FORT WAYNE — “Since our life is indeed a pilgrimage, it is important always to keep in mind the destiny of that pilgrimage which gives meaning and purpose to our life on this earth: perfect life with God and all the saints, the blessed communion that fulfills our deepest human longings. On this pilgrimage, we experience a foretaste of this definitive happiness through the embrace of truth, goodness and love.” These were the words of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who was keynote speaker at the University of Saint Francis commencement ceremony Saturday at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Sister Elise M. Kriss, a Sister of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration and president of the university, welcomed the nearly 400 graduates and their families and friends to “this memorable event.” Also in attendance were university trustees, faculty members and 50-year alumni of the graduating class of 1961. The Fort Wayne Area Community Band and the University Singers provided musical selections for the day’s events.
In introducing the speaker, university provost Dr. Rolf Daniel called him “a blessing to our university.” He noted that Bishop Rhoades was installed as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend just last year, having come from the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa.
Bishop Rhoades in turn thanked his listeners for the privilege of addressing them and said to the graduates, “How proud we are of you and this wonderful accomplishment.”
The bishop then acknowledged a lifelong devotion to the patron saint of their university, St. Francis of Assisi, and recommended that graduates follow the saint’s example in asking God, “Give me true faith, certain hope and perfect charity.”
The bishop congratulated the graduates on their achievements but reminded them they are embarking on a lifelong journey. He encouraged them to embrace truth, goodness and love along the way and gave them clear directives for doing so.
He reminded them that the pilgrimage of life is a search for truth, but it must be discovered through faith as well as reason. “The embrace of truth includes moral truth,” he said, and “the pursuit of goodness.” He especially praised their Catholic university education, for it is “not just about the attainment of knowledge, it is about the cultivation of virtue.” He added, “As beneficial as all your studies have been, they will only bear truly good fruit when accompanied by a moral life.”
Lastly, he invited graduates to walk the “journey of love.” He pointed out that the embrace of the beauty of love is intimately connected with the embrace of truth and goodness because love is the ultimate truth and the greatest expression of goodness.
In closing, Bishop Rhoades said, “Dear graduates, may you go forth from the University of Saint Francis as messengers of faith, agents of goodness and instruments of love as you continue your life’s journey.”
The program concluded with the presentation of degree candidates and their welcome into the alumni association, after which the University Singers presented the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and the university’s alma mater.
Following commencement, graduates, friends, family and faculty enjoyed a reception in the Century Room.
‘Do not be afraid’
At the baccalaureate Mass, celebrated earlier in the morning by Bishop Emeritus John M. D’Arcy, and concelebrated by Father John Stecher, university chaplain, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop D’Arcy spoke about the day’s Gospel from John 6:16-21: “We see Jesus Christ approaching the Apostles in a time of great turmoil, trouble and difficulty. This scene is repeated several times, Christ’s coming to them across the water, while they were in a storm. Over the centuries, the Church has always used this as an act of faith of Christ, in His presence in the Church and in the lives of each one of us at a time of trouble and difficulty and turmoil.”
In the Resurrection accounts, Bishop D’Arcy said Christ is always the One who approaches. Bishop D’Arcy said Christ is always approaching us — “Christ seeking to find His way into our hearts.”
“Do not be afraid. How many times in the Gospel do we hear that?” asked Bishop D’Arcy. The angel told Mary at the Annunciation, “Do not be afraid.” Bishop D’Arcy added that Blessed Pope John Paul II’s first words at his inaugural homily was “Do not be afraid.”
He spoke of the things that make us afraid — perhaps the fear of not finding a good job, the fear of not being successful in one’s profession, or the fear of not finding love — or not being able to give love or to receive love.
“Love is a gift. It comes to us in Baptism,” Bishop D’Arcy said. “The love of God for us, our love for Him, comes to us in Baptism.”
He spoke of the universal call to holiness. “Everybody is called to a life of holiness,” Bishop D’Arcy said. “It means believing in Jesus Christ and doing His will.”
That was the bishop’s hope for the students of the University of Saint Francis. “Doing the will of God, following Him, being close to Him,” Bishop D’Arcy said.
He encouraged the graduates to pray. “One overcomes fear by believing deep in the presence of God,” Bishop D’Arcy said. He encouraged the graduates to remain close to Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead and has overcome sin and death.
The bishop also offered the graduates his hope and prayer — taken from the Second Vatican Council — that the students learn to make a gift of themselves to others, to one another.
After Mass, Bishop D’Arcy greeted the graduates in front of the cathedral. While taking photos with classmates and family, Susan Maloney, of St. Therese Parish, Fort Wayne, expressed her joy. Maloney received a master’s degree in nursing and will be a nurse practitioner. She has been working on the degree for four years and has served as adjunct faculty for two years.Of the program, Maloney said, “It’s great because it is Christ centered.” She plans to use her degree to serve in family practice, and is discussing work with a physician who reflects her Catholic values.
Maloney said she was thankful for her family support. Outside the steps of the cathedral she was surrounded by her husband, daughter, mother and niece.
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