“You, my dear graduates, can be central to that debate – as lay women and men, clerics and religious … from human trafficking and homelessness, to migration and direct provision; from gangland violence and economic uncertainty, to finding a shared vision for lasting peace and reconciliation on this island” – Archbishop Eamon Martin
The 225th anniversary year of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, has begun, and no doubt #Maynooth225 will bring its fair share of looking back and memories of milestone moments in the history of this great College. But my hope is that the anniversary year will also be marked by looking forward – with vision (dare I say 2020 vision?) and with hope that the Lord shall continue to “give success to the work of our hands” (Ps 90:17).
For you, my dear graduates, today’s celebrations provide an opportunity for you to look back on all you have achieved, but I trust that you too are dreaming of what the future will bring, now that you have reached this significant milestone.
As you look back, be mindful of the many people who have helped you on the journey to graduation – your lecturers and tutors, your supervisors, mentors and sponsors; and, not just those who directly assisted your learning process, but also the friends, family members and loved ones who encouraged you to keep going and to achieve your full potential. I welcome your guests who are sharing this moment with you.
St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, has always been a unique place of learning, housing as it does the National Seminary and the Pontifical University and sharing its campus in close collaboration with Maynooth University – to the benefit of all three partners. And this of course is the great strength of Maynooth – three partners, side by side, distinctive yet dependent, each drawing inspiration and opportunity from the other, and adding value, in partnership, to what each might achieve separately. I’m delighted, for example, to note the increased sharing across the Maynooth campus of undergraduate teaching, research and campus development. It is an honour to be able to confer for the first time today the joint B.A. in Theology and Arts awarded in conjunction with Maynooth University. I welcome the MU Registrar, Professor Aidan Mulkeen and thank him and his colleagues for their ongoing cooperation. Let us continue to support one another for the benefit of all our students.
Earlier this week Pope Francis spoke to the conference of the International Federation of Catholic Universities, gathered in Rome. He pointed to the unprecedented challenges facing the university system around the world:
“from the development of the sciences, from the evolution of new technologies and from the demands of society” universities are expected “to provide answers … to teach and do research and to prepare their graduates not only to become qualified professionals in various disciplines, but also to be protagonists of the common good, to be creative leaders and leaders of social and civil life with a correct vision of humanity and the world”
It reminded me of a recommendation from President Michael D Higgins ‘Ethics Initiative’, a few years ago, which identified the need for a renewed focus in Ireland on the ‘common good’. Contemporary Irish society, the report said, needs “a debate on what ethical values and principles we want to uphold and strengthen; we need to have a conversation(s) on our understanding of what constitutes a ‘good life’ or a ‘flourishing life’, not just for individuals but also for communities”.
You, my dear graduates, can be central to that debate – as lay women and men, clerics and religious. You, and your contemporaries from every third level institution in this country, are going out into a society which is struggling with complex issues and questions – from human trafficking and homelessness, to migration and direct provision; from gangland violence and economic uncertainty, to finding a shared vision for lasting peace and reconciliation on this island; and that’s not to mention the complex challenges presented by climate change and caring for the future of planet earth, our common home.
Earlier this year, speaking at a gathering of theologians in Naples, Pope Francis suggested that to meet these challenges and expectations, a good pontifical university will be characterised by evangelisation and dialogue.
He stressed that the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus and of God’s love needs time and the space for interaction and dialogue, so as to fully understand the problems of today and to discover ways of resolving them. Pope Francis describes this dialogue in terms of two movements:
“Firstly, a bottom-up movement that can dialogue with every human and historical instance, with an attitude of listening and discernment that takes into account the breadth of what it means to be human; and, secondly, a top-down movement ― where “the top” is that of Jesus lifted up on the Cross―that allows us, at the same time, to discern the signs of the Kingdom of God in history and also to understand prophetically the signs of the anti-Kingdom that disfigure the soul and human history”.
As we celebrate this significant anniversary year, my vision is of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, as a vibrant Pontifical University alongside a dynamic National Seminary and Centre for Ongoing Formation, both linking ever more closely with Maynooth University, to offer increased opportunities and insights for evangelisation and dialogue in 21st century Ireland. Maynooth’s potential for such encounter and exchange is unique: three partner institutions, side by side on this historic campus, perfectly situated in one of most attractive and fastest developing towns in this country – the possibilities which all this offers for study, research community building and dialogue are endless!
And that, my dear graduates is where you come in. Do not see today merely as some kind of ‘passing out’ ceremony, ending your links with St Patrick’s College. Be part of our strategic vision by pledging to keep your links with the College wherever you find yourself – perhaps by continuing and extending your learning and achievements, or by encouraging new students to come here to enjoy the unique atmosphere and opportunities which this great College can offer, or by forging connections via distance or online learning from wherever you end up in Ireland or in the world.
President Father Mullaney and members of staff, on behalf of the Trustees and of all our 230 graduates and their families, I thank you for all you are doing to assure the continued success and ongoing development of St Patrick’s College. I’m delighted with the steps taken this year to reconstitute a full Faculty of Philosophy with the help of our new members of staff, Drs Philip Gonzales and Dr Gaven Kerr. And well done to yourself, President, on your recent election as chair of the Federation of Catholic Universities in Europe (FUCE).
President, staff and guests, as Chancellor of St Patrick’s College I am honoured to participate in this conferral ceremony. On your behalf I congratulate all our graduates on today’s achievements and I wish them every blessing for the future – “May the favour of the Lord be upon us, and give success to the work of our hands”.
· Archbishop Eamon Martin is Chancellor of the Pontifical University, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. 230 lay women and men were conferred today with academic awards in Theology, Philosophy and Education by Archbishop Martin.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678