BRIGHTON -- Sixteen members of the class of 2016 earned Master degrees from the Theological Institute for The New Evangelization May 17 during a commencement ceremony at St. John's Seminary in Brighton with rector Msgr. James P. Moroney.
Kathleen Bird, Deacon Michael Curren, Carol Frances Galante-Dias, Sue Foelix, Marianne Guerard-Geary, Janet V. Hutchison, Sarah Melendez, Rosemary Maffei, Deacon Kevin P. Martin Jr., Deacon William Proulx, Kathy Reilly, Robert Sommer, Joseph Stevens, and Audrey Sullivan earned a Master of Arts in Ministry, while Brother Ryan Carlson, and MaryEllen McLaughlin earned a Master of Theological Studies.
Melendez and Reilly were unable to attend the ceremony.
The commencement address was given by Michael Manning, an 18-year veteran of the United States army who has previously served as assistant professor of Military Science at Providence College, State Partnership Program Coordinator, and Legislative Liaison for the Rhode Island National Guard.
In his address, Manning spoke of his time in the military and the clergy and religious who served with him. He noted that they, through their sacrifices, can teach others about "bringing faith, learning, (and their) love of Christ to the world."
"They sacrificed for something bigger than themselves... Everything they did was by, with, and through Jesus Christ," he said.
He spoke of love, saying that he has "seen love manifest in the sacrifice of soldiers in combat, and in the witness provided by our nuns and priests in Afghanistan."
"But, we don't need to look to combat to see what love looks like... The key is to get up every day and make a conscience effort to be open to God's grace and love," he said.
"As Pope Francis reminds us, once we have received the refreshment and comfort of Christ, we are called in turn to become a refreshment and comfort for our brother and sisters," he continued.
Sue Foelix served as the commencement's student speaker, and she discussed what she and her classmates learned at the institute.
"For us, each course was like a guided tour through a grand museum, highlighting a collection of treasures that beckons us to return and savor more deeply. Some displays fed our souls and developed our spirituality. Other collections challenged our intellectual capacity," she said.
She concluded her address with a prayer and words of thanks.
"To all of you who have traveled on this world with us, thank you. And to you Lord Jesus, guide us as we merge back in with this life's journey," she said.
The benediction was offered by Msgr. Moroney, who offered words of congratulations to the graduates.
"I want to congratulate each of the graduates who, over the years, have driven from work when you were exhausted all the way to Brighton, dragged themselves out of bed on days which others called a day off, and stayed up beyond everybody else's bedtime reading or writing that paper. Why did you do it? You did it because the Church needs you, and she needs you as never before," he said.
"She needs you to speak the truth in a world of shadows, the give in a world where everybody seems to be taking, and to seek out who those who need you, not for personal gain, but because Jesus asked you to do it. For you will take up this work not for prestige or pay... You do it because you heard the still small voice of God calling your name." he continued, before ending with a prayer.
Speaking with The Pilot after the ceremony, McLaughlin said she had attended a certificate program at the institute, but decided to earn a Master of Theological Studies because she wanted to "go much deeper" in her learning.
"The faculty's wonderful... There's just inspiration at every turn," she said.
She said that while she will be staying at her job as senior manager for Legal Affairs in the General Counsel's Office at Ameriprise Financial, she plans on auditing additional courses at the institute.
Father John Sheridan, pastor of Cranberry Catholic Collaborative in Middleboro, attended the graduation in part to support Galante-Dias, who serves as confirmation coordinator and sacristan at the collaborative's St. Rose of Lima Parish.
Father Sheridan said he is proud of Galante-Dias, who he said is both hard-working and modest.
"She makes St. Rose feel like the family that it is," he said.