“It’s a delight to have fallen into a friendship with this wonderful university…” – Curtis Martin
I skipped my college graduations, both undergraduate and graduate. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the time and hard work that went into my sheepskins, but graduation was in a basketball arena with 10,000 other students, the program was boring and not going was an opportunity to be rebellious.
Times change. And even a skeptic like me can show up for a graduation ceremony and have a wonderful time.
I was blessed to attend a breath-taking graduation ceremony yesterday. Divine Mercy University held its 16th graduation, with 62 really smart people getting masters and doctoral degrees in psychology. Yes, this is the sort of ceremony where faculty and graduates wear fancy robes with academic hoods of various colors. Some wear fancy hats.
Several things made this ceremony special. First, these graduates are going to help people and make a real difference in the world.
Second, the ceremony started with Mass, presided by Archbishop Cristophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. I can’t recall a nuncio ever speaking at my alma mater.
Third, the location was the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Crypt Church. That’s in Washington, DC at Catholic University of America.
The basilica is so beautiful that I won’t attempt to describe it. The only places I’ve seen that are as beautiful are in Rome. The “crypt church” is below the main, glorious church. For most of us, crypt church may sound like a fancy name for basement. But this basement isn’t like your local parish basement where the ladies guild has chili suppers. It might not be as magnificent as the space above, but it is as least semi-glorious. The décor is heavenly and the pipe organ would fill most cathedrals.
Fourth…Curtis Martin gave an inspiring commencement address (after receiving his honorary doctorate). He followed the 3-B advice given – but seldom followed — to countless graduation speakers: be brilliant, be brief, be seated. (I’ve heard many people be brilliant, but most don’t know when to stop trying to prove they are brilliant.)
Curtis founded FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students in 1998. A year later, Divine Mercy University began as The Institute for the Psychological Sciences. No, it wasn’t a coordinated birth, but it seems the Holy Spirit was thinking far ahead.
From humble beginnings, FOCUS now has more than 500 missionaries working on 100 college campuses. They accompany students on their journey to faith and a life of servant leadership. Sometimes, people the missionaries bring to the faith – or back to the faith – need the help that comes with the marriage of psychology with the Catholic view of the human person.
“Jesus wasn’t just about teaching, but being present – the Word become flesh,” Curtis said.
That’s where Divine Mercy University helps to make a difference. In the course of a few years, a psychologist may work with, perhaps, 500 clients. It is person-to-person work, which is familiar to those of us in Regnum Christi.
But think how person-to-person accompaniment multiples. Each of the 500 clients served is part of a family, part of a workplace, part of a neighborhood, part of a faith community. Each touches dozens of people. And as each client’s life improves, so do the lives of those they touch. The 500 becomes 5,000 and beyond.
“We have a similar vision, to help people flourish,” Curtis said.
In a spirit of full disclosure, I was inclined to be impressed by Curtis Martin before meeting him. Oh, I’ve read his books and seen him on TV. But more than that, he and FOCUS blessed my family.
My daughter and now-husband met on a FOCUS retreat at the University of Illinois, where they became active in the Fellowship. They waited after graduation to be married so my son-in-law could spend two years as a FOCUS campus missionary. Today, they help with the young-adult and youth ministries in their parish, where their FOCUS experience forms their skills to serve others. I find myself in the odd position of looking up to the younger generation; they are models for me to imitate.
Yes, I’m grateful I got to attend this graduation. And if you want to experience it for yourself, you can watch the entire event here:
Warning: the video lasts two-and-a-half hours – but here are the time marks for my favorite parts, things I believe you will enjoy most:
To see Curtis receive his degree and give his address: 1:42:39
Archbishop Pierre’s homily at Mass: 22:46
Introduction by Fr Charles Sikorsky LC, University President: 1:21:20
Address by Greg Kolodziejczak, PhD, PsyD, recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award: 1:33:55
And if you want to look for a friend or colleague who received a degree, the presentations begin at 1:59:28
We live in a broken world populated by broken people. That’s the world where Divine Mercy University and FOCUS will do their best work.