Commencement ~ Class of 2012

May 13, 2012

Sister Anne awarded more than 900 degrees, from baccalaureate to doctoral, at the 2012 Commencement ~ Marywood's largest class to date.

Dr. Wulczyn, thank you for your meaningful message and for the expertise and advocacy you bring to social policy that addresses the needs of children. In a complex society such as ours, social policy is the bridge that connects ideals to action. We are encouraged by your reminder of the strength that grounding in the liberal arts brings to professional preparation. Thank you for demonstrating to the Class of 2012 that imagination and enduring values can indeed transform lives—one’s own life, as well as the lives of others. We’d like to show our appreciation for your inspiring words with another round of applause.

And now, I would like to address a few thoughts directly to our graduates. As I was reflecting on today’s events, I thought about how life experiences shape both who we are and who we will become. Throughout your time at Marywood University, your experiences have been framed by the knowledge you have pursued and gained; by the people you have met—many of whom, I am certain, are now your lifelong friends; by the goals you have set and achieved; by the encouragement of family, friends, and faculty; and by other life events and decisions that have somehow influenced, inspired, and guided you to this day.

While the paths and experiences that led you here may have differed, there is a common thread in all of your stories—that of interdependence. None of us embark on this journey of life alone; we need one another.

Your liberal arts and professional education at Marywood University has prepared you for informed, responsible, and ethical leadership. I am sure that you are well-acquainted with Marywood’s mission “to live responsibly in a diverse and interdependent world.” It is that diverse and interdependent world that has shaped your Marywood education and the relationships you have developed here. It is this same mission that will follow you throughout your lives. You will always need others, and they will always need you. To “live responsibly” is to understand this, and, more importantly, to carry it out with compassion.

In January, I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting Rwanda and Burundi as a participant in a new initiative of Catholic Relief Services designed to strengthen links between Catholic Colleges/Universities and their work in the field. I have been to Africa many times and to many different countries. I have seen the ideal of global interdependence made real by practical and effective grassroots networking and partnerships between and among values-based organizations. I have seen the principles of Catholic social teaching in action and made holy by respect and dignity. The efforts of committed people can make what seems impossible possible. By recognizing and responding to the needs of others—from our next-door neighbor to our global neighbor—we demonstrate what it means “to live responsibly in a diverse and interdependent world.”  Responsible interdependence in today’s world is the embodiment of hope.

In his book, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, Archbishop Desmond Tutu observed:

“In Africa recognition of our interdependence is called ‘ubuntu’…which is difficult to translate into English. It is the essence of being human… we could not be alive, nor could we accomplish anything, without the support, love, and generosity of all the people who have helped us become the people we are today.”

[Tutu, Desmond. (2004). God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, New York: Doubleday.]

As you celebrate this important day, I am sure each one of you can bring to mind and heart those who have supported you, loved you, and generously encouraged you along this journey. Some of them are here with you. Some of them are only here in spirit. Let us take a moment, as well, to remember family members, faculty, staff and students who have died as we give thanks for all those who have been part of your journey to this significant moment of endings and beginnings.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, an internationally-renowned scholar, author, theologian and social activist of the 20th Century, believed that we should never treat life casually. Instead, he observed:

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ....get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

(Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel; January 11, 1907 – December 23, 1972)

My wish for you today is that you will always look at the world before you in radical amazement—taking nothing for granted, seeing all of the possibilities before you as phenomenal and incredible ones. I urge you to be conscientious global citizens—builders of faith and trust in a world that desperately needs signs of hope.

Wherever life takes you, dear graduates, know that hope and trust are foundational to living interdependently—to enjoy both, you must also share them. I leave you with words of the poet Denise Levertov:

I have a small grain of hope–
one small crystal that gleams
clear colors out of transparency.
I need more.
I break off a fragment
to send you.
Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won’t shrink.
Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow.
Only so, by division,
will hope increase….

(“For the New Year, 1981” by Denise Levertov)

Much like the start of a new year, commencement is a day for welcoming and sharing the hope and possibilities before us. Congratulations, and may God bless all of you abundantly!