Bishop Hubbard, Dr. Mary Jo La Posta and fellow trustees, David Rubin, Richard Seik, faculty, staff, friends and family of the graduates, welcome to this, the 56th Commencement of Maria College. You and I are here today in celebration of the one group I have yet to mention – the Graduates – and I think I speak for us all when I say congratulations graduates!
Today marks a very important milestone for you and your families. Today we acknowledge all your efforts and sacrifices and we celebrate your achievements. You, and often your family and friends, have faced many challenges; academic, financial, familial, personal, and perhaps the greatest challenge, of there simply not being enough hours in the day for all the demands on your time.
And yet, you have persevered, you have put in the hours and demonstrated the necessary strength and courage and you have succeeded. Take this as lesson about the kind of person you are, what your capabilities are and what you, along with your support team can achieve. You have not only earned your degree or your certificate, you have demonstrated the kind of person you are. Take a moment now and again to acknowledge that and recognize in yourself what it took to bring this moment into existence. At this point you are neither at the end of your journey nor the beginning. Maybe at the end of the beginning. You have achieved a lot, but now you must take what you have learned beyond the campus and into the broader world.
There may be a touch of trepidation, but you will be fine, you have proven your capacity to meet challenges and you have acquired the knowledge and skill required by your profession.
But I think you have acquired more than that. Today you graduate from a Catholic College founded by the Sisters of Mercy and in those traditions, career preparation goes beyond specific facts and skills. You also had to subject yourself to what we call “formation”. You have had to take courses in composition, mathematics, social sciences, literature, theology and social justice. I suspect that on occasion you may have wondered about the relevance of those courses, but I can assure you, in the fullness of time their value will become very evident indeed.
You will come to see that the kind of education that you have received at Maria has two advantages over a purely technical education. First, while your professional training will get you your first job, it is the capacity to write well, speak fluently, calculate accurately and think critically, that will give you the edge when it comes to career advancement. Second, the broader knowledge that comes from your exposure to literature, culture, the social sciences and religion will make you a deeper, broader, more interesting and more curious person; your life will be fuller and richer, and your family and your community will be benefit from that.
Because you are a Maria graduate, you know that life is more than acquiring some specific knowledge and skills and then applying those in exchange for compensation. Beyond the reciprocity of work and money is the whole context of meaning and purpose, your own dignity and that of every human person you will encounter in your work.
Because our founders cared about such things, we have made them a part of your education as well, and by doing so we acknowledge that your dignity and worth goes beyond the exchange of labor for salary and benefits.
As a Maria grad you have been surrounded by talk of social justice, and it is important that you have learned that social justice is not a “political” orientation. It is important to realize that the Church and the Sisters do not believe in social justice as a mere political commitment.
The obligation of the faithful to the principles of social justice go back to the very foundations of our religious belief. In fact, the teachings on social justice are among the oldest and most consistent aspects of the teachings of the prophets and the evangelists.
For example, in his, “I have a Dream speech, when Martin Luther King said: “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”. He wasn’t quoting a politician, right? He was quoting from the prophet, Amos (5:24 RSV), who lived perhaps 800 years before the birth of Christ.
The prophet Isaiah 1:17 taught that we should “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause.”
Zechariah 7:9-10 put our obligation to social justice into the mouth of God: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
And, of course, there is the beautiful comment from the prophet Micah 6:8 “He has told you what is good; and what is it the LORD require of you, “that you do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God”
And to bring it all up to date and to emphasize the relevance to a Maria graduation, I conclude with a quote about the word Mercy, from Pope Francis, he said: “this word changes everything. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly… this merciful Father who is so patient. … Let us remember the Prophet Isaiah who says that even if our sins were scarlet, God’s love would make them white as snow.
Have a wonderful day, acknowledge your accomplishment, give thanks to all those who helped you, celebrate and be happy. God bless you all.
Commencement, May 20, 2018, President Thomas J. Gamble, PhD