Jan 08, 2019
Dmitriy Ivanov

Assumption Awards 617 Degrees at 101st Commencement

In an arena of digital natives, the message from commencement speaker The Most Reverend Robert E. Barron, S.T.D., was certainly well received. The graduates of Assumption’s Class of 2018 enjoyed the wisdom of Bishop Barron, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and evangelist who uses various forms of media, in particular social media, to share the Gospel message during the Assumption’s 101st Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 13, at the DCU Center in downtown Worcester.

Bishop Barron is founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, award-winning documentary about the Catholic faith, which is now a nationally syndicated series. His website, WordOnFire.org, attracts millions and he is followed by more than 1.5 million on Facebook. According to Bishop Barron’s YouTube channel, his videos, which have been viewed more than 25 million times, provide “brief and insightful commentaries on faith and culture” that complement his weekly sermons podcasted at WordOnFire.org.

In his speech, Bishop Barron shared a cautionary tale of actor Don Johnson at the height of his fame in the 1980s; all of his dreams had come true—he was rich, honored, and full of power—yet he was miserable. “We human beings can experience all the good the world has to offer—wealth, pleasure, honor and power—and still feel unsatisfied and restless,” he said. “It’s because we were made for more than that … The satisfaction of the restless heart is in God.”

Bishop Barron spoke of St. Augustine, whose restless heart led him to God, and that “filling ourselves with God means filling ourselves with love” and “the desire to do good of the other.”

“There isn’t the slightest thing wrong with money, power, pleasure and professional accomplishment, as long as you don’t make them the center of your lives,” he said, sharing one of St. Augustine’s most memorable quotes: ‘Love God and do as you please.’ “If willing the good of others is at the center, off you go… Providing that all these endeavors are expressions of love, then when you find wealth, you will know what to do with it. Then, if you’re honored, it will be for the right reasons. Then, if you acquire power, you will use it to enhance the lives of others.”

Because of his considerable social following, Bishop Barron is well known beyond the halls of academia and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “When I had a chance to interview His Excellency … he expressed concern that some people have stopped going to church, making it necessary for the Church to do more reach out to them in new ways,” said Noor Kawmi ’18, this year’s salutatorian in her introduction of the 2018 Commencement speaker. “Evangelization via social media allows the Church to proclaim the Gospel to the world beyond the walls of churches and cathedrals. In this increasingly secular age, Bishop Barron believes that the Church must be proactive and creative in spreading its message.”

Bishop Barron has served as a keynote speaker at many conferences and events across the world, and is a bestselling-author on Amazon, having published 15 books and written many articles on theology and the spiritual life. Bishop Barron regularly appears on CNN, EWTN, FOX News and NBC News offering clarity from a Catholic perspective on significant issues.

In addition to delivering the Commencement address, Bishop Barron received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Honorary degrees were also conferred upon Judith S. Beck, Ph.D., is president and co-founder of The Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, who received a Doctor of Humane Letters; and John Agresto, Ph.D., former president of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM, who received a Doctor of Humane Letters. The recipients were honored for their dedicated work to community service and living the Assumption mission.

During the ceremony—in which 406 Bachelor of Arts degrees; 180 graduate studies degrees (Master of Arts and Master of Business Administration) and certificates; and 31 Continuing and Career Education degrees (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Science, and associates) were awarded—Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D., president of Assumption, urged graduates to continue to live the institution’s mission in their future endeavors.   

“The mission statement states that Assumption ‘strives to form graduates known for critical intelligence, thoughtful citizenship and compassionate service.’ These are qualities that will serve you well in both your personal and professional lives,” he explained. “In a time of competing world-views, agenda-driven narratives, social media, and the lack of clarity as to what information is or is not true, critical intelligence will allow you to reason carefully, to recognize the complexities and paradoxes of the human condition and to recognize that you should not accept everything you hear or read at face-value, that there are different sides to consider in every situation, and that the goal is to arrive at the truth. Thoughtful citizenship will require you to speak and act with wisdom, engaging in your civic responsibilities in a way that will advocate for the vulnerable in our society, keeping at the forefront the dignity of all human persons.  Compassionate service will distinguish you as an Assumption graduate – as a young man or woman who has a burning desire to take what you have learned so as to contribute to the common good.”

Raysa Guerrero ’18, Class of 2018 valedictorian, encouraged her classmates to celebrate the moment, but also to look back in gratitude for what each of them has learned over the last four years, including lessons in failure, the ability to think critically, and how to rely on a support system.

“The words ‘to commence’ mean ‘to begin.’ Today we mark the beginning of a new chapter in our lives,” said Guerrero, who received a standing ovation after her speech. “Our Commencement Day also designates the end of our four years together at Assumption. At this celebratory moment, we look forward in hope towards our futures, ever mindful of the opportunities that an Assumption education has made possible for us … When we leave this arena, we will walk different paths … As we look forward in hope to the good that is still to be done in this world, we must be grateful for the opportunities we’ve had and the opportunities that will be presented to us in the future.”