Build a better world, bishop says at St. Leo graduation

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone hands out awards during the St. Leo University commencement May 15. (Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss)

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone hands out awards during the St. Leo University commencement May 15. (Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss)SUMTER—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone urged 84 graduates to strengthen communities and increase respect for human dignity at the May 15 commencement ceremony for St. Leo University.

The bishop was the keynote speaker for the graduation held at Sumter Opera House.

St. Leo is a Catholic university based in Tampa and was chartered in 1889. It was established by the Benedictines. The university offers 41 academic programs, including bachelors and masters degrees, to more than 15,000 students at the main campus, continuing education centers in seven states, and through Internet learning.

The school is one of the largest providers of higher education to the military. In South Carolina, the university has education centers at Shaw Air Force Base and the Charleston Naval Weapons Station.

During the ceremony, graduates currently or formerly serving in the military stood for special recognition.

Bishop Guglielmone was invited last year to speak at the commencement and since then the diocese has investigated ways to collaborate with St. Leo. One of those is the diaconate formation program which plans to use professors from the school.

Bishop Guglielmone asked the graduates to consider the word commencement and to regard the day as more than simply the end of their college experience and the beginning of a new career path.

He said the knowledge and new perspectives gained through higher education could help graduates succeed in their own lives, and alleviate what he called “an apparent lessening of respect for the dignity of the person.”

“In so many cases, we see the complete absence of respect in dealings with one another, and sometimes this lack of respect even escalates to rage,” Bishop Guglielmone said.

“Perhaps this milestone in your lives can be an occasion for a commitment to play a part in the restoration of that civility that seems to have been a major part of life in the past,” he said.

Bishop Guglielmone said the lack of civility in American life is reflected in politics.

“In today’s climate of hostility … the issues are identified with the person and opposing views are seen as coming from one who is an enemy,” he said. “The same problem exists in my church and from what I have experienced in many churches and between different religious groups.

“We all have a common goal, to achieve salvation and to allow God’s challenge to build a better world to take root in us. We are in this together, not as individuals but as a community and even though our approaches to the goal may be different, we are not enemies,” he said.

The bishop urged the graduates to work hard to get ahead, but never at the expense of the dignity of others, and reminded them their conduct should always be an example to young people.

“All of us have a task,” he said. “Let us use the gifts and talents which have been given us … to strengthen the communities in which we live, work and socialize by contributing to a deeper sense of respect and dignity.”

Bishop Guglielmone received an honorary doctorate degree from St. Leo, and shook graduates’ hands as they received their diplomas.

Guest speakers also included Chief Master Sgt. Lefford Fate, command chief for the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base; and Divine Word Father Stephan Brown, who offered the invocation and benediction.

President Arthur F. Kirk said the university’s Catholic heritage enriched its mission of bringing higher education to everyone.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dorothy Newman, who graduated magna cum laude with a bachelors degree in criminal justice, gave a farewell address for the class of 2010. Newman is married and expecting her first child.

“It has been a long, challenging road and I’m sure some of us thought we’d never get here,” she said. “The blessing is we are all here with a major accomplishment many never even try to obtain … regardless of the path you choose, follow it and live it to the fullest.”

After the ceremony, graduates and their families attended a reception at Central Carolina Technical College.