WASHINGTON (CNS) — At the University of Notre Dame’s May 14 baccalaureate Mass, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl encouraged graduates to rely on their faith as they work to build a better world.
“Your generation faces great challenges to the whole idea we are all part of God’s plan … and called to make this world a better place,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “Remember, you do have the power in the Spirit to change the world,” he said, recalling Jesus’ words, “Behold, I make all things new.”
“You can make all things new, walking with the Lord and each other,” said the cardinal, who was the main celebrant and homilist at the Mass, which was celebrated at the Indiana university’s basketball arena, the Joyce Center. The Washington Archdiocese released a text of his homily, and graduation events also were livestreamed on the Web.
The cardinal, who was unable to attend the university’s commencement the next day, received an honorary doctorate at the end of Mass.
The citation for the cardinal’s honorary doctor of laws degree praised him as “a good and faithful servant of the people of God” and “a persevering and courageous leader of the Catholic Church in the United States.”
Cardinal Wuerl also was commended for his role as a teacher of the faith in challenging times. The citation noted, “As a teacher and author, a trusted adviser to popes and a shepherd of souls in the nation’s capital, he has helped the church do its thinking on the most contentious issues, speaking with clarity and moderation while seeking the truth that transcends the apparent divides between tradition and our times.”
In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl told Notre Dame’s graduates that in an age of instant communications marked by texting and other advances, “it is also important that we stay connected to the deeper reality of our existence — our relationship with the Lord, who is truth, life and love.”
Cardinal Wuerl urged the graduates to remember three important elements of life: their relationship to God, their obligation to each other, and their shared responsibility to help build a better world.
He encouraged them to remember those in need. “Our task is to see when we make our way through life, we try to make sure there aren’t those being left by themselves.”
The cardinal said that commencement is a time for graduates to thank God and all those who helped and supported them on the way, including their parents, other family members, friends and their professors. “None of us makes our way through the university alone,” he said.
Cardinal Wuerl, who hosted Pope Francis’ historic visit to Washington last fall, said, “All of us witnessed the riveting power of his simple Gospel message and the way he lives it.”
He noted that the graduates’ education at Notre Dame had given them “the opportunity for the formation of your mind, heart and spirit,” and he encouraged them to rely on that foundation of faith as they set out in life, and let that be a light along the way as they pursue their goals. “You are well prepared,” he said. “You don’t set out on this journey of life alone.”
That commencement weekend, Notre Dame conferred 3,065 degrees, including 2,163 undergraduate degrees. At the university’s May 15 commencement, Vice President Joe Biden and former House Speaker John Boehner received the prestigious Laetare Medal and were commended for their lives of public service and for their work for the common good. U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the commencement speaker. Boehner and Dempsey attended the commencement Mass celebrated by Cardinal Wuerl.
Many have criticized the university’s decision to honor the two Catholics hold positions on issues that class with church teaching. Biden supports keeping abortion legal and backs same-sex marriage and Boehner supports the death penalty.
Near the end of Mass, 12 Notre Dame students walked to the altar carrying a large American flag, which was blessed and will fly over the campus. Before the flag was sprinkled with holy water, Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, the university’s president, said, “May it always remind us of the principles it stands for -– life, liberty and justice for all.”
Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.