Commencement Speaker Encourages Graduates to 'Prepare for Spiritual Adventure'
Rev. Robert Barron, an acclaimed author and theologian, reminded Providence College’s graduating Class of 2013 that the Holy Spirit is working in them and has prepared them for a life they did not dream was possible.
Father Barron, rector/president of Mundelein Seminary University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, delivered the Commencement Address titled “The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit — And The Search for Joy” at Providence College’s Ninety-Fifth Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 19, at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
The College awarded 1,093 degrees to 869 undergraduates, 177 graduate students, 42 students in the School of Continuing Education (SCE), and to five honorary degree recipients, including Father Barron.
A priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, he has written 10 books and founded Word on Fire Ministries, which uses new media to reach global audiences and draw people to Catholicism. He is also the host of the 10-part Catholicism documentary series, which was produced by Michael Leonard ’70 & ’00 Hon. and directed by Matt Leonard ’93. The series received a Christopher Award for excellence.
Father Barron said at the beginning of his Commencement Address that the Dominican tradition was close to his heart. He said he received his vocation as a student at Fenwick High School, a Dominican institution, while hearing a young friar presenting Thomas Aquinas’s arguments for God’s existence.
“I was only fourteen at the time, but that presentation was like a fire-bell in the night for me,” Father Barron said. “It convinced me of the reality of God and set me on a path of intellectual and spiritual adventure that I have never left.”
Most students will graduate "filled with an eagerness to make it big in the world” — and there’s nothing wrong with that, Father Barron said. But those achievements won’t make them truly happy, he said.
“To be filled with God is to be filled with love, and love is giving one’s life away for the sake of the other,” Father Barron said. “So here is the formula ... if you want to be happy --- not successful, that's something else --- contrive a way to make of your life a gift.”
God's powerful love
He reminded graduates that when God gave the world his son, most people rejected him. But when Jesus was put to death as a result of evils such as cruelty and institutional injustice, God’s love was powerful enough to overcome them and bring him back to life. That knowledge of the potency of God’s love motivated social reformers such as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he encountered water cannons and bullets, and Pope John Paul II, who faced military might.
“Whenever you are tempted to surrender to the forces of injustice and intimidation, remember the divine God is stronger than any tyrant,” Father Barron said. “The message of the resurrection is not something quaint and pious; rightly understood, it is still dynamite that can shake the world.”
Father Barron quoted St. Paul, who said in his letter to the Ephesians, “there is a power already at work in you that can do infinitely more than you can ask or imagine.”
Even though every graduate may have plans or goals or ambitions, “if St. Paul is right, the divine Spirit is already working in you, preparing you for a fullness of life that you did not dream was possible,” said Father Barron.
Though this might not be the most glamorous or trendsetting path, it will be the one that leads to happiness and fulfillment, he said.
“Young friends, seek with all your hearts to discover what the Holy Spirit wants you to do — and then do it … be ready for spiritual adventure,” Father Barron said.
“If you want to be happy and fulfilled, listen to him. Follow him. Pay attention to the holy longing. Understand that God’s love is more powerful than anything the world can throw at you. Realize your life is not about you,” Father Barron said. "And may the God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, richly bless all of you!"
Father Barron, who received a doctor of religious education degree, was one of five individuals awarded doctoral degrees during Commencement Exercises. Also honored were:
• Paul J. Birmingham, founder of the Catholic Schools Foundation in Boston, doctor of humanitarian service;
• Dr. Louise J. Buonomano ’76G, retired assistant professor of education at Rhode Island College, doctor of education;
• Vito D. Buonomano, D.D.S. ’53 & ’76G, a retired dentist and dental consultant, doctor of public service; and
• Michael A. Ruane ’71, past chair of the PC Board of Trustees and the founder and owner of T.A. Associates Realty in Boston, doctor of business administration.
More than a quarter of the 869 undergraduates of the Class of 2013 who received degrees did so with honors. Forty-nine achieved summa cum laude honors, 77 magna cum laude honors, and 101 earned cum laude recognition.
A total of 475 undergraduates were named to honor societies, while 35 graduate students and 19 SCE students qualified for honor societies.
Business disciplines and biology continue to be the most popular majors among recent graduates, including the Class of 2013. In the Undergraduate Day School, marketing leads the way, followed by finance, biology, accountancy, and management.
Five speakers, including three from the College, brought greetings to the Class of 2013 at the outset of Commencement Exercises. College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80 opened the remarks, followed by Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Colleen Cronin Duffy ’83, president of the PC National Alumni Association Board of Governors, and Pamela J. Butz ’13, senior class president.
Commencement Exercises were the culmination of a three-day celebration of the 2012-13 academic year. Commencement Weekend began on Friday, May 17, with the ROTC Commissioning, during which 12 students, including PC’s Alexander S. Forman ’13 (Langhorne, Pa.) and Michael A. Tagliafierro ’13 (Kingston, N.Y.), were commissioned as U.S. Army second lieutenants.
Weekend programming continued on Saturday, May 18, with the Academic Awards Ceremony and the Commencement Mass, followed by a reception for families.
— Liz F. Kay and Charles C. Joyce
Learn more about other Commencement Weekend events and the Class of 2013 on the Commencement page.
Read more about what's happening at the College at PC News.