Graduates Urged to Act
May 16, 1998
ardinal Francis E. George of Chicago today urged graduates to allow God to accompany and guide them as they "act" in a new millennium of history.
"Your education has been planned for you to act," the archbishop of Chicago told some 1,600 graduates at The Catholic University of America's 109th commencement. "If you do not, people will say, 'What a waste. He or she had so much talent and preparation, and nothing happens.' And they would be right."
Speaking from the steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to about 10,000 graduates and guests, George, a Catholic University trustee and alumnus, explained that God is a "mover and actor," and now graduates are actors.
He noted that a church that has lost its sense of mission is dead. A God who doesn't act is dead. "So how does he act?" George asked. "As Americans we often tend to believe we have to act alone to claim our lives. This is not so. Perhaps it's hard to discern God's actions because he doesn't normally act alone, but with and through his creatures."
George added that higher education can sometimes lead one to forget that God acts. God can be reduced to a hypothesis by those trained in scientific methodologies that screen out anything that can't be quantified, he said.
Martyrs and saints don't die and don't live for a hypothesis or an idea, he emphasized. "You are graduates for a new millennium in human history. And on the occasion of major anniversaries, history becomes more self conscious through us.
George expressed his own gratitude to Catholic University, which awarded him a Master of Arts degree in 1965. He also thanked Brother Patrick Ellis, F.S.C., university president for six years, for "generous years of dedication, service mad intellectual leadership." Ellis announced last year he would step down from the presidency in August.
Honorary degrees were presented today to Chiu-Hsiong Huang, president of ALLCAN Investment Company in Taiwan and recipient of the university's Presidential Medal in 1994, and the Rev. Ellwood E. Kieser, C.S.P., of Pacific Palisades, Calif., who has worked in the entertainment industry since 1960 as a priest producer.
Huang, a member of the board of trustees at Feng Chia University, Taiwan, received a Doctor of Laws.
Kieser, executive producer for 23 years of the Emmy-award winning religious television show "INSIGHT," received a Doctor of Humane Letters. He produced the 1984 ABC special "The Fourth Wise Man," and collaborated with ABC in 1987 as executive producer of the movie "We Are the Children,&qout; filmed in Kenya. He recently has completed a film about Catholic social activist Dorothy Day.
Tim Russert, moderator of "Meet the Press" and political analyst for NBC Nightly News and the Today show, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Friday at the Baccalaureate Mass. Russert challenged the graduates "to improve the quality of life for the children of our country. Liberals call it doing good, conservatives call it enlightened self interest. Unless we instill in our young the most basic social skills and social values and respect for every human being we will be a very different society in the next century."
The degree recipients included 101 Ph.D.s, 601 master's, 26 licentiates, and 673 bachelor's. Catholic University's Columbus School of Law will confer 296 juris doctor degrees at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 23 in the National Shrine. Brendan V. Sullivan, a litigation attorney who represented Oliver North during the Iran-Contra congressional hearings in 1987, will speak.
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