On Friday, May 9, Fr. vanThanh Nguyen, SVD, delivered the commencement
address to the eleven
members of the Class of 2014. He stood in the same Main Chapel where he received his diploma 25 years ago, and extolled the graduates to live up to their chosen theme, “Go Make a Difference.”
Acknowledging their hard work in attaining this spiritual and academic milestone, he noted they were just beginning their journey.
“While every beginning has its own challenges and uncertainties, you graduates need not be afraid to step into the future,” he said, quoting the Gospel of St. Luke, 1:37. “Nothing is impossible with God.”
Today a New Testament scholar, director of the Masters of Divinity Program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and member of the DWC Board of Trustees, Fr. vanThanh recounted some of the challenges he faced in the early stages of his journey, especially with scholastics.
“When I first came here in 1984, I was so unprepared that I had to take remedial classes,” he said.
“One was ‘Basic Catechism,’ which was taught by Fr. Jim Heiar. It was only through his goodness and generosity that I even passed that class.”
He overcame his academic obstacles as he discovered a deep desire to learn the truth especially as it pertained to the Bible. His was a distance race, with the early laps containing obstacles of his own making. Fr. vanThanh pointed out that St. Paul liked to use athletic metaphors, especially running, when encouraging the early Christian missionaries to overcome obstacles in their quest to spread the Word of God.
“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.” – St. Paul, First Corinthians, 9:24-25
“For me, the Christian life, especially, the missionary life, is like running a race,” he said. “It requires self-discipline. It requires strenuous effort. It demands hard work and perseverance. The athletic metaphor therefore is quite appropriate for this occasion.”
To prepare them for their journey, he said, DWC followed the decree of its mission statement by providing an education, “…that includes spiritual formation, a liberal arts curriculum, and mission preparation within an environment that teaches and honors the rich cultural diversity of the world.”
But, Fr. vanThanh reminded the graduates that, to be a true disciple of Christ throughout their long-distance journey, the knowledge they have gained cannot replace faith, hope and love…the most important of which is love.
“As missionary disciples, you have learned that in this world and in this present age, love takes precedence over human wisdom and knowledge,” he said. “So how can you make a difference in today’s world and church? By being missionary disciples who radiate the joy and love of the Good News of Jesus Christ!”