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The 2018 Senior Address
by Suzanne Urbancic (’18)

Posted: May 12, 2018

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Note: Each year the graduating class elects one of its members to present the Senior Address at Commencement. Upon graduation, this year’s speaker, Suzanne Urbancic of Chardon, Ohio, plans to apply to law school.

 

“The Search for Truth and Freedom”

by Suzanne Urbancic (’18)
Senior Address
May 12, 2018
 

Your Excellency, Bishop Morlino; President McLean; Chairman of the Board of Governors, Mr. Scott Turicchi; and Board members; chaplains; faculty and staff; friends; family; and my dear fellow graduates, it is a joy and a privilege to speak before you today.

This is a great day for us, the Class of 2018. It is the reward of hard work well done, the commemoration of lasting friendships, and the celebration of four years of formation in reason and, more importantly, in faith. It has been a time of great blessings, many of which I am sure we do not yet fully grasp, but which we will continue to see unfolding throughout our lives.

In reflecting on our time at Thomas Aquinas College, I realized that in many ways we have been here at a historic time. Contrary to what you may be thinking, I am not referring to the enormous fire, torrential rains, or repeated evacuations, though they have certainly made this last year a memorable one in their own right. Instead, I am thinking of the exciting development of Thomas Aquinas College during these past four years. Our class was here for the completion of the quad with the beautiful St. Cecilia Lecture and Concert Hall. We were here for the College’s determined battle for religious liberty against the HHS Mandate and ultimate victory last fall. And most exciting, we were here for the acquisition of a campus in New England, which should make the richness and beauty of the Catholic intellectual tradition available to many more students across the country.

At such an important juncture in the College’s history, it would be well to remind ourselves of the true meaning of this tradition which inspired our founders at the very beginning. For, it is always a danger that the noble aspirations with which great institutions are founded might fade into the background with the passing of time. Hence, we should see this eventful period during which we have been students here as an opportunity to rekindle in ourselves the passion and vision of our founding mission, a mission which, as alumni, it is our duty and privilege to keep alive.

Now, it might seem like this reflection comes too late, that it is a message for the beginning and not the end of our time here. However, we must remember that college is a training ground, and that the knowledge and habits instilled here are meant to be preserved and promulgated as we go forward. This education is not an isolated event, to be used for grad school, or for a résumé, or for a job, and then left behind; it is a way of life. Our founders had a vision not just of a certain kind of school, but of a certain kind of men. Hence, we should begin and end with a reminder of why we came here and the gift we have received.

Thomas Aquinas College is an institution dedicated to the liberal arts. Our founding document reminds us that this means that we are studying those things proper to man, those things which will enable him to reach his greatest perfection. If we look for what is proper to man, we see that he is distinguished from other creatures by the possession of intellect and will, and these give him the unique gift of being capable of freedom. Therefore, as its name implies, the liberal arts are those studies which make men free, which enable them to realize in themselves that which is most truly human and best.

But freedom, as cannot be too often said in this day and age, is not mere license to do whatever we please. True freedom is freedom from something, namely, from all things which degrade and enslave man. He who is truly free rejects such snares and pursues only those things which exalt him. These cannot be discovered without a sincere quest, guided by faith, after what is objectively and eternally true. As we read in II Corinthians 3: 15-18, “Yes even today, whenever Moses is read, the veil is over their minds. It will not be removed until they turn to the Lord. Now this Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect; this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit.” Truth and freedom through the Holy Spirit — this is the goal we have had before us during our time here, and this is the goal after which we must continue to strive in the future.

The search for truth and freedom is not only an intellectual one. We receive equally if not more important aid from the support and example of the people around us, and I would be very remiss if I did not mention our thankfulness for their role in giving us the great gift of this education. There are so many to whom we owe so much: our President, Dr. McLean; the Board of Governors; generous benefactors; our excellent chaplains; and many, many more. However, on behalf of my fellow classmates and myself, there are two groups to whom I particularly wish to extend our most sincere gratitude.

Firstly, to our phenomenal tutors. Both inside the classroom and out, you are a rich source of wisdom and an inspiring example of Christian living. From many conversations with my fellow classmates, I can safely say that one of the most rewarding parts of our experience here has been the ability to talk with you, joke with you, and ask you questions every single day. And as if this weren’t enough, you invite us into your homes and families for section dinners, holidays, and — this year — evacuations. You are excellent teachers because you truly care about our lives and well-being as whole persons.

In one of his sermons, St. Bernard perfectly sums up what sets you apart from the professors at many other institutions; he says, some “desire to know in order that they may themselves be known; and that is vanity … Others, again desire knowledge in order to acquire money or preferment by it; that too is a discreditable quest. But there are also some who desire knowledge, that they may build up the souls of others with it; and that is charity.” Your constant devotion to this generous aim has not gone unnoticed and has had a profound impact on all our lives.

And secondly, I would like to thank our parents and families. Without your prayers and sacrifices during these four years, we would not have received the marvelous benefits of this education. However, our gratitude does not stop there. None of us would be standing where we are today were it not for the formation, support, and love that you have given to us every day of our lives. We truly owe you a debt which can be neither repaid nor even adequately expressed. I am reminded of the words of Jane Austen’s Mr. Knightly, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” Just know that we do love you, and we are so glad that you can be with us today to celebrate the fruits of these four years. We hope that we have made you proud.

I would like to end with a few words from our class patroness, St. Edith Stein. She says, “Jesus, the Crucified, is to be the only object of your longings, your wishes, your thoughts … He wants your life in order to give you His.” Thus, it is in union with Christ, the Truth Himself, that this education finds its real fruition. With that end ever before our minds and filled with gratitude for the past and hope for the future, let us today begin that path which God has in store for each one of our lives. In this endeavor, we ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother, our patron saints and guardian angels, and especially that of our patroness — St. Edith Stein, pray for us.


 

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