The 2012 class of St. John's Seminary's Master of Arts in Ministry program of the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization pose with Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, Bishop Arthur L. Kennedy and seminary faculty and staff following their May 23 commencement ceremony. Pilot photo/Christopher S. Pineo
BRIGHTON -- The members of the 2012 graduating class of the Master of Arts in Ministry (MAM) program of the Theological Institute for The New Evangelization traveled a long road before their commencement on May 23 at St. John's Seminary.
Vice president of administration Aldona Lingertat said she estimated the group traveled a total 114,722 miles -- equal to 4.6 trips around the world or halfway to the moon -- going to and from their studies.
"Thank you for your perseverance and commitment. You are a joy in hope to our community," she told the graduates.
The commencement ceremony in the Saint John's Seminary chapel included prayers and talks from faculty, staff and one of the graduates. Guests sang hymns as Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, Father Christopher O'Connor, vice rector of the seminary, and Auxiliary Bishop Arthur Kennedy, the rector of the seminary, led prayers.
Since its establishment in 2000, the MAM program has graduated 11 classes of lay leaders who have become pastoral associates, religious education directors, and employees of local Catholic entities in service to the Church. The program is taught by numerous members of St. John's faculty and became part of Theological Institute for The New Evangelization when it was established in 2011.
This year's graduates are:
-- Marika Donders, of Keene, N.H.
-- Linda Russo of Watertown
-- Chad Puclowski of Hanover
-- David Gilpin of Quincy
-- Kathleen T. Riordan of Milton
-- Kay Kociuba of Wellesley
-- Susan Horne (Tierney) of Needham
-- Kristin Campbell of Medford
-- Marie (O'Connor) Sweeney of Melrose
-- Jeff Volkers of Goshen, N.H.
In his commencement address, Bishop Kennedy offered the graduates inspiration through the teachings of historical theologians, including the teachings of St. Augustine.
"In Augustinian theology, learning is with others, and that is the primary concern. It builds up the community which is at the very core of the Church's life," Bishop Kennedy said.
After the commencement address Cardinal O'Malley and Bishop Kennedy conferred degrees on each of the candidates, while MAM office manager Maryellen Lenihan and theology professor Father Paul Ritt placed academic hoods on each of the graduates.
After the conferral of degrees, Lingertat introduced student speaker Kristin A. Campbell.
Campbell taught for six years in Catholic schools before graduating the MAM program and currently teaches religion at Central Catholic High School.
"The ten of us came here at different times, from different backgrounds, with different goals, yet we all share the desire for knowledge, wisdom and truth," she said.
She then noted the further travels graduates will undertake as they bring their knowledge from the classrooms at St. John's Seminary into the world.
"As we go our separate ways today, we must never forget the vision of the Kingdom of God which we preach, even if it means we run the risk of being called evangelistic," she said.
Before closing the ceremony in prayer, the cardinal also noted the commitment expressed through the students in travel to-and-from classes despite the distances.
"I have very good news for the graduates, first of all, that I want to share with you: Doctor Lingertat is going to arrange for all of you to get frequent flyer miles," Cardinal O'Malley joked with the graduates.
Cardinal O'Malley also emphasized the work of the graduates as a step toward building a community that welcomes people to the teachings of Jesus Christ, as opposed to a group that might drive people away from those teachings.
"Our challenge is to be that community of faith, and an open door for other people, to help them to find a home there," the cardinal said.
Graduates, professors and faculty spoke with The Pilot after the class received their Master of Arts in Ministry degrees and stood for a class photo in the courtyard.
Lingertat said she used the example of how far students traveled to show how much MAM students put into completing the program.
"They are doing this because they feel called. They want to do something with their lives. They want to bring Christ into other people's lives. For me, I have been so impressed and it is a real privilege to work with them," Lingertat said.
Professor of moral theology in the MAM program and vice president for mission of TINE David Franks said the class did not disappoint as the classes went on and the challenges continued for his students.
"As always, teaching students in the MAM program is a sheer delight. These are people who are absolutely committed to the mission of the Church, who will traverse whatever distance, will undertake whatever burden it is that is necessary in order be formed more fully in the heart of Jesus Christ, and therefore to communicate the love of Christ to the world," Franks said.
Kristin Campbell said she planned to check the mileage on her car after leaving the graduation ceremony, but provided an estimate just in case.
"I believe it was thirty eight hundred miles round-trip," she said.