An Education to Lead and Transform
In a time of eroding trust, faith, and peace in both the world and the Catholic Church, theologians and ministers can serve as lodestars to guide and transform our world. That was a key message from Carol Keehan, DC, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States and a religious sister with the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
Keehan was the speaker for the commencement of Santa Clara University's Jesuit School of Theology, which took place May 25 at All Souls Church in Berkeley, California. The ministry she runs, Catholic Health Association, comprises more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in all 50 states.
An advocate for equitable access to healthcare, Keehan is a tireless champion for the poor and uninsured. She was an ardent and critical champion for the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which dramatically increased the number of Americans with healthcare insurance coverage. For these efforts, in 2010 she was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and “Person of the Year” by the National Catholic Reporter.
During the graduation ceremony, 44 students graduated with 56 degrees. As an international center for the study of theology, the graduating class was comprised of students from 11 countries: Benin, India, Jordan, Nigeria, Philippines, Taiwan, Rwanda, Uganda, the United States of America, Uruguay, and Vietnam. Keehan received an honorary degree.
Addressing the Jesuit School of Theology’s graduating class of 2019, Keehan began her remarks by acknowledging the tension and violence that dominates our communities and our news reels. “The disarray in our journeys to live life to its fullest as individuals, as Church, as a country or a world is so painfully evident,” she said.
Looking out at the Jesuit School of Theology’s graduates—lay men and women, Jesuits, clergy, and members of other religious orders who have dedicated themselves to theological scholarship and ministerial formation throughout their degrees—she noted that what our world needs more than ever are theological experts. This moment of social and Church disarray “calls for inspired and creative leadership that helps individuals and groups step back and focus on the meaning and value of life, the inherent dignity of each person, the noble duty to make the world better for everyone, to be attentive to the common good.”
“The incredible message of God’s love for each of us…risks being completely drowned out," she said. "It is only this message that calls and guides us to be our best selves and experience the joy of life that effectively helps us deal with the myriad of issues we face.” The beauty and joy in the message of the Gospels and the love of Christ are gifts of healing and transformation, she said, both for our world and our Church.
“You have a special claim to leadership and responsibility in this urgent task…You, my dear graduates, are our best hope for real transformation,” she urged.
During the ceremony, three students—Ricardo Avila S.J., Matthew Spotts S.J., and Catherine Holcombe—were inducted into Alpha Sigma Nu, the honor society of Jesuit colleges and universities. Assistant Dean of Students Paul Kircher was also recognized and received an honorary membership to Alpha Sigma Nu.
A recording of JST’s 2019 graduation is available here.