Bishop offers Baccalaureate Mass, graduates share reflections

May 18, 2023
Bishop Kemme shares a heartfelt homily in St. John's Chapel at Newman University.
Bishop Kemme shares a heartfelt homily in St. John's Chapel at Newman University.

The annual Baccalaureate Mass celebrating spring graduates was held in St. John’s Chapel Thursday, May 11, on the Newman University campus.

This traditional religious ceremony honors the graduating class with a Catholic Mass featuring special readings and music performed by the Newman Chorale, directed by Deanne Zogleman. The ceremony also featured reflections from two students of the graduating class: Vianey Rivera and Jose Morales.

Mass was celebrated by the Most Rev. Bishop Carl A. Kemme of the Wichita Catholic Diocese along with the Rev. Adam Grelinger, the Rev. Joseph Gile, the Rev. Chad Arnold, the Rev. Michael Simone, the Rev. Ted Stoecklein, the Rev. Mr. Jeff Jacobs and the Rev. Jacob Carlin.

Faculty members dressed in their academic regalia while all student guests of honor wore their graduation gowns in anticipation of the following day’s commencement ceremony. Also in attendance were the seminarians from the House of St. Joseph.

Bishop Carl Kemme greets guests following the Baccalaureate Mass May 11.
Bishop Carl Kemme greets guests following the Baccalaureate Mass May 11.

“We come together to thank God for bringing us to a successful conclusion to yet another academic year at Newman University, and to ask the Lord to bless you and all your paths,” Bishop Kemme said.

He assured the graduates that the Newman community, ASC sisters and priests of the Wichita Diocese have prayed continuously for the students on their academic journeys at Newman. 

Bishop Kemme concluded with a reminder of the Lord’s great promise in the Gospel passage shared in the Mass.

“If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,” he read. “Not just as I have kept my father’s commandments and remain in His love, and Jesus I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”

Video: 2023 Baccalaureate Mass Homily – Bishop Carl A. Kemme

Sentimental student reflections

Morales and Rivera were asked to share their graduate reflections following the Baccalaureate Mass.

Rivera, a first-generation college student, thought back to her first day of living on campus, Aug.18, 2019. She recalls that she couldn’t help but feel leery of her college journey.

“That fear has taken many shapes throughout the years: a fear of failing, a fear of losing friends, a fear of not making the right choices, a fear of not being a good enough student or athlete,” Rivera said. “The fear started to diminish, however, as I attended class, practice, Mass on campus and many other things.”

Students Jose Morales and Vianey Rivera share their graduate reflections following Mass.
Students Jose Morales and Vianey Rivera share their graduate reflections following Mass.

Since her first days on campus, Rivera has grown countless bonds with her fellow classmates, faculty and staff — each of which has helped her become the person she is today.

“My experience at Newman has been incomparable,” she said, tearfully. “I’ve furthered my relationship with the Lord, practiced leadership as the president of an honor society, built a legacy as a first-generation college graduate and more. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through said hardships without the bonds that I created, and for that, I have immeasurable gratitude. For me, my experience at Newman has meant the world.”

Video: 2023 Baccalaureate Mass Reflection – Vianey Rivera

For Morales, his most precious memories from his Newman days remind him of a memory he treasures from his childhood.

“One of the fondest memories from my childhood has always been the smell of flowers in the chapel of the village where I grew up,” he explained. “This memory is so concrete that I can remember the shape and the size of the small vase in which I used to bring flowers to the altar.”

Just as he shared a vase of flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Morales shared the “flowers” he received during his time at Newman.

“In a very special way, today, and for the last four years, Newman has been my mother,” Morales explained. “Alma mater — a loving mother.”

A full St. John's Chapel during the 2023 Baccalaureate Mass
A full St. John’s Chapel during the 2023 Baccalaureate Mass

“Thank you, Dr. (Matthew) Umbarger for trying to teach me the Hebrew name for God on a random paper towel you found after class,” he said. “Thank you, Dr. (John) Brungardt for standing out in the cold for what seemed like hours so I could finally understand first principles or something metaphysical like that.”

He continued, “Thank you Dr. (Susan) Crane and Profesora (Sonja) Bontrager for bringing tea to class on dreary days. This is God’s affection in the ordinary. This is love incarnate. Christ’s hands and feet.”

He concluded with gratitude to the class of 2023, saying “Today we are gathered under his wings and the love of Christ compels us.”

Video: 2023 Baccalaureate Mass Reflection – Jose Morales

Find the full live stream of the Baccalaureate Mass below or on our Newman University Facebook page.

Video: 2023 Newman University Baccalaureate Mass