Fr. John's Convocation Address

September 1, 2016


President John Denning, C.S.C.

Good afternoon and let me begin by thanking Professor Heather Bleakley for her thoughtful and inspiring words, and by congratulating Professor Helga Duncan on being honored with this year's Louise F. Hegarty Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Immersed in learning and research, both Professor Bleakley and Professor Duncan forge powerful connections and collaborations in their classrooms. They help students to stretch themselves intellectually and to look at life anew, not just once or twice, but repeatedly and as a habit of the mind and the heart.

In her remarks, Professor Bleakley noted that changing our worldview "requires switching lenses" and that, when we have clearer lenses, we can better "document and understand our world." Her enthusiasm for the art of discovery and her desire to impart that skill to her students is extraordinary.

Professor Duncan is equally passionate about imparting the art of discovery to her students. Several years ago, when the Alumni Magazine asked her about her most significant "AHA" moment of her teaching career, she replied:

"Not so much a moment but an ongoing series of classroom conversations that have had a considerable effect on my research and teaching." And those conversations, she explained, were with "excellent student critics" who inspired her to write about representations of sacred space in early modern literature.

Last October, Professor Duncan invited "Actors from the London Stage" to Stonehill for a week of workshops and classes with our students, as well as a performance of Shakespeare's "A Midsummers Night Dream." This magical, imaginative and humorous performance made the wonder of Shakespeare's work come alive for all in the audience that night and demonstrated her ability to transform the classroom, not just for her students, but for all of us.

The star-filled beauty of summer nights invite us to dream and to reflect, taking us worlds away and reminding us that all good things are possible.

This summer, Pope Francis spoke at World Youth Day in Poland and shared, "People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers, and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centered or small-minded. Don't be discouraged: with a smile and open arms, you proclaim hope and you are a blessing for our one human family, which here you represent so beautifully."

I think of these words of Pope Francis as being directed to you — the Stonehill student body.

Be dreamers.

Believe in a new humanity.

Refuse to see borders as barriers.

Don't be discouraged.

President Kennedy also spoke a similar message in 1961, when he said, "Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities because in each of us, there is a private hope and dream, which fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone."

I think of the education that happens here at Stonehill as one that truly embodies hope because of its particular calling on us to serve the needs of our neighbor and society and as one that benefits all.

With the start of classes, we are beginning our 69th academic year and this institution has progressed greatly since it originated in 1948. I think of the first Holy Cross priests and brothers as well as their lay collaborators, who had a vision and dream for the College. Individuals like Fr. David Arthur, Fr. Robert Kruse and Fr. Bartley MacPhaidin, three pioneers who gave so much of themselves to the College and were blessed to see how this institution flourished, enriching the lives of countless young people.

We have much to be grateful for in those who have worked tirelessly over the past 69 years. And like them, we have much work to do to carry on the tradition of providing our students with a rigorous education that truly transforms minds and hearts.

There is also plenty to celebrate and be thankful for, so let us ask Mary, Queen of the Summit, to watch over us in her love. May God bless you in your work and in your studies and may God' s spirit animate all that we do here at Stonehill. Thanks so much and I hope you have a great start to the academic year.