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Franciscan Graduates Largest Class Ever

May 17, 2012 - 12:29 PDT


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 been late.

"I had just started the explanation when the East German Colonel, Ronald Wunder, began to nod violently in agreement while saying, 'Ja, Ja, the Feast of Mary. December 8th," he said. "Turns out my Communist friend had been an altar boy in West Germany before his family migrated to the East for work."

General Hayden said that as they walked into the dining room, they were two military officers, one an American and one an East German, "reciting aloud in Latin the opening prayers of the Mass: Et introibo ad altare Dei; And I will go to the altar of God."

At the undergraduate commencement theology professor Dr. Scott Hahn was declared the inaugural Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, Chair of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization for his contributions to Catholic biblical theology, to aid him in his work in the New Evangelization, and to remember Father Scanlan, who first brought him to the University.

"In recent years, Scott Hahn has become one of the most influential Catholic scholars in America because he knows how to make Scripture understandable and accessible," said Father Henry at the ceremony. "He also knows how to ignite a passion in Catholics for going deeper into the story of salvation history."

The top five states represented by the 2012 graduating class, in order, are Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, California, and Illinois. Graduates also hail from Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, and the Philippines.

The top 10 majors for the class of 2012 are theology, business, catechetics, education, philosophy, nursing, biology, history, mental health and human services, and English.

Complete audio and video of Bishop Serratelli's Baccalaureate speech and Baccalaureate Mass homily, as well as Dr. Hilliard and General Hayden's speeches, can be found at


Franciscan University of Steubenville
OH, 43952 US
Tom Sofio - Associate Director of Public Relations,


Franciscan, Steubenville, University, Graduation


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