Belmont Abbey grads: Be ambassadors of faith

BELMONT, N.C.—Intermittent showers didn’t dampen the spirits of those who attended Belmont Abbey College’s commencement May 14 to see more than 180 students receive their degrees.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston celebrated the baccalaureate Mass, joking during his homily that in this Easter season, the Lord must be providing for the renewal of everyone’s baptismal vows.

The Mass was moved inside from the plaza of Mary Help of Christians Basilica, followed by the 133rd commencement exercises back out on the plaza — with the graduates cheering each time there was a downpour.

Bishop Guglielmone urged the Class of 2011 to follow Jesus’ call to love one another and follow Him with a spirit of joy and friendship — the theme of the day’s Gospel passage from John 15:9-17.

“We are commanded to go forth and love one another as Jesus loves us,” Bishop Guglielmone said.

He told the crowd that Christians are called “to respond to the commencement address that Jesus gives to His Apostles as He leaves.”

“You remember that address — it’s probably the shortest commencement address that was ever given,” he said. “As Jesus is being ascended, being raised into heaven, as He leaves His Apostles, He says, ‘Go therefore, go and teach them everything I have commanded you. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Know that I am with you always, even to the end of time.’”

Jesus calls us to an intimate relationship with Him, not just as His followers but as His friends — to walk with Him in partnership, to cooperate with Him in fulfilling the kingdom of God, Bishop Guglielmone said.

“Our faith is not a private thing. Our relationship with God is not simply for our own salvation,” he said. “We’re asked to be ambassadors — to represent God in the world in which we live.”

Abbot Placid Solari, chancellor of Belmont Abbey College, presented Bishop Guglielmone with a honorary doctor of humane letters, calling him a “respected educator, faithful priest, accomplished administrator, wise shepherd, and passionate defender of the faith.”

Also receiving an honorary degree was Benedictine Abbot Claude Peifer of St. Bede Abbey in Peru, Ill., a Biblical scholar, theology teacher and author.

Before Abbots Placid and Peifer handed out the degrees to each graduate, William K. Thierfelder, Ed.D., president of Belmont Abbey College, congratulated them, saying, “You are the fruit of our work and prayers here.”

Senior class president Patrick Jacobeen said he and the other graduates are leaving with joy tinged with sadness because they love the abbey college as their second home.

He encouraged his classmates to continue the college’s mission of growing in mind, body and spirit, and to live lives of gratitude and thanksgiving for everyone who has helped them along the way.

Especially the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey, “who opened their home to us for four years, invited us in, invited us to pray with them, invited us to eat with them, and to share life with them, and to learn from them,” he said.

College students certainly aren’t conducive to the peaceful life of a monk “but they’re willing to give that up to welcome us and to teach us,” Jacobeen noted.

“Hopefully they continue to do so after dealing with our class for four years,” he joked.