.- âSince 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.â 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 âthis memorable event.â 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 dayâs events.
In introducing the speaker, university provost Dr. Rolf Daniel called him âa blessing to our university.â 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, âHow proud we are of you and this wonderful accomplishment.â
The bishop then acknowledged a lifelong devotion to the patron saint of their university, St. Francis of Assisi, and recommended that graduates follow the saintâs example in asking God, âGive me true faith, certain hope and perfect charity.â
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. âThe embrace of truth includes moral truth,â he said, and âthe pursuit of goodness.â He especially praised their Catholic university education, for it is ânot just about the attainment of knowledge, it is about the cultivation of virtue.â He added, âAs beneficial as all your studies have been, they will only bear truly good fruit when accompanied by a moral life.â
Lastly, he invited graduates to walk the âjourney of love.â 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, âDear 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 lifeâs journey.â
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 universityâs alma mater.
Following commencement, graduates, friends, family and faculty enjoyed a reception in the Century Room.
'Do not be afraidâ
At the baccalaureate Mass, celebrated earlier in the morning by Bishop Emeritus John M. DâArcy, and concelebrated by Father John Stecher, university chaplain, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop DâArcy spoke about the dayâs Gospel from John 6:16-21: âWe see Jesus Christ approaching the Apostles in a time of great turmoil, trouble and difficulty. This scene is repeated several times, Christâs 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.â
In the Resurrection accounts, Bishop DâArcy said Christ is always the One who approaches. Bishop DâArcy said Christ is always approaching us â âChrist seeking to find His way into our hearts.â
âDo not be afraid. How many times in the Gospel do we hear that?â asked Bishop DâArcy. The angel told Mary at the Annunciation, âDo not be afraid.â Bishop DâArcy added that Blessed Pope John Paul IIâs first words at his inaugural homily was âDo not be afraid.â
He spoke of the things that make us afraid â perhaps the fear of not finding a good job, the fear of not being successful in oneâs profession, or the fear of not finding love â or not being able to give love or to receive love.
âLove is a gift. It comes to us in Baptism,â Bishop DâArcy said. âThe love of God for us, our love for Him, comes to us in Baptism.â
He spoke of the universal call to holiness. âEverybody is called to a life of holiness,â Bishop DâArcy said. âIt means believing in Jesus Christ and doing His will.â
That was the bishopâs hope for the students of the University of Saint Francis. âDoing the will of God, following Him, being close to Him,â Bishop DâArcy said.
He encouraged the graduates to pray. âOne overcomes fear by believing deep in the presence of God,â Bishop DâArcy 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 â taken from the Second Vatican Council â that the students learn to make a gift of themselves to others, to one another.
After Mass, Bishop DâArcy 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 masterâs 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, âItâs great because it is Christ centered.â 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.
Printed with permission from Today's Catholic News, newspaper for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind.