A Tale of Two Colleges [in Worcester, Massachusetts]
After being disinvited to commencement day ceremonies by Anna Maria College, Worcester Bishop Robert J. McManus was not only welcomed but awarded an honorary degree by Assumption College.
Because of Bishop McManus’ concerns, Anna Maria dropped “pro-choice” Catholic Victoria Reggie Kennedy, widow of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, as a commencement.
But then Anna Maria officials also asked the bishop not to attend commencement ceremonies, saying his presence might be “a distraction.”
Assumption College, which awarded Bishop McManus an honorary doctor of divinity degree at its May 12 commencement ceremonies, however, had no reservations about Bishop McManus’ presence.
Indeed, the citation praised the bishop for just the kind of leadership that may have made him potentially “a distraction” at Anna Maria:
You have vigorously defended moral truth, clearly defined Catholic identity, and fully embraced your divine mission and earthly ministry. You nourish bodies and elevate souls when you host the Bishop’s Dinners for the hungry and homeless in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Not only that, but remarks by Assumption President Francesco Cesareo also addressed the issue of Catholic truth versus moral relativism. Recalling that the Class of 2012 had been beset by an ice storm, hurricane, and an “unusual” snowstorm, he said:
In some ways, these natural events can be seen as metaphors for the challenges that you will encounter in society, challenges that you will be prepared to face because of your education at Assumption College, which stands in contrast to a world refuses that to acknowledge those moral values that have been at the heart of civilization centered on the dignity of all life, the importance of family, and the preservation of social institutions that have been the bedrock of society, and now even the fundamental right to religious liberty. Your education, however, inspired by the vision of Father Emmanuel d’Alzon [founder of the Augustinians of the Assumption] has prepared you to face these challenges.
Father d’Alzon lived during a moment in history that is in many ways similar to our day. He came to an understanding of his vocation in post-Revolutionary France where society had lost its moral fiber, where the idea of truth was replaced with a relativistic stance that saw one opinion as valid as any other opinion, and where religious faith was under assault by the rise of secularism that sought to marginalize religion and faith so as to render it meaningless and lacking in influence. Fr. d’Alzon’s answer to this situation was education, specifically the revival of Catholic education rooted in the Gospel that would be of service to society and the Church, providing an alternative to the secular education that had come to dominate his society. Father d’Alzon gave education its stamp of excellence by integrating into education its civic, moral, philosophical, and religious references from the Christian faith. Assumption College continues to be animated by his vision in the midst of similar societal and cultural challenges.