Siena, St. Bonaventure Graduates Encouraged to Follow Spirit of St. Francis

Johann Cuervo In the Headlines

Larry Anderson, chaplain of Siena College, with graduates (Photo courtesy of Siena College)

Siena College and St. Bonaventure University, the two Province-sponsored schools, celebrated the graduation of more than 1,200 students at commencement ceremonies which took place on May 14.

The spirit of St. Francis filled the air at Siena’s 77th commencement exercises held at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y. Friars, student speakers, and honorees endearingly mentioned the Franciscan saints who help guide the school’s mission.

“In the words of St. Clare, I encourage you today to go forward, swiftly and securely, on the path of prudent happiness that you have chosen,” said F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, president. “I challenge you to continue to be creative and spirit-filled, to be risk takers, and to continue to find your path in life, build strong relationships, to make a difference in the world, and to serve generously the need of our world.”

Ed Coughlin, president of Siena College, with a graduate, at the ceremony in Albany. (Photo courtesy of Siena College)

Howard Foote, chair of the board of trustees, encouraged graduates to approach life as St. Francis would. “From a Franciscan perspective, our commencement, although a symbolic ending, is a joyful celebration because for St. Francis, every ending was a new beginning, every conclusion was a fresh start,” Howard mentioned. “St Francis said to the friars: ‘let us begin again’. The Franciscan tradition takes those words of its founding father to heart. It is a tradition that sees everyday as a day of renewal, a challenge to change, a second chance to do things differently. So in Franciscan tradition today, we celebrate you, we are proud to be part of your journey of self discovery, self realization, achievements and a great promise.”

“Our abilities will take us all over the world in pursuit of our passions.” said Amy Polchinski, a psychology major from Mahopac, N.Y., who spoke on behalf of the class of 2017. “We will remain grounded with the Franciscan tradition so that we can inspire those we meet in our future.”

Edward Scharfenberger, bishop of the Diocese of Albany, told the 799 graduates, “You are all beautiful,” as he offered the benediction.

A week-long series of trips and events designed for graduates to celebrate on their accomplishments was arranged prior to the commencement. On May 12, several friars, including Daniel Dwyer, OFM, celebrated the completion of the senior gift campaign with graduating seniors and welcome them as the newest alumni of Siena College. On a video posted on the college’s website, Daniel,along with Ed led a well-known Siena song. The afternoon wrapped up with a baccalaureate liturgy, a special time of prayer and reflection at the Marcelle Athletic Complex.

Ross Chamberland at SBU’s ceremony (Photo courtesy of St. Bonaventure University)

At St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., Ross Chamberland, OFM, executive director of SBU’s Lateran Center for Catholic Identity, gave the invocation at the school’s 157th annual commencement ceremony. Commencement speaker and ESPN executive, Chris LaPlaca, gave the keynote address, motivating the graduates to be proud of being part of the nation’s first Franciscan university and to always give their best.

“You are always being watched,” said LaPlaca. “You are always being judged by someone who can perhaps help you get to where you want to go. Make sure they like what they see.” He also encouraged them to never forget where they came. “This group will ask of you only one thing: that you care for this place, and its people, as they do. That you remember and live the values you — and they — learned here. And, that you nurture the place from where you came,” Chris said. “That group is the 32,000 alumni of St. Bonaventure University, and we need you now more than ever.”

LaPlaca, who earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from SBU in 1979, has been an active supporter of the university. He serves on the Jandoli School of Communication’s Advisory Council and is a founding contributor to the school’s Dick Joyce Symposium.

Bob Daugherty, chair of the school’s board of trustees, took a moment to thank Andrew Roth for his year of devoted service to the university as interim president, and to remind him that for the rest of his life, “You will be a Bonnie.” More than 20 honors students, seven ROTC graduates, and four students dedicating their first year of post-graduation life to service work – including the Province’s Franciscan Volunteer Ministry – were also recognized during the ceremony.

Francis Di Spigno, Dan Horan, Kevin Kriso, Joe Kotula, Paula Scraba, Michael Calabria and Dan Riley at SBU’s commencement (Photo courtesy of St. Bonaventure University)

Francis Di Spigno, OFM, executive director of university ministries, gave the final blessing during the commencement ceremony.

“May this prayer touch our deepest longings, that our yearning raise our psychic temperature so that we are pushed to eventually let down our guard, hope in new ways, and risk connecting with the other so that our world will truly know peace,” said Francis before reading “The Prayer of St. Francis,” beginning with, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace and presence in the world.”

As part of the university’s commencement weekend, Dominic Monti, OFM, former SBU president and distinguished professor of Franciscan studies, celebrated the baccalaureate Mass on May 13 at the Reilly Center Arena. Students were recognized for academic excellence that same day during SBU’s Honors Ceremony.

Ross Chamberland and Kevin Kriso with Maria Hayes of the HNP Communications Office (Photo courtesy of SBU)

Maria Hayes, communications coordinator for Holy Name Province, was among the 500 students who graduated from SBU. She received a master of arts in integrated marketing communications and was recognized with the Laurie A. Branch Award for Outstanding Achievement in Integrated Marketing Communications. Her thesis, an IMC campaign for Holy Name Province’s Franciscan Vocation Ministry, focuses on increasing the number of inquiries received from discerners who discover the Province online.

Johann Cuervo is communications assistant for Holy Name Province.

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