OPENING A NEW CHAPTER: A smiling graduate waves to her family as she approaches the stage to receive her diploma Sunday at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. Providence College awarded 1,088 degrees during its 95th commencement ceremony.
Joseph R. LaPlante
BY JOSEPH R. LAPLANTE, Rhode Island Catholic Correspondent
PROVIDENCE — Providence College awarded 1,088 degrees at its 95th commencement in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center Sunday with graduates called to exercise their faith as well as pursue their waiting careers.
The five most popular of the 869 undergraduate degrees awarded at the Catholic college, in order, were marketing, finance, biology, accountancy and management, however, Commencement speaker The Very Rev. Robert Barron, creator and host of the popular documentary, “Catholicism” urged pursuit of “three truths from the heart of Catholic tradition.”
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Giving science its due for its role in the progress of the United States and how it has “proved to be an economic boon,” Father Barron said, “The human heart yearns for more...you cannot suppress the religious instinct.”
“Like it or not, we have all been wired for God; we have a holy longing,” he said. Gaining power and fortune are perfectly good pursuits but “these attainments will never make you happy.”
“If you want to be happy, then try a way to make your life a gift,” said Father Barron, who was introduced by college President Rev. Brian Shanley as “The voice and face of the Catholic Church in America.”
The Son of God, Jesus, is where “divinity and humanity come together.”
“God became human so that humans may become God...the divine love is the most powerful thing in the world...the Resurrection is still the dynamite that shook the world.”
Father Barron, who said he was “wearing my evangelist hat today,” moved on to the third truth, the Holy Spirit.
“The divine spirit is already working in you,” he said. “The divine plan will make you happiest and most fulfilled...Seek with all your heart to discover what the Holy Spirit wants you to do and do it.”
Father Shanley told the graduates and their friends and family who filled nearly two-thirds of the arena that the presence of “Done with Civ?” t-shirts on campus irk him close to rage because he believes his students are never done.
“Development of Western Civilization” is a four semester, 16-credit course taken in the freshman and sophomore years, with the Ancient, Medieval, and Modern periods of Western Civilization in the first three semesters, followed by a fourth semester focusing on a contemporary issue in the context of the Western tradition.
“You’re not here for ‘Done with day’; You are done with nothing. You are just beginning,” he said. “You will never be done with the questions Plato asked and the questions Kant asked. You are beginning the next stage of education that will never end.”
Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras also addressed the graduates. Both urged the students to enter the world and offer all they have because the country and the world need them.
Taveras said when he was first elected as Mayor a friend gave him a piece of paper with a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that he has kept on his City Hall desk ever since.
“‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,’” Taveras said. “We call to you. We need you. Providence, the state, the country and the world need you. Never be silent about things that matter.”
According to a school profile of the undergraduates: 227 graduated with various honors. The highest academic rank - 4.0 - was attained by Margaret Szot, who majored in biology. Nearly one quarter of the graduates have already found employment. One graduate, Beatriz Forster will begin a path toward a religious vocation. (See her story on page 5).
Honorary degrees were conferred on Paul J. Birmingham, founder of the Catholic Schools Foundation, Doctor of Humanitarian Service; Louise J. Buonomano, an assistant professor of education, Doctor of Education; Dr. Vito D. Buonomano, a dentist, Doctor of Public Service; Michael A. Ruane, founder and owner of TA Associates Realty, Doctor of Business Administration; Father Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, Rector of Mundelein Seminary and President of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, ILL., Doctor of Religious Education.