Commencement at Mount Angel Seminary
Speaking to the graduates and assembly gathered in Mount Angel Abbey’s church for Commencement, Bishop McElroy began his talk with the inspiring story of the 2015 free ascent of El Capitan by Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell. The successful completion of the ascent was almost anti-climatic compared to the struggle of Jorgeson to conquer the 15th pitch and the steadfast accompaniment of his teammate, Caldwell, who refused to continue the ascent without his partner.
Caldwell, said Bishop McElroy, stayed with Jorgeson “even at the cost of sacrificing his own life’s dream.” He continued, “That example lies at the center of the formational experience which you have had here at Mount Angel. And it constitutes a pivotal foundation for the life of priesthood and all true service to the Church.”
Bishop McElroy reminded the graduates that Pope Francis has repeatedly called the entire Catholic faith community to accompaniment. Quoting Pope Francis, he said, “We need a Church capable of walking at peoples’ side, of doing more than simply listening.” Commencement, he said, “is not a moment of termination, but of new beginnings in a life of discipleship and service to the Gospel.”
In presenting the Senior Farewell, Reverend Mister Brent Crowe, from the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, noted that the commitment to accompaniment and letting oneself be open to discipleship can be a terrifying endeavor. He likened it to a young child on a roller coaster with his mother. The mother symbolizes the Holy Spirit and is filled with joy and laughter during the wild ride. The face of the young child, instead, is filled with terror and he is hanging on tightly to the support rail.
That young child, Deacon Crowe told his classmates, is “you.” Seminary life, at times, felt like that roller coaster ride. But in spite of having come from all walks of life and many diverse cultures, he and his classmates learned to accompany one another. “God,” he reminded his friends and fellow graduates, “writes straight with crooked lines.”
There were 38 in the 129th graduating class of Mount Angel Seminary, with a total of 52 degrees and certificates awarded, including 14 Bachelor of Arts degree; five Pre-Theology certificates; five Master of Arts (Philosophy); 10 Master of Divinity; eight Master of Arts (Theology); and six Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology.
Mount Angel Seminary offers fully accredited degree programs at all levels, including a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy; Master of Arts (Philosophy); Master of Arts (Theology); Master of Divinity; Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology, offered in affiliation with the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome; and a Doctor of Ministry. The Master of Arts (Theology) and the Doctor of Ministry programs are open to both seminarians and lay students.
Mount Angel Seminary, established by the pioneer monks of Mount Angel Abbey, began forming men for the priesthood in 1889. It’s the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology. Since its inception 128 years ago, Mount Angel Seminary has educated and formed thousands of priests for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.