Words of Advice for Our New Graduates and Thanks to Our Golden Apple Teachers

Over the next few weeks, local Catholic universities and high schools will hold their commencement celebrations, which are not an ending, but a new beginning for these graduates. In addition to hearty congratulations to these young women and men, I would like to offer them a few words of advice.

As you now put your education to work and open a new chapter in your life, or continue in your schooling, you might hear from some who will tell you that success is measured in material terms – how much you earn and how much you have.  However, as we try to be disciples, followers of Jesus, we recognize that true success and real lasting happiness are not measuring by how many worldly goods we accumulate or how important we become in the eyes of those around us.  When everything is said and done, what is most important in life is love, which is also central to our holiness and is the lifelong vocation we all share. “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves,” affirms Pope Francis (Gaudete et Exsultate, 14).

Love – and the fullness of joy that comes with it – is rightly called Good News.  Love is something we experience in our relationship with Jesus.  Our ability to stay close to the Lord is the true measure ultimately of our success and I urge you never to be tempted to accept less.  As Pope Francis tells us, we should always recognize that with the transformative power of God’s love in your heart, you not only make a difference, you can change the world for the better (32).

With your graduation comes the recognition that we do not proceed through life alone.  We thus give thanks that accompanying you are your parents and other family members, your teachers and friends, and above all, God.  In a particular way, please join me in expressing gratitude to the following educators from the Archdiocese of Washington who were honored last night with a 2018 Golden Apple Award, given thanks to the generosity of the Donahue Family Foundation of Pittsburgh:

  • Louisa Dwyer of St. Jerome Academy in Hyattsville
  • Paula Farina of St. Pius X Regional School in Bowie
  • Mary Hay of St. Philip the Apostle School in Camp Springs
  • Thomas Kolar of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney
  • Kelly Nichols of St. Peter School in Olney
  • Paul O’Brien of Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville
  • Wendy Slay of St. Mary School in Bryantown
  • Jennifer Whelan of St. Columba School in Oxon Hill
  • Lauren Wisniewski of Holy Redeemer School in College Park, and
  • Jacquelyn Wolfgram of St. Elizabeth School in Rockville.

Each of these educators is a witness to the gifts given to them by God, their willingness to give of themselves in love to others, and thus set a true standard by which to measure success.  You graduates have your own gifts, talents and abilities as well.  Graduation time is a reminder that Jesus calls us to be part of something truly great – a world of justice, truth, kindness, compassion, wisdom, peace and love – and that each of you, in your own way, has something to offer to help make that happen.

I hope you will always be mindful that because of your Catholic formation, you bring a vision of life and purpose rooted in the Gospel, enlightened by your faith, and capable of making this world a better place.  All of us join you in recognizing that now it is your turn to become a part of this wonderful effort.