A Message to the Class of 2014

Dr. DiSalvo in the Alumni Hall bell tower

I am pleased and proud to offer my very warmest welcome to the families and guests who join us today and my heartfelt congratulations to our graduates on this auspicious occasion. Today marks Saint Anselm College’s 121st Commencement Exercises. Some dedicated members of our community have taken part in more than forty of those ceremonies, but for me as Saint Anselm’s new president, it is a very special first.

Today represents a collective triumph, not just of the Class of 2014, but of their professors, and the administrators and staff who have guided and supported them on their journey. As our graduates take their leave from their Saint Anselm home that was founded and is lovingly sustained by the monks of Saint Anselm Abbey, our gratitude extends to many people. For the admission officer who first inspired a young person’s interest in Saint Anselm and the dining hall employee who served up encouraging words as well as meals along the way, to the teacher who graded the last exam and will serve as a mentor for decades to come, today is a shared celebration. Far from least of those sharing in this gratitude are the parents and families of our graduates, whose caring presence has sustained them over the past four years in ways large and small, and who now proudly watch as they prepare to take their next steps forward, strengthened by that foundational love and support.

Today also represents hundreds of individual journeys of personal and academic growth, of goals set and achieved, majors selected and abandoned, plans altered, discoveries made, relationships formed and horizons opened. Each graduate who ascends the stage today brings a personal story of joy, heartache and perseverance, often against the most difficult of obstacles. With them, we remember in prayer today the parents, grandparents and other family members lost by these graduates who cannot be here to celebrate with us today.

Members of the Class of 2014: you are the first to whom I have the honor of handing a Saint Anselm diploma. On behalf of your professors, I send you forth to Harvard, Brown and the University of Texas; to Chicago, California, Germany, Spain and Rwanda; to hospitals, banks, schools, publishing houses, software companies and television networks; to the heady corridors of political power and the heartbreaking streets and villages of the most vulnerable.

We send you with God’s blessings upon you and your families and upon the remarkable life of creative and generous service that lies before you. For you have learned in your four years what generations before you have known and what I have discovered in just one short year: Anselmian today. Anselmian tomorrow. Anselmian always.

An Easter Reflection

The Resurrection of our Lord is upon us! Let us rejoice and be glad!

A cross in the Abbey Church

I believe it is only fitting that Easter falls late on the calendar this year. After a long, harsh winter, we celebrate the risen Christ just as the earth begins to warm, the flowers begin to bloom and the birds begin to sing. New life is evident all around us.

Today I am reminded of a quote that could be found in my catechism book circa 1969. It answered the question “What is the Church?” As a young boy, I identified with the place we gathered for liturgy on Sunday and for confession every Friday. But when Sister Irene called on me to answer the question, I popped up from my desk, stood at attention and recited the following:

“The Church is the family of God’s children gathered together by the risen Lord.”

I could think of no better way to celebrate Easter than by living that statement each and every day. As Anselmians, I ask each of us to stop and give pause as we celebrate together the Church and our place within it. The risen Lord is alive around us. Our Benedictine charism compels us to live a life for others. We give thanks for all that we have in His name.

The Resurrection of our Lord is upon us! Let us Rejoice and be glad!

A Wave of Compassion

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting the students who were offered admission to the Saint Anselm Class of 2018. It is an exciting day: so many potential Anselmians, along with the family members who raised them to be the kind of bright, motivated young men and women we think belong here in our community on the Hilltop.  We do a lot to transform these students into engaged, productive citizens—but I know very well that it all starts with the family.

The National 9/11 Flag

Today, at the Admitted Student Open House, hundreds of these students and families shared a special experience: the National 9/11 Flag, a symbol of the strength and compassion of the American people in the face of tragedy. The flag is on display this week at Sullivan Arena.

The 9/11 Flag is one of the largest that flew over Ground Zero. It was repaired by many hands in many locations throughout the country, and stitches have been added from the original “Star Spangled Banner” and the flag that cradled Abraham Lincoln after he was shot. American history is woven into the fabric of this flag.

The 9/11 Flag is so treasured by our country that it is going to be permanently installed at the September 11 Memorial and Museum at the site of the World Trade Center. Saint Anselm College is privileged to be its last stop on its journey through all 50 states.

Jeff Parness, the president of the New York Says Thank You Foundation, told us how he began the organization that has been the guardian of the flag. The foundation (of which I am a board member) sends volunteers across the country to help communities affected by disaster.

It wasn’t the first time I had heard the story, but it still affects me powerfully. The overwhelming feeling I had as I joined the families who were here to experience Saint Anselm College and the 9/11 Flag, was one of movement and progress.

The New York Says Thank You Foundation started with an idea from Jeff’s young son about sharing his toys with children in San Diego who had lost theirs in fires. The idea grew and gained momentum, and now brings help and hope to so many people. It seems like every good idea about this flag led to another—including the 9/12 Generation Project, which activates students in hands-on service learning projects.

Now, the flag truly is the modern version of the Star-Spangled Banner.

As Jeff told his listeners, this flag is not just about what happened on 9/11, but what happened on 9/12: the start of a wave of compassion and service. I hope the future Anselmians at our open house felt it and will be called to be a strong and caring part of our community and the world beyond.