Making the most of the ‘little while’: Wisdom from Newman’s 2024 Baccalaureate Mass

May 14, 2024
2024 Newman University Baccalaureate Mass

One Newman University tradition during graduation week is the celebration of its annual Baccalaureate Mass. As in previous years, the Mass was held on campus in St. John’s Chapel the night before spring commencement

The 2024 Baccalaureate Mass provided inspirational reminders about embracing the journey of life and making a positive impact during our time on Earth. 

Bishop Kemme sits with fellow priests during Baccalaureate Mass
Bishop Carl A. Kemme (far right) sits next to (right to left) Fathers Adam Grelinger, Garett Burns and Ted Stoecklein

Most Rev. Carl A. Kemme, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, welcomed students, faculty, staff, Newman Board of Trustee members and graduates’ families and friends to the prayerful celebration. 

Homily message

Bishop Kemme focused his homily on Jesus’ words from chapter 16 in the Gospel of John about a “little while” — the fleeting yet precious period of humans’ earthly lives before eternal life in heaven. 

Graduates at Baccalaureate Mass

“This ‘little while,’ quote unquote, is the life of faith that we are called to live … until eternity dawns, which we firmly believe as Christians that this life is but a prelude to the eternal life that is to come,” Kemme said.

He noted the paradox that, “A long time can feel like a little while and a little while can feel like a long time.” Yet from an eternal perspective, “When we look back over this ‘little while’ of our earthly lives, it will seem like a second compared to eternity in which there will be no time but an eternal now.”

Kemme urged listeners to make the most of this “little while.” 

“Take advantage of the little while that God has given you … by not wasting time because it is a blessing and a treasure,” Kemme said. “Take time to stop and smell the roses and to enjoy the moment.” 

He added the key is using one’s talents to “make a difference in small and in great ways” to positively transform culture and “create and recreate a society that is more just, more loving, more life-giving.”

Student reflection: John Suffield

At the end of Mass, John Suffield, a double art and theater major, shared in his reflection that his original thoughts coming out of high school did not include Newman.

“But God had different plans,” he said. “Newman was the only place … that I felt truly at home and wholeheartedly welcomed. I felt drawn here like Newman was the place I was meant to be.” 

Suffield’s time on campus included being a member of the bowling team, numerous theater productions, entering seminary briefly and ultimately finding “the love of my life,” who after Mass became his fiancé.


Suffield cherished “every late-night working on theater sets, having deep conversations … every time a professor I admire inspired me to strive to be my best.” 

He concluded, “Newman University has made more than just a degree of difference in my life. It has made me who I am. A man who loves God and others as himself.”

Student reflection: Hope Strickbine

Biochemistry major and Honors Program member Hope Strickbine expressed gratitude for the relationships and friendships she cultivated with the faculty, staff and fellow students at Newman. During her reflection, Strickbine shared a free-form poem written a year or two ago titled “Friendship” about the bittersweet feelings she experienced when her friends graduated.


To make a friend
Is to share a little piece of your soul
To let that person shape you
Become a part of who you are and who you will become
It hurts when distance comes
When those connections are strained
They don’t always break but the strain is sad
It can hurt like any kind of strain required for growth
The pieces that mean the most though, will be held tightly in place by both parties and will withstand this strain of distance
And the strain will make them stronger.

Hope Strickbine, 2024 graduate

Strickbine continued, “But just because these friendships will look different in the future doesn’t mean those friendships are gone. What comes next might actually be a chance for these friendships to grow stronger.”

Additionally, she shared how much she valued her education.

“Newman’s interdisciplinary emphasis develops well-rounded individuals with diverse knowledge … the ability to relate to individuals from diverse backgrounds,” Strickbine said.

She added that it promotes the ideal of the “renaissance man” and cultivates the type of perspective needed to best “transform society,” a core aspect of Newman’s mission.


The three messages effectively conveyed the Newman experience —making the most of each moment, nurturing meaningful relationships, embracing life’s unexpected journeys and positively impacting the world through living one’s values. 

Bishop Kemme shares his message

Bishop Kemme closed his homily from the perspective of eternity. “When you look back at your years at Newman and when you come at last before him, we pray that you will give thanks for this ‘little while’ that you were with us here and this ‘little while’ that you were on this earth as a creature of God, a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father.”

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