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June 3, 2009
Cardinal Arinze urges grads to give dynamic Christian witness
By John Gleason
On May 23, a dozen students representing the third graduating class of the Augustine Institute processed into Christ the King Chapel at the John Paul II Center for the commencement exercise and Mass to celebrate their achievement.
Main celebrant and homilist for the Mass was Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of Sacraments at the Vatican. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., was the concelebrant.
The Augustine Institute offers graduate degrees in sacred Scripture, evangelization and catechesis. The institute’s professors are top-rated scholars who deliver orthodox Catholic content to train leaders for the Church’s evangelizing mission. Of the dozen graduates, 10 were receiving degrees in evangelization and catechesis; the other two in biblical theology.
Cardinal Arinze commended the graduates for completing such a demanding course of study and began his address by noting that Jesus Christ, before ascending into heaven, gave his Church a mission, promising the unfailing assistance of the Holy Spirit.
“He told his apostles they would receive power ‘when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,’” he said, “and ‘you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem.’ At this celebration of the commencement in the Augustine Institute, we ask ourselves how this mandate applies to our graduating students.”
Cardinal Arinze went on to say that the lay faithful are called to seek the kingdom of God in realities like family, trade, profession, mass media and government; it is in the midst of these secular professions and occupations where they are expected to give witness to Christ.
“The Catholic graduate should show that there is harmony between religion and life,” he said. “They should articulate a dynamic Christian stance in front of societal problems and challenges. They should speak, broadcast and spread in other ways a Christian-inspired vision of society …so that the world may run better according to God’s plan.”
The lay faithful, he explained, find strength by participating in the life of the Catholic community, not just at Mass or at other sacred celebrations, but in catechesis, service of the needy, participation in parish programs and membership in Catholic associations.
“The parish is, after all, a community of faith, worship and service,” he said.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, José Luis Gonzalez, the class valedictorian, said the Augustine Institute had given all the graduates a mission for life, then drew laughter from his fellow graduates when he added, “We sat through lectures and memorized more in a week than we ever thought possible.”
Returning to a serious tone, Gonzalez said that everything the students went through was a means to an end.
“It’s served to give us an authentic world view. We come to this day with a clear understanding of what we must contribute for the continuation of rebuilding a Christian culture,” he said. “On behalf of our class, I want to thank Archbishop Chaput for the support of the Augustine Institute and to Cardinal Arinze for taking time from his schedule to be part of this celebration.”