Assumption Honors ‘Resilient’ Class of 2020 with Online Conferral of Degrees Ceremony
On Sunday, May 10, the day on which the Class of 2020 was originally scheduled to receive their degrees at the 103rd Commencement, Assumption took a moment to celebrate the candidates for graduation and their years of hard work. President Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D., was joined by Provost and Academic Vice President Greg Weiner, Ph.D., and Vice President for Mission Father Richard Lamoureux, A.A. ’64 for a Conferral of Degrees ceremony that was livestreamed from the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. This event was in addition to, not a replacement for, the Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement scheduled for August 22 and 23, respectively.
During the livestreamed event, President Cesareo discussed that he contemplated how he wanted to honor and address the graduates and their families, “given that this is not what any of us envisioned this day to be like,” he shared. “Let me speak to you as a parent, let me speak to you from the heart, as I have come to know many of you through my interactions with you over the last four years.”
He continued to explain that as parents understand the great responsibility they have to nurture, protect, form and guide their children intellectually, spiritually, socially, and to lay the foundation that will guide them for the rest of their lives, Assumption has played the same role in the last four years. “That is why you will call Assumption your alma mater, which means nourishing mother,” President Cesareo said. “Just as your parents had hopes and dreams for you when you were born, so did we when we welcomed you here four years ago. Your faculty, coaches, advisors, administrators, staff, your president, we have all lived out our vocation as parents live out theirs, concerned for the well-being of each of you. We have sought to form you, to transform you into the young men and women you have become during your time here through the formation of your mind, heart, and soul.”
He also acknowledged the unprecedented challenges the Class of 2020 has faced in their final semester. You have come to the end of your studies at Assumption under extraordinary circumstances. “This has certainly been a difficult and challenging semester for your class. You have had to confront adversity and the unexpected,” he said, citing the February car accident that injured four students followed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “You should be proud of the way in which you adapted to this situation, how you showed your resilience, strength, and ability to overcome challenging times. Like your parents, I am proud of what you have accomplished, and I thank you for the many ways in which you have enriched this community by your presence, your gifts, and your talents.”
He added that while the COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for the Class of 2020, their Assumption education has and will help them thrive rather than simply endure. “Because of your education, you are able to view bad things in life as a challenge to be overcome rather than a crisis to be endured,” he explained.
“Assumption has provided you with an education that prepared you to confront and to make sense of these personal and societal challenges. This pandemic has made the unique value of a Catholic liberal education like the one Assumption provides even more evident. The most important challenges our society faces in both overcoming and understanding this crisis involve more than technical problems, although those are an important part of an Assumption education, too. The essential issues are the deepest questions of the human heart, which transcend time and place,” he said, adding that ancient and modern thinkers have explored the questions regarding the meaning of life and human suffering. “Saint Augustine reminds us that these questions are ‘ever ancient, ever new.’ The Assumption education you received has prepared you for a changing world. Many institutions have forgotten these enduring questions. Assumption never has, and you have benefitted from this. A Catholic liberal education engages these questions has prepared you to live out your vocations and to be lifelong learners. It has provided you with the wisdom and courage to confront the challenges we face at this time and that you will face throughout your life.”
Before closing, President Cesareo said he hoped that the disruptive nature of the last several months had taught the graduates some important lessons: “to take the time to say ‘I love you,’ to stop harboring resentment, thinking that forgiveness can always wait for another day, to cease pretending that little annoying things matter so much, to pick up your heads to look at the beauty of the world, to examine your beliefs about what truly matters in life, to mend relationships, and to take time to pray,” he said.
“I am not going to say goodbye, but rather arrivederci, since it is my hope to see you in August,” he said.
The ceremony was complemented by the playing of a newly composed hymn based, “Shelter Me,” a prayer song in the time of COVID-19, by Jan Michael Joncas based on Psalm 23. After the conferral of undergraduate, continuing education, and graduate degrees, Adam Duval ’20, William Goliger ’20, Arianna Pereschino ’20, and led by Brad Dumont, sand the Alma Mater, “Long Live the Blue and White,” via video conference.
President Cesareo concluded the ceremony by announcing the winners of the Donec Formetur Christus Presidential Award, which recognizes a junior or senior who embodies the spirit of Assumption and the ideals of an Assumptionist education. This year, two students—William Armstrong ’20, of Granville, and Timothy Cody ’20, of Manchester, NH—received the award.
Nominators called Armstrong a spiritual and compassionate person, who dedicates himself to tutoring others who are struggling academically through his work with the Academic Support Center and espouses the word of the Gospel as a member of the Campus Ministry Leadership Council, through participation in various SEND mission trips, by leading START Retreats, and leading Charismatic Praise. Outside of Assumption, Armstrong assists students at Elm Park Elementary School and serves as a youth representative on Holy Trinity Parish Council.
Cody was described as spiritual, mature, studious, serious about the future, athletically inclined, and someone who “has been a wholesome support for the spiritual and downright human welfare of fellow-students and an endearing example of a faith-filled young person.” Cody spent his years at Assumption actively involved and committed to Campus Ministry, serving as a Peer Minister, a member and leader of Advocates for Life, has gone and led several SEND Mission trips, has served on retreat teams, coordinated Charismatic Praise. He also served as a volunteer missionary with the Assumptionists in Paris, working with Tibetan refugees on a barge on the Seine River.
The Conferral of Degrees ceremony was followed by the 2020 Senior Mass, during which many members of the graduating class participated virtually. Chapel greeter Abigail Metcalf ’20 reminded her classmates that over their four years at Assumption, the Chapel of the Holy Spirit has been a gathering place of celebration as well as a place of reflection and quiet solitude. “While we cannot physically be together In the chapel tonight we are still united as members of the Class of 2020 in Thanksgiving for the many blessings that God has bestowed on us during our time at Assumption, including tonight‘s conferral of our college degrees.”
Fr. Ron Sibugan celebrated the Mass with some help from Campus Minister Joe Kwiatkowski and cantors Adam Duval ’20, Theresa Lizotte ’20, Ella Chomiak ’22, Jack MacPherson ’22, and Veronica Johnson ’21. Lectors Colin McQuillan ’20 and Nathaniel Livernois ’20 read the readings while Alicia Burrows ’20 canted the psalm. Members of the Assumption community read the intercessions, including Ashley Gioioso ’20; Vinny Sullivan Jacques, assistant director of campus ministry; Daniel DeLuca ’20; Libby O’Hara, professor of management and marketing; Justin Auguste ’20; Kerry Phayre, head Women’s Basketball coach; and Scott Brill, campus minister and InterVarsity representative. William Armstrong ’20 and Corey Soper ’20 also performed hymns during the service.
During his homily, Deacon Paul Covino reminded the Class of 2020 that it is a perfectly appropriate response, on this night in which they receive their degrees, to contemplate and wrestle with the enduring questions about one’s future, in particular about using one’s degree to find a job, and questions of destination and how to get there.
“During a time like this when so many people have been adversely impacted by the loss of jobs and income, it would be naïve to dismiss the very real concern about finding work that can a person and his or her family,” he said. “But an Assumption education has never seen that as the destination or the ultimate goal, emphasizing instead that our graduates should be known for their critical intelligence, thoughtful citizenship and compassionate service. In times like this, particularly, those attributes are needed more than ever as we seek ways to uphold the dignity of all human lives and safeguard the health of all people in efforts to reopen the economy. The prayer of every one of us who works at Assumption—faculty, administration, and staff—is that your degree and Assumption education what that represents are, like your mother’s guidance, a significant part of the map that leads to your true vocation in life.”
Deacon Covino ended his homily by urging graduates to use the foundations of their Assumption education to continue their journey of finding God. “Let Christ continue to be formed in you throughout your life, so that you reach this ultimate destination and so that your life might light the way for others to join you there,” he said.
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