An Open Letter to the Class of 2020

An Open Letter to the Class of 2020

Bellarmine lawn

In this extraordinary year, Rev. Gerald Blaszczak, S.J., vice president for Mission and Identity, encourages graduates not to neglect the "work" of Commencement and to reflect on their time at Fairfield.

Graduates — dignified, beautiful daughters and sons of God. This is no time to “play small!” We need you to let the glory of God within you shine brightly and generously.

— Rev. Gerald Blaszczak, S.J., Vice President for Mission and Identity

Dear Members of the Class of 2020,

In an ordinary year, you and your families and friends would be preparing for Commencement on the Bellarmine Lawn, with all its traditional pomp and ceremony. Right now, you undergraduates would be in the middle of Senior Week: beach Mass, senior soirée, the Commencement ball, senior picnic, baccalaureate Mass, family dance. But, of course, this is no ordinary year.

In an ordinary year, this would be a week set aside not only to celebrate, but also to remember, to take stock, to say “thank you,” and to say “good bye.” It would be a time surely of mixed feelings — of relief and joy, of anticipation and excitement, of pain of loss and fear before uncertainty.

In this extraordinary year, even without the rituals of transition, please do not neglect the “work” of Commencement. Please put aside some time to remember these past years; they have been too precious to treat lightly. Make the time to recall the adventures and misadventures, the disappointments and the accomplishments, the moments shared in laboratories and sports fields, in residence halls and the beach, in the Tully and the Egan Chapel, in internships, community engagement, in classrooms, and at your favorite bars and hangouts.

Remember, take your time: go year by year, season by season, person by person. In your mind’s eye, gaze intently on the persons, places, events that made up your Fairfield years. Allow yourself to feel the joys, the frustrations, the regrets, the satisfactions. Above all, feel what is bound to arise in your heart, if you are remembering well: feel the gratitude.

Gratitude for all invaluable life lessons learned and friendships shared; gratitude for new perspectives, for abiding values that will serve as guideposts for the future, for skills that you will carry forward into your professional lives.

Gratitude for those who believed in you, invested themselves in you: your parents and family members, your teachers, mentors, coaches, counselors, and spiritual directors; your teammates, suitemates, lab partners, classmates, your friends — your infinitely precious friends.

Finally, take the time to gaze at this person you have become. Allow yourself to be astonished at what you see. Acknowledge your ability, your charm, your intelligence, your elegance, your goodness, your honesty, your care and compassion for others. Take a good long look at your determination, your resilience, your discipline, your purposefulness, your passion for excellence, your fairness, your mindfulness. The beauty of your mind, body, spirit. Yes, you — all of you.

As Nelson Mandela told the audience at his inaugural ceremony in 1994, “Who are you to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God; your playing small doesn’t serve the world.... We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.”

Graduates — dignified, beautiful daughters and sons of God. This is no time to “play small!” We need you to let the glory of God within you shine brightly and generously. Do not “play small” — let the Spirit of God dwelling in you work wonders in and through you. Let God’s radiant glory in you redeem promises, ignite hope, reveal injustices, illumine a way forward toward a society of greater equality, integrity, and compassion. Let your light coax out the light endowed to all persons, and recognize always — with humility and gratitude — that endless Source of All Light and Life.

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