Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster

St Mary's Degree Ceremony 2016

Given at St Mary's University Degree Ceremony in Westminster Cathedral on 14 July 2016. 

I am delighted to be here today to share with you in the satisfaction and pride of this moment. 

Receiving your degrees is a special moment, one which marks a huge step in your lives and one which is rightly shared by family and friends. Congratulations to you all. 

I would also like to echo the Vice Chancellor’s opening words: his invitation to you to consider St Mary's University as a life-long home. I too hope that your association with this university will remain a strong influence in your lives and not just a passing of a few years. The friends you have made here, the encouragement you have received, the impetus for your unfolding lives and careers can have a lasting importance. So I too ask you to keep in touch with St Mary's and to give this university your support in the years to come. 

I say this with particular enthusiasm today because for me too St Mary's University is a special and important place. As you know it is a university that is thoroughly Catholic in its character. That is why we are here in this great cathedral; why I, as Cardinal, am your Chancellor. As St Mary's goes from strength to strength, it is building in the finest traditions of Catholic education. We see this today in the presence of Mgr Philippe Bordeyne and colleagues from the Institut Catholique of Paris. There is nothing narrow or insular in this Catholic vision of education. It is open to all truly human endeavour. It is open to links across Europe and beyond. It is a fine and noble tradition. 

Indeed I value St Mary's most highly, not only for its long tradition of Catholic Higher Education, but also because today it represents a most important point of contact, of engagement, between the world of Higher Education in this country and the Catholic Church. That engagement, if it is to be fruitful, requires that wonderful combination of openness and faithfulness: openness to the other, to every academic discipline, to the wide range of challenges facing our world, facing every individual today; and faithfulness to who we are and the richness of truth and beauty that the eyes of faith reveal in the soul of every person and in the created world and its unfolding. The Catholic tradition and vision of education is a long adventure of this engagement and it is a great joy to me to see it being developed, with such vigour, at St Mary's University. 

There are, I believe, four main tasks at the heart of this vision of education: to enable every student to develop their personal and professional competence; to help them to explore and understand what it means to be a human being and to have a broad world view of a shared humanity; thirdly to prompt in every student a commitment to building a better society; and fourthly, to express and explore the openness to the transcendent, to the spiritual, which is a formative characteristic of every human being, revealed in its fullness in the person of Jesus Christ. 

These four dimensions are fundamental to a sound and healthy life, both of the human person and of our society. I know that they are fundamental to the sense of purpose and daily life in St Mary's. I hope that as I expressed them, in that rather abstract manner, you recognised aspects of your student life: your search for competence and proven ability; your growth in friendship, understanding and compassion for others; the occasional ache you feel as you think about the tragedies and terrible circumstances of the lives of millions of people around the world and the desire to do something to make this world a better place; the profound longing in your hearts that you have experienced for moments of peace and reflection as you turn instinctively towards that innate sense of God within you. I hope that these are some of the echoes that you take from your time and life at St Mary's. Treasure them. They are signposts for you of how to shape and develop your unfolding adult lives. They are the first fruits of a good and honourable education! 

Perhaps I can sum up what I hope and pray for you all today: that at St Mary's you have learned about your own strengths and abilities; that here you have learned that strength is best used in compassionate service; that here you have learned that if we put ourselves at the centre of our world we end up worshipping idols which do not bring true peace. 

Today as well as congratulating each and every one of you on the achievements of your years of study, I also want to thank all the staff of St Mary's and those who support them. I thank Bishop Richard Moth, the Chairman of your Governing body, who acts in a special way, on behalf of the all the bishops of England and Wales; I thank his fellow Governors, I thank your Vice Chancellor, Francis Campbell and his Pro-Vice Chancellors and each and every member of the staff. Thank you for the great work you are doing, for this adventure which is St Mary's today. May God bless your efforts. 

But the last word, of course, goes back to our graduates today. Well done! In the years ahead, steer a good course, be generous, compassionate, determined to make a difference and keep your mind and heart open to all that God wants to achieve in you. For in God's will lies your deepest satisfaction. Well done! Congratulations! 



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