by Tom Hoopes
ATCHISON — This year’s Benedictine College graduation here reunited two buddies who began together as rookies and rose through the system to become “heavy hitters” in the church.
The “heavy hitters” were Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who spoke at the baccalaureate Mass on May 13, and New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who spoke at the commencement on May 14.
Both prelates had a chance to meet on May 14.
In his address to the 396 graduates, Cardinal Dolan called Archbishop Naumann “my friend of 52 years who grew up on the Mississippi instead of the Missouri.”
He said the archbishop “brags constantly about what he calls this community of faith and scholarship.”
In his remarks at the baccalaureate Mass, Archbishop Naumann told students that “having Cardinal Dolan as your commencement speaker is a tribute to Benedictine College’s national reputation.”
Both men shared the church’s wisdom with students as they transition from their studies to their careers.
“As a Benedictine College graduate, you have been taught not to be content with mediocrity,” said Archbishop Naumann. “The quality I hope and pray for in graduating [seniors] . . . is that you are men and women who know Jesus Christ as a friend and savior.”
Noting the turmoil in the world, he said “this friendship will sustain you at difficult times.”
Cardinal Dolan echoed Archbishop Naumann as he called on students to “dream and dare” to make a difference in difficult circumstances.
“As one who grew up along the Missouri River and has heard exhilarating reports about the success of Benedictine College even back in New York City, believe me I am thrilled to be with you,” said Cardinal Dolan.
“Four years ago, you made a very significant choice,” he continued. “You took a dream and a dare to entrust your future to a college that believes, contrary to the reigning ideology of our country, that faith and reason are hardly foes but allies, that allegiance to Jesus and his church actually liberates one for greatness.”
Cardinal Dolan said he has seen the possibilities of a Benedictine College education in a student he met in a refugee camp in Iraq.
The camp was filled with “refugees your own age who had lost families and homes and careers and possessions — everything but their faith and that thirst for learning that gives them hope in a terrain blotched by international bullies, by bombs and blood,” the cardinal said. “And there is Josh Raddick, your fellow alumnus, smack dab in the middle of all that.”
He called all the students to be like Raddick, following “the call to greatness he sensed on this campus.”
The appearance of both prelates at the same campus on the same weekend allowed for some sports-related ribbing.
Benedictine College’s president Steve Minnis noted that baseball success followed Cardinal Dolan — to a point.
“When Cardinal Dolan was assigned to St. Louis, the baseball Cardinals went to the World Series for the first time in 14 years,” said Minnis.
“When he became the archbishop of Milwaukee, the Brewers went to the playoffs for the first time in 26 years,” Minnis continued. “And as archbishop of New York, the Mets went to the World Series for the first time in 16 years this past year.”
He paused before adding, “We won’t remind him how that ended.”
Archbishop Naumann didn’t mind reminding the cardinal.
At the baccalaureate Mass, the archbishop told students that he promised Kansas City barbecue to the cardinal if the Mets won.
Cardinal Dolan assured the commencement crowd the next day that he had not forgotten the bagels he promised the archbishop if the Royals won.
Archbishop Dolan ended his address by sharing some inspiration he received while visiting Benedictine’s Marian grotto.
“Mary is very much at home here, and we are at home with her,” he said. “Her fiat, her ‘Be it done unto me according to thy word,’ provided the Word of God with a human nature.”
“And let me conclude by daring to ask: Are we not called to do the same?” he continued. “If you respond ‘yes,’ your light will shine in the darkness as much as those candles in the grotto illuminate this venerable campus.”