“When God is present in our life and we live in His grace, we experience a certain joy and peace that this world cannot give and cannot be taken away from us.” Speaking to the newest class of Holy Cross College graduates at their baccalaureate Mass on May 18, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades highlighted the transformative power of sacrificial love. He continued, “The true life, the good life, the fulfilling life, is an adventure of love which gazes outward, not inward. It shows us that Christianity is a paradox, that when we give of ourselves, we find ourselves. Christianity is about embracing the cross and living Jesus’ great commandment to ‘love one another as I have loved you.’”
During commencement exercises the following day, Nicole Stelle Garnett, the John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, expanded upon Bishop Rhoades’ remarks in her keynote address. She exclaimed: “Catholic schools seek to educate not only the mind, but also the heart, and they do so for a particular purpose: to bring young people to wholeness in the image of Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be educated in mind and heart, to be brought to wholeness? Consider five simple, but powerful, rules for life: Seek, persist, excel, love and serve.”
“Seeking requires active engagement, creative thinking, and energy,” explained Garnett, who also serves as an advisor for the Alliance for Catholic Education. “Don’t hide from the world, go forth from this place and seek. However, this can be exhausting, frustrating and demoralizing. All of us face our own obstacles. Don’t give up, but persist with a smile on your face!
“Now some, in the eyes of the world, will be more successful than others. However, to excel is not to measure your success against the achievements of others, but rather to ask “Am I better today than I was yesterday? Can I do better with the gifts that God has given me?” Be better each day, better at whatever you are called to do and better than you were the day before.”
She further reminded: “You are created in the image and likeness of the God who seeks you, who persists in His love for you even when you fail to excel. Because you are loved, you are called to love. Not in the sappy, happily ever-after sense, but in the hard, self-sacrificial sense of depending on and giving oneself for others. Someday you will find yourself asked to sacrifice for someone you love. If you are the kind of people that I know, you have been formed to be here. You will give of yourselves, even when it is hard, for love.
“Finally, remember each and every day that you are called to serve. Serve your families, serve your communities, serve your nation. You have been given many gifts, not least of which is a Catholic education at a place that sought to bring you to wholeness in the image of Jesus Christ, the greatest servant the world has ever known. Go forth and serve, glorifying the Lord by your life. If you do these things, I am confident you will become who God meant you to be and will set the world on fire.”
Someone whose determination and perseverance definitively embodied these five rules is graduating senior Mary Freeby, who earlier this year received a life-saving bone marrow transplant. Her journey served as a sign of unity, courage and hope for the Holy Cross family.
Given the opportunity to address her classmates, she revealed: “Through five long months of isolation and recovery, I didn’t know if I was going to make it. What drove me forward was God, through all the many prayers I received, as well as my family and the support of friends and community members, especially at Holy Cross. As a college, and specifically as a senior class, you showed me what true love is. We have been through a lot and experienced many challenges and still stood strongly together. Each and every day is a gift from God and is not to be taken for granted. We cannot let the negatives of the past or the possibilities of the future impact the peace, joy, and happiness that the present has to offer. True disciples have the competence to see and the courage to act. Here we have been given the competence to see, now go out and have the courage to act.”
In his first commencement address as president, Holy Cross priest Father David Tyson reaffirmed the perseverance of the students through last year’s uncertainty over the financial future of the college and the current positive direction going forward.
“I agree with the words ‘scrappy,’ ‘resilient’ and ‘warrior,’ and now there is no debt, there is cash flow, and there are students coming. We can look forward in confidence toward the next 20 years at Holy Cross College,” he said. “No matter what happens in life that is on the downside, the motto of the college, ‘Hail the Cross, our Only Hope’ should remind you that those things can be transformed by the grace of God and the grace of His Son. Live your lives knowing that and don’t be afraid.”
Holy Cross College granted 116 diplomas to graduates this year, ranging from Associate of Arts to Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science. In addition to conferring an honorary degree upon Nicole Stelle Garnett, Father Tyson also announced the honorary awarding of Doctor of Humane Letters to Holy Cross Brother Chester Freel, for his outstanding lifelong contribution to the educational mission of the Congregation of Holy Cross and the Midwest Province of Brothers, where he has served as superior for the past nine years.
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