June 1, 2024 // Diocese

Saint Mary’s, ND Graduates Sent Forth on a Mission

By Michelle McDaniel and Scott Warden

On the weekend of May 17-19, Bishop Rhoades celebrated alongside the graduating classes at two local Catholic institutes of higher learning – Saint Mary’s College and the University of Notre Dame.

Photos by Michelle McDaniel
Graduates from Saint Mary’s College process into the school’s baccalaureate Mass on Friday, May 17.

Bishop Rhoades celebrated the baccalaureate Mass at the Angela Athletic and Wellness Complex on the campus of Saint Mary’s on Friday, May 17. The following day, after ordaining Deacon Andrew Barnes at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, Bishop Rhoades spoke at the commencement Mass at Notre Dame. On Pentecost Sunday, May 19, he offered the invocation at Notre Dame’s graduation ceremony, which was held at Notre Dame Stadium.

At Saint Mary’s, more than 140 graduates attended the Mass, which was presided over by Bishop Rhoades and included students who participated in the Mass as musicians and readers. Saint Mary’s graduate Georgia Sigler, who will pursue a master’s degree in music voice performance at The Catholic University of America beginning in August, cantored for her third commencement Mass.

“It was really special for me to be able to cantor this Mass,” Sigler told Today’s Catholic. “Being able to combine my faith and my studies and put them together in my commencement weekend was very special. It made me feel like I could prove what Saint Mary’s College has given me in my studies and show that it has paid off.”

Once the students had filed into the front five rows of the gymnasium, Bishop Rhoades greeted the attendees.

“We offer this Mass in thanksgiving for all of the blessings our students received here at Saint Mary’s College these past four years, and we pray for them as they go forward in the love of the Lord,” Bishop Rhoades said. “We ask that the Holy Spirit will guide and strengthen them throughout their lives to grow as faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus.”

He later began his homily by congratulating the Saint Mary’s Class of 2024 and thanking them for their presence and service within the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and the community.

“This evening, it is wonderful to celebrate this Mass for you and with you, giving thanks to the Lord for His blessings during your years here at Saint Mary’s and praying for you as you go forth and commence a new stage in your journey of life.”

He remarked on the fitting nature of the Gospel reading for a commencement event, highlighting that it was Jesus’ farewell discourse to His disciples at the Last Supper.

“All Jesus asks of the disciples – of all of us – is that we remain in His love,” Bishop Rhoades said, explaining that this is done by keeping Jesus’ commandments.

“Keeping His commandments doesn’t earn Jesus’ love,” he said. “He already gives His love to us as a pure
gift. It is given to us prior to our obedience to His commandments. Yes, to remain in His love, we need to keep His commandments.”

But these commandments are not simply a list of prohibitions; they are directions for our lives that are essential and valuable rules for finding true joy and freedom in our life, and they guide us toward eternal life in heaven, Bishop Rhoades said, highlighting one rule in particular – “love one another as I have loved you.” It is through following this that one finds joy, which is at the heart of the Christian experience, he explained.

“Graduates,” Bishop Rhoades said, “Jesus has chosen you and appoints you to go and bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” Bishop Rhoades said before concluding his homily with a blessing: “May our Blessed Mother watch over each of you and guide you that your lives will bear abundant fruit.”

The University of Notre Dame’s commencement Mass was held on campus at the Joyce Center. The principal celebrant for the Mass was Cardinal Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. Cardinal Pierre has served as the pope’s ambassador to the U.S. since 2016. He opened his homily by telling the graduates that it was fitting that the commencement celebrations were taking place on the weekend of Pentecost.

Matthew Cashore
Bishop Rhoades speaks from the podium during the University of Notre Dame’s graduation Mass, held at the Joyce Center on Saturday, May 18.

“Pentecost was the day on which the Holy Spirit empowered the Church to ‘go forth’ in proclaiming that Christ is alive, and that all who believe in Him can share His eternal life,” Cardinal Pierre said. “As you graduate, you are also being sent forth. Your education has equipped you to enrich the world with the formation you have gained at this university. What do you give to the world as you ‘go forth’? The fruits of your academic studies, to be sure. The knowledge and skills that will make you an effective contributor to your professional field. But as a graduate of an institution whose foundation is Christ and His Church, you have the opportunity to give the world even more than that. For what is distinct about a Catholic education is that you have been prepared, no matter what field you enter, to offer the world the saving hope of Jesus Christ, who, having risen from the dead, is present to the human family and to each individual in all circumstances. In other words, you leave Notre Dame not only with an academic degree, but with a spiritual mission.”

As Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Bishop Rhoades concluded the Mass by thanking Cardinal Pierre for his presence. He then offered words of wisdom and hope for the graduates, urging them to follow the example of Mary, the Blessed Virgin, who is the namesake of the University of Notre Dame.

May 18, 2024; Commencement Mass 2024 (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

May 18, 2024; Apostolic nuncio to the United States Cardinal Christophe Pierre gives the homily at Commencement Mass 2024. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

May 18, 2024; Commencement Mass 2024 (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

May 19, 2024; Most Reverend Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades gives the benediction at the 2024 Commencement Ceremony. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

Bishop Rhoades encouraged the graduates to be tender, strong, and true – the three adjectives from the Notre Dame alma mater that describe Our Lady.

“Tenderness is the warmth of love,” Bishop Rhoades said, “a love that is intimate and real, not an abstraction, not just an idea. Mary is a living icon for us of God’s tenderness. … The holy cross of Jesus is the proof of divine tenderness, and tenderness is not sentimentality; rather, it is a love poured out for others that is compassionate and lived out in the works of mercy. … While sweet, true tenderness is also strong. It involves strength of spirit. In Mary, we encounter a tenderness that is strong. Her strength is the strength of faith. She exhibited fidelity in doing what God asked of her and courage in following her Son on the way of the cross. Our Lady had the strength of staying the course, even when there was great opposition to her Son and His Gospel. … Be true; in other words, be loyal. … Our Lady was certainly loyal and true, wholeheartedly saying ‘yes’ to God’s call and living that ‘yes’ as the first and greatest disciple of her Son. … Remaining true to her vocation, Mary shared fully the mission of her Son. She teaches us to be true to Jesus and His Body, the Church, as we promised at our baptism. Not just in some or even most aspects of our lives, but with every fiber of our being.”

Bishop Rhoades concluded by saying: “Graduates, my prayer for you is that, following the example of Mary, Notre Dame, Our Mother, and with the help of her intercession, you will be tender, strong, and true throughout your life’s journey. May Glory’s mantle that cloaks the Blessed Virgin Mary one day cloak you, her spiritual sons and daughters.”

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