to the mountain on which the Transfiguration of Jesus took place.
“Beginning today, we are coming down from the mountain,” she said. “And we hold our experiences here in our hearts as spiritual nourishment for the journey ahead.”
Closing the ceremony, college President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell delivered his charge to the graduates.
“As you go through life there will be crosses that you will encounter,” O’Donnell warned. “But it is important to remember that we are carrying our cross with Him… so stay close to Him.”
He implored the graduates to go forth filled with a divine hope.
“Know that in all circumstances, wherever you find yourself, He will be with you. He is deeper than any crisis, and brighter than any darkness,” O’Donnell said.
Sixty-eight bachelor of arts degrees were awarded to Colleen Anderson, Michael Arnold, Klarissa Blank, Joe Brizek, Eric Bugin, Marilyn Charba, Angelica Cintorino, Maria Cintorino, Andrew Clark, Melanie Clark, Gloria Connolly, Connor Coyne, Sean Deighan, Marisa DePalma, Becca Deucher, Joe Duca, Becca Ellefson, Lauren Enk, Hannah Ethridge, Chris Ferrara, Jon Fioramonti, Johnny Foeckler, Mary Fowler, Elizabeth Francis, Theresa Francis, Maeve Gallagher, Aislinn Gibson, Andrew Golden, Veronica Halbur, Terri Hibl, Kelsey Ingold, Tim Johnston, Morgan Kavanagh, Donna Kelly, Maribeth Kelly, Conor Knox, Christian Kopeck, Elizabeth Kuepper, Bridget Kulick, Sean LaRochelle, Faith Leopold, Jordan Mann, Joe Marra, Brian McCrum, Peter McShurley, Erin Moore, Jake Morgan, Madeleine Murphy, Jennifer Nussio, Conor O’Donnell, Jared Petersen, Sarah Peterson, Morgan Robey, Sean Ryan, Margaret Santschi, Ben Scrivener, Olivia Seidl, Katie Shannon, Zach Smith, Helen Snyder, Matt Speer, Ann Thomas, Anna Van Hecke, Bridget Vander Woude, Timmy Vander Woude, Melissa Vanwynsberghe, Annie Willson, and Ashlynn Woodhead.
One associate of arts degree was awarded to Theresa Norris.