The Catholic University of America

"Making Peace"
114th Annual Commencement Address by Sister Mary Rose McGeady, D.C.
President and CEO, Covenant House
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, East Steps
May 17, 2003

I stand before you today, filled with great gratitude for the opportunity to rejoice with each and every one of you, and to be a part of your class, on this wonderful occasion as you graduate from this great university. I congratulate the Board of Trustees, the faculty, the staff and especially all your parents and spouses - all who have helped you to this day - so let's give them all a great hand.

As I reflected on the message I wanted to convey to you today, the word "peace" overwhelmed my thoughts. In the aftermath of war we hear everywhere the message and the demand for peace. Every page of our newspapers is filled with efforts, with programs, with plans, with successes and with failures to establish peace in our world. Efforts in Iraq may be the greatest, but that is not the only part of our world that cries for peace today. We confront a crisis in Korea. And we confront minor but real crises in the Philippines, in Middle Eastern countries, as well as those closer to home such as Cuba.

As you walk out into that world and encounter the multiple conflicts confronting our world, I call you to strive yourself to be a peacemaker. Your preparation here at the Catholic University has filled you, I hope, with the desire to change the world. And, believe me, it needs changing. I hope your years here have imbued your faith with a new strength that sees its responsibility to be an instrument of change, of peace, in the immediate world around you. You are not just one more college graduate entering the world, which is in such terrible pain. You are an instrument of healing and improving that world by truly striving to be a peacemaker.

As graduates of this university dedicated to the promotion of Gospel values, you are called to live out those values throughout your life. As leaders in the many walks of life that you will enter, you share in the moral imperative to advocate change that will improve the wellbeing of all. Each one of you must bring commitment and leadership, from the town hall meeting to national care issues - and there are many of them - in order to examine them and work to help the future. We need to network with colleagues, share lessons learned, know the current issues and search for ways to be part of the advocacy and the work for peace. Sometimes change, transformation, brings with it the clarion call to be one brave voice for justice. I hope you will be that voice, always.

Does it sound too overwhelming? Can we cut it down to size? I believe we can. And we do that by starting right here in our own hearts and resolving to use ourselves, our education, our insights and our skills to be a peacemaker right now, today, in our own home, our neighborhood, with our families, our friends, our daily acquaintances - that's where peacemaking has to start - and there are plenty of challenges right there. Don't just look abroad and wonder why we can't succeed in building peace in war-torn countries. Thank about it. Maybe you've got war-torn relationships right here at home. People in your own life, in your neighborhoods, that need a peacemaker. How about becoming a peacemaker right there, right at home? And once you start to look for broken hearts, broken relationships, hurting neighborhoods and hurting people, you will find an abundant supply, I guarantee you.

Think of the poverty right here in this city, our nation's capital. I have encountered that poverty and find the need for peacemakers to be tremendous right here. In my work at Covenant House in Anacostia, right here in Washington, I have found enough challenge to my peacemaking to last me my lifetime. There are literally thousands of youth, kids, whose lives are broken by neglect, rejection, deprivation and enormous need for healing and love. We strive to reach out, to encounter, to listen to the sad messages of kids who are homeless, depressed, needing the care they have not known in their families. There is no greater achievement, I say to you, than to believe that you have made a difference by giving hope and a sense of future to kids who have known only pain, loneliness and rejection.

One of our kids, Jake, has been passed around all his life, with no permanent home. He's 19, he has lived with his grandmother and he has been in six foster homes. He is a school dropout and is about three years behind in academic achievement. We found him sleeping in a park. We invited him into Covenant House. He has come to us, asking for help. So Covenant House is indeed a place for listening, for healing, for developing a sense of hope and opportunity. I thank the members of this class, who have become volunteers at Covenant House. We need you and we thank you. And I invite all of you to join us in this wonderful ministry of making peace in broken-hearted kids.

If we look to the Scriptures, let me share with you my favorite passage: the Book of Kings. God appears to Solomon in a dream and he says to Solomon, "Ask something of me." What an offer. What would you ask for if God appeared to you tonight? God says to Solomon, "Ask something of me." A delivery that only God could achieve. Solomon, our ultimate wise man, says to God: "Give me an understanding heart." From the endless possibilities of gifts that he may have asked from God, Solomon asks for an understanding heart, which I see as the major tool to be a peacemaker in the world. If your heart is filled with understanding, you have the tool to enter all situations characterized by conflict and make peace there.

If I could give each of you a graduation gift to equip you to be a peacemaker throughout your life, I would give you an understanding heart. You could make your way in this world, which is filled with conflict, and leave behind you a trail of peace that you have achieved. To heal one broken heart and offer hope is an achievement worth a lifetime. May God indeed make each of you a peacemaker and then you will indeed change this world. Thank you and God bless you.