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.