ST. BENEDICT —Mount Angel Seminary’s graduating class of 2017 celebrated a baccalaureate Mass May 12 and commencement the following morning. In the 128th year of Mount Angel Seminary, this year’s graduating class included nine for the bachelor’s degree; seven for pre-theology certificates; six for the master’s in philosophy; 22 for the Master of Divinity; 10 for the master’s of theology; and eight for a baccalaureate in sacred theology.
Bishop Joseph Pepe of Las Vegas presided at the Mass and gave the commencement address.
The words of life, the words of Christ, contain power, vitality and vision, Bishop Pepe said. Reflecting on his life of more than 47 years in priesthood and 16 as bishop of Las Vegas, he acknowledged that life took him “where he did not expect to be.” But marveling at the events and wonders of his priestly trek, he called his life a testament to what “God can do when you believe.”
The class of 2017 represented 17 dioceses and six religious communities. Presenting the senior farewell, Deacon Nathan McWeeney from the Diocese of San Diego reflected on the words of Christ to Peter along the seashore. Starting at Mount Angel was like putting a net into the deep waters, Deacon McWeeney recalled. There was fear at first, but then it became clear that saying yes to Christ brought about an abundant catch of joy, wonder, learning and growth.
Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, leader of the Benedictines at Mount Angel Abbey and chancellor of the seminary, reminded the graduates of the gift they have received in the call to priestly ordination: “Immense is God’s mercy, lavish his graces.”
Abbot Jeremy urged them to retain sight of what they have done and for whom they are doing it. He said that while the graduates go out, the monks remain on the hilltop and continue to pray for and hold them all in their hearts.
Receiving the Lumen Gentium award was Abbot Gregory Duerr, former abbot of Mount Angel and former seminary chancellor. The Lumen Gentium is the seminary’s highest award, honoring significant contributions to the pastoral mission of the church and the good of the seminary. Abbot Gregory was directly involved with the seminary for 25 years and holds a master’s in classical languages from the University of Washington and a master’s in formative spirituality from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.