The Catholic University of America

May 15, 2010

Departing CUA Chaplain Encourages Graduates to Seek God’s Plan for Their Lives

  Father Robert Schlageter preaches the homily at the Baccalaureate Mass.

 Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M. Conv., Catholic University chaplain and Campus Ministry director, posed two questions to the graduates gathered with their families at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for CUA’s Baccalaureate Mass on May 14.

“What is God’s will for me?” asked Father Bob, as he is called, during his homily. “What does God want me to do?”

Father Bob advised the graduating class of 2010 to let the questions guide them “on the journey home. If you write these questions on your heart, you will travel with an abundance of hope and an abundance of joy.”

Father Bob, who is leaving Catholic University this summer following 12 years of service, also told the graduating seniors that if they need a sympathetic ear in the future, they should call him. “It would be a privilege for me to listen.”

   Related Links

> Full text of Baccalaureate homily

> Videos of the Commencement, Honors Convocation and Baccalaureate Mass

> Commencement photos

> Full text of Father O'Connell's Commencement address

In addition, he thanked Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., for “this last chance to speak to the graduates.” Looking over at the university president, he said, “You and I have been through a lot, and we’ve tried to carry each other,” he added. “But I’m a little heavier than you are,” he quipped.

Father O’Connell drew laughter from the standing-room-only crowd when he said that CUA students had nicknamed the chaplain “Father Bob, chance of showers,” a reference to his tendency to become tearful in emotional moments. But when Father O’Connell thanked Father Bob for his “beautiful homily and extraordinary service to the university,” the crowd gave the chaplain a standing ovation.

Father O’Connell, who served as the official celebrant at the Mass, is also stepping down this summer after 12 years of service. The two priests have worked together since fall 1998 when Father O’Connell hired Father Bob. Since that time, Campus Ministry has grown significantly, with a wide variety of worship services, fellowship opportunities and social-service activities.

Baccalaureate Mass  
Father Robert Schlageter and Father David O'Connell distribute Communion at the Mass.

Over the years, the president and CUA chaplain have celebrated countless Masses together, including the university Mass of the Holy Spirit and the Freshman Convocation Mass, both held every year in September at the Basilica.

At the 2010 Baccalaureate Mass, Father O’Connell recognized nine graduates who are going to do at least a year of long-term service following commencement, nine who are entering the priesthood, and eight who are joining the military. He also recognized Monsignor John F. Wippel, the Theodore Basselin Professor of Philosophy who this year is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

The 2010 Baccalaureate Mass marked the sixth year that CUA’s Commencement Choir performed under the direction of Leo Nestor, Justine Bayard Ward Professor of Music. Members of the Washington Symphonic Brass accompanied the choir, the largest ever to sing at the Mass, according to Nestor.

Selections at the Mass included “O How Amiable Are Thy Dwellings” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a 16th-century Guatemalan Eucharistic motet by Tomás Pascual, and “Jubilate Deo,” composed by Flor Peeters and orchestrated by music composition major Joshua Armenta of Round Lake Beach, Ill., who will be a senior in the fall.

Joining Nestor as conductors were Verena Lucia Anders, who will graduate today with her master’s degree in sacred music, and Kevin O’Brien, a doctoral candidate in sacred music. The organists were Robert Grogan, basilica organist emeritus and carillonneur and faculty adviser for the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, and Jonathan Laird, Campus Ministry graduate assistant for music and liturgy.

The Baccalaureate Mass is a university tradition that honors CUA graduates. According to The Catholic University Chronicle, Vol. 1, Rev. William J. Fitzgerald, S.T.L., of Lambertville, N. J., gave the first Baccalaureate sermon at CUA in 1897 on Pentecost Sunday, which marks the end of the Easter season. The presiding CUA rector or president has usually served as the main celebrant at the Baccalaureate Mass.


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