[CUA Office of Public Affairs]           

May 17, 2003


Covenant House President Calls on CUA Graduates to be ‘Peacemakers’

Sr. Mary Rose McGeady, D.C., Says Building Peace Must Be High Priority, At Home and Abroad


Sister Mary Rose McGeady, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sister Mary Rose McGeady, D.C., called on the 1,072 newest graduates of The Catholic University of America to be peacemakers in a troubled world, during the Washington, D.C., university’s 114th Annual Commencement Ceremony.


McGeady, the president and CEO of Covenant House, delivered the commencement address during CUA’s graduation ceremonies, held Saturday, May 17, on the steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It will be one of the last speeches she delivers before retiring from the nation’s largest private youth assistance organization in June.


“As I reflected on the message I wanted to convey to you today, the word ‘peace’ overwhelmed my thoughts,” she said. “In the aftermath of war we hear everywhere the message and demand for peace. Every page of our newspapers is filled with efforts, programs, 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. We confront a crisis in Korea, and we confront minor but real crises in the Philippines, other Middle Eastern countries, as well as those closer to home in Cuba,” she said. “As you walk out into that world, I call you to strive 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.”


Diplomas were given to 1,072 graduates during Saturday’s commencement ceremonies. CUA’s Columbus School of Law graduates will receive their degrees in a May 24 ceremony at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Sister McGeady, one of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, took over the reins of Covenant House in 1991. The New York City-based charity — which annually helps more than 60,000 youth in 15 U.S. cities and five countries — has been providing shelter and assistance to homeless youth for three decades.


McGeady is credited with stepping in and saving the organization in a time of crisis.


When she came onboard in 1991, the non-profit was $38 million in debt and struggling to regain public trust in the wake of a scandal attached to its prior management, reported the February 2003 St. Anthony Messenger. Thirteen years later, McGeady has put the charity back in the black — with an annual budget of $110 million — and has doubled the number of people served.

McGeady’s work rescuing young people “has also rescued Covenant House,” wrote the Associated Press in a 2002 profile.


McGeady thanked the CUA graduates of 2003 who have volunteered at the Washington, D.C., Covenant House shelter and said their charitable efforts are needed more than ever in today’s world.


“Don’t just look abroad and wonder why they can’t succeed in building peace in war-torn countries,” she said. “Think about it. Maybe there are war-torn relationships right here at home; people in your own life, in your own neighborhoods. How about becoming a peacemaker 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.”


Father O’Connell confers an honorary degree on Vice Admiral Gaffney.

The Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., university president, conferred an honorary doctorate of humane letters on McGeady during the commencement ceremony.


Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, who earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from CUA in 1969, also was awarded an honorary doctorate — in education.  Gaffney, who currently is president of the National Defense University and is the senior uniformed oceanography specialist in the U.S. Navy, is set to retire from the military this summer after more than 30 years of service in such key positions as chief of naval research, commanding officer of the Naval Research Laboratory and commander of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command.  


Father O’Connell awards the President’s Medal to Monsignor Mohan.

Monsignor Robert Paul Mohan, professor emeritus of philosophy and a four-time alumnus of CUA, was awarded the President’s Medal, the university’s highest honor, for his distinguished scholarship and 52 years of faithful service to the university. A native of Wilkes Barre, Pa., and a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington since 1946, Monsignor Mohan has been a member of the faculty in the School of Philosophy from 1951 until his official retirement in 1990. Named the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education’s “Professor of the Year” for the District of Columbia in 1990, he has continued to teach philosophy at CUA through this year.


To view a video recording of the commencement ceremony on the Internet, visit: http://graduation.cua.edu/video.


To read a copy of McGeady’s commencement address online, visit: http://publicaffairs.cua.edu/news/03McGeadyAddress.htm.


To read a copy of Father O’Connell’s homily, delivered at the Baccalaureate Mass on May 16, visit: http://publicaffairs.cua.edu/news/03DOCbaccalaureateHomily.htm


To read citations for the individual honors presented during the general commencement ceremonies, click on the following links:


Sister Mary Rose McGeady, D.C.


Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II


Monsignor Robert Paul Mohan





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Revised: 5/18/2004

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The Catholic University of America,
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