Franciscan Graduates Largest Class Ever
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Speakers Urge New Grads to Put Faith First
STEUBENVILLE, OH (May 17, 2012) - "Franciscan University has a unique place in our country," said Bishop Arthur Serratelli, at the May 11 Baccalaureate Mass for Franciscan University of Steubenville's record-breaking 2012 graduating class of 731 students.
Bishop Serratelli, from Paterson, New Jersey, emphasized that the University "has become a light on the hill," to fight against the secular pressures of the modern culture, through the transcendent value of the Catholic faith and strengthened by formation and personal integration.
Before Mass, Bishop Serratelli received an honorary doctorate of Christian letters for his contribution to the Church in the translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal into English.
He expressed his admiration for the University, saying that on this campus, "faith and reason are not enemies, but friends," in a response to the call of Pope John Paul II's Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church).
"Our union with Christ tips the scales toward good, into the right direction," he said.
Sending forth 541 undergraduate students and 190 graduate students from 40 undergraduate programs, plus seven master's programs, the class of 2012 surpassed even 706 graduates from the class of 2010.
This year's graduate commencement, held the morning of May 12, also included the first graduates from the online Master of Science in Education Program.
"You are being sent forth, as your University's vision statement indicates, to respond to St. Francis of Assisi's mandate to 'rebuild my Church,'" said Dr. Marie T. Hilliard, in her remarks upon receiving the honorary doctorate of Christian ethics for her enduring commitment to the sanctity and dignity of all human life.
"Each of you is being sent forth into a world in which the only religion that is allowed to be exercised publicly is that of secular relativism," said Hilliard, director of Bioethics & Public Policy for the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
Hilliard, a registered nurse and canon lawyer, serves as a resource for the United States Bishops on the implementation of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care. She said that Franciscan's graduates, more than ever before, are called to be the "leaven" in the world of secular relativism.
"The culture of secular relativism, empowered by government, increasingly is becoming hostile toward conscience rights and religion, especially the Roman Catholic Church, which is the largest non-governmental provider of health care, education and social services in this country," she said.
Franciscan University's president, Father Terence Henry, TOR, referenced a quote from 20th-century writer G.K. Chesterton at the close of the graduate commencement, that the real secret to St. Francis of Assisi is that "he saw the image of God in every face he met."
Father Henry urged the graduates to strive for this perspective, so that at the end of their lives "may God say to you, 'well done, my good and faithful servant.'"
Retired Air Force General Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA, and recipient of the University's honorary doctorate of public administration, also echoed similar thoughts in his address at the undergraduate commencement later that morning.
"Facts are facts," he said. "I learned in philosophy class, and I'm sure you did too, that people are entitled to their own opinion. They are not, however, entitled to their own facts."
General Hayden stated, "the truth eventually wins out," and referenced President John Adams who once said, "Facts are stubborn things."
"Facts—like my religious freedom—are something given to me by God, not by my government and not something to be controlled or doled out by the Secretary of Health and Human Services," said General Hayden, earning a standing ovation that lasted over a minute.
He challenged the graduates to remember that when their time comes, "stand your ground, don't forget the moral compass you have been given here at Franciscan University."
Another theme that he found prevalent was that "everything is connected to everything else."
He shared a story about when he was a military attaché to a Warsaw Pact country during the Cold War. Since part of that position involved communicating with the opposing side, he and his wife once had dinner with officers from Greece, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, and Communist East Germany.
"We were actually late for dinner," he said, recalling that the evening was December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception—a holy day of obligation.
He said that though their Greek hosts graciously held dinner for them, General Hayden and his wife felt obliged to explain why they had ...
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