[CUA Office of Public Affairs]   


May 14, 2005


James Towey Encourages 2005 Graduates to “Be Good Shepherds”

White House Director of Faith-Based Initiatives Addresses CUA Commencement


James Towey (right) and Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., CUA’s president.

James Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, exhorted 850 graduates of The Catholic University of America’s class of 2005 to be good shepherds to the homeless, the elderly and all those “casualties of a culture where the strong dominate the weak.”


“I challenge you not to flee from this culture but to engage it and transform it. If you, the graduates of The Catholic University of America, do not transform Main Street and Wall Street and Hollywood Boulevard and Biotech Park, then who will?” said Towey, who gave the address at CUA’s 116th Annual Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 14.


The full text of his speech can be found at: http://publicaffairs.cua.edu/speeches/05CommencementToweyAddress.htm.

The video recording of commencement can be viewed at: http://digitalmedia.cua.edu/calendar/event_dsp.cfm?event=2208.


“A shepherd is someone who assumes the responsibility to love and care for those who face danger,” Towey said, adding that Americans live in a culture where youth are bombarded with sexual and violent messages, many children have no fathers, and refugees and immigrants often have no place to call home. To counter these conditions, Towey called for graduates to “become good shepherds who revere life and who strengthen the weak and heal the sick and bind up the injured and lead the morally and spiritually lost to safety.”


Towey, who was appointed to lead the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2002, is the founder of Aging with Dignity, a national non-profit organization that helps families discuss the care they want during serious illnesses. Prior to that, he served in a variety of government and volunteer positions.


Towey told Saturday’s graduates that they need look no further than their parents and grandparents for good shepherds whose example they can follow. Other models include men and women in uniform, priests, teachers — anyone who works to build a culture of life and puts the interest of others before his or her own. 


He said Graduates can also look to the “two saints” Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa for inspiration. Towey, an attorney, served as Mother Theresa’s legal counsel for 12 years and he concluded his remarks with a story about the founder of the Missionaries of Charity. The last time Towey saw Mother Theresa she was sick and confined to a wheelchair, but when Towey mentioned his children were playing in the courtyard below, she rose from her wheelchair and eagerly rushed to the window to look for them. “I will never forget how Mother Teresa looked to see the children at play. Such a childlike heart!” Towey said. “This was the fruit of a life lived for others, a life  given to God without counting the cost or sacrifice. To the end, like her friend John Paul, she had been a good shepherd.”

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington and CUA’s chancellor, gave the invocation at Saturday’s commencement.


Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., university president, conferred an honorary doctorate of humane letters on Towey at the ceremony and offered special congratulations and words of encouragement to the 2005 graduates.


“My personal congratulations to each and every graduate today. This is a class I’ve come to know well and we will miss you. But we are confident that you will bring honor to your alma mater as you go forward today. I ask you to carry with you the hopes and the visions of our university and its Catholic mission.  Carry it into the world, carry it high, carry it as a lamp to light this world in which we live.”


Father O’Connell also awarded the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters to The Most Rev. Gabriel Montalvo, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Archbishop Montalvo has served as apostolic nuncio to Honduras and Nicaragua and as apostolic pro-nuncio to Yugoslavia and Belarus. He’s served in his current post since 1998. Since 1993 he has been president of he Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, where young priests are trained for the diplomatic service of the Holy See.


The Thomas J. Shahan Award for Service was presented to Helene Connellan O’Neil, a trustee emeritus who earned a CUA master’s degree in nursing in 1956. A faculty member in the School of Nursing from 1956 to 1959, O’Neil served on the Board of Trustees from 1995 until 2003.


The President’s Award, given annually to one outstanding graduating senior, was awarded to Katie Elizabeth Bower, a double major in psychology and social work with a 3.87 grade point average. A member of Psi Chi and Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Societies, Bower organized spring break trips to Appalachia where CUA students built and restored houses for the poor.


Father O’Connell also served as the official celebrant and homilist during the Baccalaureate Mass at the National Shrine on May 13. His homily can be found at: http://publicaffairs.cua.edu/speeches/05DOCbaccalaureatehomily.htm.


Outstanding students were lauded during the Honors Convocation on May 13 at Hartke Theatre. In a separate ceremony 47 students were inducted into the honor society Phi Beta Kappa that day. Charles Montrose, professor of physics, addressed the new inductees.


Commencement exercises for the 250 graduates of The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law will take place Saturday, May 28, 2005, in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Federal Communications Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, a 1983 law school alumna, will deliver the commencement address at the law school’s exercises, to be held in the Great Upper Church.






  Back to top of page

Any questions or comments? cua-public-affairs@cua.edu


Revised: 5/20/2005

All contents copyright © 2005.
The Catholic University of America,
Office of Public Affairs.