Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.: 2023 Graduate School Commencement charge and benediction

Author: Sue Lister

Well, graduates, we are delighted to have you here and award you these degrees. After years of hard work and perseverance you did it. Today is your day as these cheers attest.

But, while these accomplishments are truly your own, you know you did not do it all on your own. You may have done the studying, but your families and loved ones did the sweating and stressing along with you. They cheered your successes and cheered you up with your setbacks. Many of them are sitting behind you today, and they have been behind you every step of the way to reach this milestone. So, to you mothers and fathers, siblings and spouses, friends and relatives: Thank you and congratulations. This day also belongs to you as well. And graduates, let’s stand, turn and applaud those who have supported you to get to this day.

This is a distinguished class, boasting many accolades and accomplishments in every field and discipline.  In addition to your accomplishments within your respective disciplines, you have learned how to meet the rigorous standards of your academic programs while managing, as Provost McGreevy reminded us, the special challenges brought on by a global pandemic.  You may merit a second degree for that.  We will not bestow that degree, but the lessons in perseverance, flexibility, and adaptability you have learned here will, I believe, serve you well in coming years.

Your degrees represent a major step forward in your lives, as well as in the life of the University of Notre Dame, as a university traditionally known for undergraduate education increasingly takes its place among distinguished graduate programs in the world. This growth is due not only to our distinguished faculty and academic leaders, but also to your scholarly contributions, you our graduates, that you have made and will make. We are proud to call you our graduates.  

Your degrees too represent what you, through your talent and hard work, have accomplished, and your promise for the future. They give you the right to expect much as you go out into the world; they also indicate what the world has a right to expect of you.

What can the world expect? Certainly, the highest level of learning and skill in your fields. But at Notre Dame we hope for more.

We hope you will use the advantages of your education you have received here for the common good. We hope that you will use your talents and skills not simply to serve your own interests but to care for the neediest and create a more just society. We hope that you acquired here not only the knowledge to make a good living, but the wisdom to live a good life.

A critical part of living such a life is realizing that you are called to use your learning for a purpose beyond yourself. As Pope Francis said, “We must not forget that true power, at whatever level, is service.” My hope for each of you is that you, no matter where you go or what your field, is that you will find and direct your learning and efforts to service.

Graduates, we congratulate you, we celebrate you, and we wish you every success. Thank you for your presence here with us over recent years. We look forward to learning more of the great things you will do with what you have learned here at Notre Dame.

Before I close, I want to take an opportunity to thank one more person. Tom Fuja has served this year as Interim Vice President and Associate Provost for Graduate Studies and Interim Dean of the Graduate School. Tom stepped into this role in the midst of a significant transition, and he has admirably navigated these new responsibilities and provided steady leadership for our graduate education. Tom, you have been a generous and selfless servant of this university and its students. We could not be more grateful.  Please join me in thanking Dean Fuja.

And now let us close with a brief prayer. Let us pray:

Of all the gifts you have bestowed on us, Lord,

None is greater than giving us intellects to seek truth, to learn and to understand your creation.

We thank you for these graduates who have labored so hard to learn and to understand.

We ask that you guide them to use what they have learned to go forth and serve this world.

And we pray this in your name.  Amen.

God bless you all.

Originally published by Sue Lister at on May 20, 2023.