STEUBENVILLE, OH — Franciscan University of Steubenville’s baccalaureate and commencement speakers impelled graduates of the Class of 2013 to share the good news of Jesus Christ, to accept new challenges, and to use their education to make a difference in society. Also during the weekend celebrations, Father Terence Henry, TOR, was honored for his 13 years of service as Franciscan University’s president.
With 708 graduates from 40 undergraduate and 7 master’s programs, the Class of 2013 was the University’s second-largest graduating class.
At the May 10 Baccalaureate Mass, the Most Reverend José H. Gomez, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, noted that today’s society believes “there is no God or his existence doesn’t make any difference. Worshiping God, living our faith, is more and more contrary to the law.” This presents a challenge for the Church, he said, because “we have to find new ways to proclaim Christ and to live as Christians in this culture. This is what the new evangelization is all about, and that’s what we expect from each one of you.”
Archbishop Gomez encouraged the graduates to share the good news of Jesus Christ and to change the world. “Our mission is to continue his mission: To redeem that little part of the world that we live in—our homes, the places where we work, our neighborhoods, to sanctify reality, to help our loved ones and the people we meet every day to find God,” he said. “And we go with Jesus, we go with God. He gives us the promise that he made to his first apostles, the promise that he would be with us, no matter what, until the end of the age.”
Prior to the Mass, Archbishop Gomez received an honorary doctorate of Christian letters for his faithful proclamation of the Gospel. Appointed in 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI as a consultant to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, Archbishop Gomez oversees the largest Catholic archdiocese in the United States, which is home to one of the largest Hispanic Catholic populations in the country. He previously served as archbishop of San Antonio and as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver.
Franciscan University’s graduate commencement was held the morning of May 11. Colleen Carroll Campbell, author, television and radio host, and former White House speechwriter, received an honorary doctorate of communications for giving voice to the truth of the Church’s teachings and gave the commencement address.
Campbell told the graduates to be open to God’s call and to “know how to say yes when God calls you to scrap your plans and do the unexpected.” She also urged them to avoid growing too comfortable in their plans, vocations, careers, and more. “We can even get stuck clinging to what God asked of us yesterday, and so find ourselves unable to heed his call on our lives today.”
Campbell, who will begin anchoring EWTN’s first-ever nightly newscast this summer, said embracing a new path in life isn’t easy, but that Franciscan’s graduates have the support of friends and family as well as “the scores of heavenly friends you cannot see, men and women who have run this race before you and finished well.”
The saints, she explained, teach by example how to move forward in each new stage of life. God’s call to St. Francis to “rebuild my Church” wasn’t simply a directive “for some pro bono carpentry work,” Campbell pointed out. “Imagine what the world would have lost had Francis gotten stuck on his original interpretation of God’s call and failed to embrace the more radical mission the Lord had planned for him.”
During the undergraduate commencement at noon, the honorable R. James Nicholson, former chair of the Republican National Committee, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, and secretary for Veterans Affairs, was awarded an honorary doctorate of public administration for his enduring concern for God’s poor and his passionate commitment to furthering the spread of human freedom.
In his address, Nicholson urged graduates to be prayerful and persistent. “When the going gets tough, and it will on occasion, resort to prayer. God doesn’t want you to fail,” he said, also reminding them of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew, that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
The power of prayer has been evident in his life, Nicholson said. Through prayer, he both survived Vietnam and found a wife, to whom he has been married for nearly 46 years. His prayers to St. Anthony, he said, resulted in the location of a wallet-sized hard drive, stolen from the home of a government official, that contained crucial information about the nation’s veterans. Remarkably, the hard drive was determined not to have been compromised.
Nicholson noted that the graduates are entering the next phase of their lives at “such a propitious time,” when the freedoms of religion and conscience and the sanctity of marriage are threatened.
“There’s a palpable downward drift in the traditional values of our society. Pope Benedict XVI aptly described this as the tyranny of secularism. But therein lies your mandate and your opportunity,” he said, urging Franciscan’s graduates to “push back” and use their education, leadership skills, and motivation “in first stemming and then reversing this downward cultural drift.”
At the end of the undergraduate commencement, Father Terence Henry, TOR, was honored for his 13-year tenure as Franciscan University’s fifth president.
In his remarks, Michael Hernon, the University’s vice president of Advancement, referred to Father Henry’s penchant for quoting British writer and Catholic convert G.K. Chesterton.
“G.K. Chesterton once said, ‘The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.’ That may be true, but our University family loved Father Terry long before we learned we would be losing him. He has been a faithful friend and a wise spiritual father since the beginning of his tenure, and it is hard to say goodbye,” Hernon said. “Despite that, we’re not too downcast, mostly because, as Chesterton told us, ‘Gratitude is the key to happiness.’ And Father Terry has given us so very much for which to be grateful,” he added.
Hernon and Father Malachi Van Tassell, TOR, delegate of the chairman of the Board of Trustees, fittingly presented Father Henry with a framed portrait of Chesterton.
“It’s great to see the face of a guy who was a champion of his faith, who loved life, and who defended it whenever he could. I know you’ll be inspired by him. Read as much as you can,” Father Henry said as he accepted the portrait, leading to laughter and cheers from the audience. He will receive a new assignment this summer.
Franciscan’s 2013 graduating class included students from 46 states. The top five states represented by graduates were, in order, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, New York, and Virginia. Members of Franciscan’s Class of 2013 hailed from Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico, and Nigeria as well.