On May 12, 2001, Christendom College conferred 37 Bachelor of Arts, one Associate of Arts, and six Master of Arts degrees on its graduating class of 2001. Commencement weekend at Christendom College began with a Baccalaureate Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Renato Martino, Permanent Observer of the Holy See Mission to the United Nations, on Friday, May 11.
Archbishop Martino has been in the diplomatic service of the Holy See since July 1, 1962, serving at the Apostolic Nunciatures in Nicaragua, Philippines, Lebanon, Canada, and Brazil. From 1970 to 1975, he was called back to the Vatican where he was Head of the Department for International Organizations at the Secretariat of State. After the establishment of Relations with the Republic of Singapore on June 24, 1981, he was appointed first Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to Singapore. His term of office in Bangkok ended on Dec. 3, 1986, when he was appointed Permanent Observer of the Holy see to the United Nations Organization, succeeding Archbishop Giovanni Cheli. Archbishop Martino is the third Holy See’s Permanent Observer, after Archbishop Cheli and Monsignor Alberto Giovannetti.
During his homily, His Excellency, exhorted the graduating class of 2001 to witness to Christ in the world. “You came [to Christendom College] to be formed and educated, and to build upon the foundations which your parents and families have given you. You will now leave this place to assume a new role in the society….No matter what you do from this day forward, however, the one task that must transcend all others is your witness to Christ in the world.”
He continued by saying that he saw the Class of 2001 of Christendom College as a “band of young men and women who are passionate, zealous, faithful, compassionate, forgiving, loving, and trusting disciples of Christ, who must not worry about being “politically correct,” and who must never apologize for believing in Jesus Christ.”
Following the Baccalaureate Mass, Archbishop Martino joined the graduating seniors and their parents for an exquisite dinner in St. Lawrence Commons, prepared by the uncomparable Chef Ron. During the meal, Senior Class President, Tim Halisky of FL, made a toast in honor of Christendom’s faculty. Dr. Robert Rice, VP for Academic Affairs, countered with his own toast to the graduating seniors saying that “typically each graduating class has a distinctive character, but the Class of 2001 is different. There is no one distinctive character to this class, rather, each individual is a character in himself.”
On Saturday afternoon, during the Graduation ceremony held in Crusader Gymnasium, Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, Christendom President, bestowed an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters on His Excellency for his courageous resistance to the globalization of the culture of death and his courageous and tireless defense of the unborn children of the world.
“It is my honor and pleasure to be with you today to receive this Doctoral Degree from Christendom College. I am especially pleased to be an “honorary member” of the Class of 2001.
As the Vatican’s Ambassador to the United Nations, I am actively engaged in promoting what we know to be true about the inestimable value of the human person created in the image and likeness of God and redeemed in Jesus Christ,” he began.
“The centrality of the human person must be the philosophical basis for any negotiations among Governments and civil society when considering the issues that affect the human family. Otherwise, States and society alike risk overshadowing the human person with economic, political, military, or social interests, and ultimately reducing the notion of the person altogether.
“As you might imagine, however, being a voice of truth, the Church is not always accepted or welcomed. Talk of such things as the dignity of the human person, respect for human life, and the important role of parents and the family is society is not greeted with open arms by a society that has embraced a culture of death.”
Archbishop Martino concluded by reflecting on his experience working at the UN. “Throughout my tenure at the UN, I have seen how the international community recognizes that the Church not only preaches this message in diplomatic circles, but that it puts it into practice each and every day through the Church’s vast network of institutions and apostolates which directly serve the human person. As I look out at the Class of 2001 of Christendom College, I feel a renewed sense of prides, knowing that what the Holy See says at the United Nations is lived out daily at this Catholic College. This place, and all of you, are tangible examples of the Church’s dedication to serving the human person.”
Salutatorian, Gwen Adams from Indiana, addressed her fellow classmates by quoting the great Catholic mind Friedrich Wilhelmsen, saying that while at Christendom “we became ‘rebels against a society that has denied its God, has insulted His Holy church, that has ignored His mother. A society that has outlawed Him and in so doing has outlawed that band of men who raise aloft the banner of His sacred kingship.’ We must fight with the virtues of faith, charity, and hope. Nothing will win this world to Christ, neither our words nor deeds, so much as our example of our love for one another. Let us band together to evangelize the world back to Christ, to build a Catholic culture and a Catholic society.”
Class Valedictorian, Therese Sayler from North Dakota, began her address with “Do not be Afraid,” one of the Pope’s favorite sayings.
Addressing the capacity crowd of 500, Miss Sayler continued by explaining that although graduation day is a turning point in the lives of those graduating, Christendom College has been preparing its graduates for the task of “becoming saints and leading others to Christ.”
Although not an easy mission, it is the same type of mission that the Apostles were given by Christ. “But, we do not need to be afraid, because what God demands of us in these areas is not success, but effort,” she said. “The salvation of a soul and the conversion of a sinner can only be effected by God. He accomplishes this through our striving. So, we are only asked to do what we can do: unite our efforts with the grace of God in the work of saving our souls, and the souls of others.
“God has not abandoned us. He has left us a shepherd on earth, the Holy Father. Pope John Paul II truly lives out the message, “Do not be afraid,” as he prays and works ceaselessly to bring the Faith to people around the world. Following his example of fearless trust, this graduating class can go forward with enthusiasm to win souls for Christ,” Miss Sayler concluded.
Steven Weidenkopf, after receiving his Master of Arts in Theological Studies, delivered the Notre Dame Graduate School Farewell Address. His talk focused on the faithful education that he received, especially in relation to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
Weidenkopf related that the Pope has often reflected on the fact that “the Council documents have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church’s Tradition.”
“I firmly believe that each of us has a unique role to play in the economy of salvation. None of us came to Christendom College by accident – we have been chosen to go forth and spread the truth of Christ, especially the truth concerning the Second Vatican Council. The Council that stressed the universal call to holiness; that centered the study of ecclesiology on the reality of communion and taught that the Church is “one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and human element;” the Council that approached the unbelieving modern world with joy and hope in Christ Jesus, who is “The Way, the Truth and the Life.” The Council that will serve, in the words of our Holy Father, as the ‘compass from which to take our bearings in the century now beginning’,” he concluded. (See the condensed version of his talk on the right)
Dori Rutherford, President of the Christendom College Alumni Association, awarded Paul Kucharski of CA with the Student Achievement Award in recognition of his extraordinary enthusiasm and participation in College events throughout his four years at Christendom.
The 37 undergraduates who received B.A. degrees include: Gwendolen M. Adams, Andrew L. Antonio, Jonathan L. Avery, Clair M. Bailey, Kathryn E. Bailey, Anita K. Shunk, Sr. Martha Corona, PCI, Mary E. Cummo, Danielle Dalley, David B. Farinholt, Andrew J. Fier, Angela T. Formolo, Timothy R. Halisky, Anna F. Hepler, Catherine M. Hinkell, Lisa R. Kirchner, Ronald L. Klassen, Paul L. Kucharski, Louis J. Kugel, Nicholas P. Marmalejo, John P. Meng, Phillip J. Menke, Joshua P. Petersen, Alicia M. Podlinsek, Meg L. Coleman, Joseph M. Salazar, Theresa M. Sayler, Denver T. Schafer, Daniel C. Schneible, Leah T. Slinger, Albert A. Starkus, Benjamin J. Suer, Jill M. Watson, Shaun P. Whittington, Hugh O. Wingate, Amy K. Wright, Gabriel M. Young.
One Associate of Arts degree was conferred on Julie D. Fox.
The following six graduate students received a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College: Susan Klamann, Nancy Lee, Rev. Christopher Pollard, Kathryn Sperrazzo, Steven Weidenkopf, and Thomas West, Jr. Nancy Lee and Fr. Pollard will also receive the Advanced Apostolic Catechetical Diploma from NDGS.
At the conclusion of the Commencement Exercises, Archbishop Martino graciously granted the Papal Blessing to all those present. “I have been given the authority to grant the Papal Blessing a couple of times a year. I would like to use this faculty today at Christendom,” he said.
Following Commencement, the graduates, their families, and guests were treated to a beautifully reception in St. Lawrence Commons, catered by Chef Ron Steckman and his kitchen staff.