Sacred Heart Major Seminary Class of 2024 features 58 graduates united in Christ

Fifty-eight graduates received their diplomas and degrees at the 99th Baccalaureate Mass at Sacred Heart Major Seminary on Saturday, April 27. Graduates were encouraged to take the lessons learned from Sacred Heart, primarily the lessons from Jesus Christ, Himself, out into the world. (John F. Martin Photography)

'Jesus Christ is the reason for this place,' Fr. Zach Mabee tells graduates

DETROIT ─ Diplomas and degrees were conferred upon the 58 students who made up the Sacred Heart Major Seminary Class of 2024 during the school’s 99th Baccalaureate Mass on Saturday, April 27.

The graduating class consisted of priests, seminarians and lay ministers who, throughout the year, were engaged in studies to further advance the kingdom of God, said Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit at the start of Mass.

“We remember that it is the Holy Spirit himself who has brought us here together because He prepares us for a great work, giving God, the Father, praise and thanks for what Christ has accomplished this year, especially for the lives of those who are graduating,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

Fr. Zach Mabee of the Diocese of Lansing, a member of the philosophy faculty and pre-theology priestly formation team at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, delivered the homily, reminding that it is Jesus Christ who remains the supreme teacher at the seminary, and He is whom the graduates must share as they leave the school’s halls.

Fr. Zach Mabee of the Diocese of Lansing, a member of the philosophy faculty and pre-theology priestly formation team at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, told graduates that it is Jesus Christ who remains the primary reason for Sacred Heart Major Seminary.
Fr. Zach Mabee of the Diocese of Lansing, a member of the philosophy faculty and pre-theology priestly formation team at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, told graduates that it is Jesus Christ who remains the primary reason for Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

“This the hope, brothers and sisters, that Christ, who is Himself the way, the truth and light is the only way to the Father, is the reason for our school, indeed for all of our manifold Catholic institutions,” Fr. Mabee said. “Our hope is places like these hallowed halls would be ways in which a crucified and risen Lord, who triumph over sin and death we continue to celebrate, especially this Easter. That these places would be signs of a life-giving, heart-claiming, a mind-illuminating encounter with the King of the universe.”

The graduates ranged from lay students earning certificates in Catholic Theology for pastoral work in parishes to 13 transitional deacons earning Master’s in Divinity and Baccalaureates in Sacred Theology in preparation for priestly ordination this summer. In addition, five priests earned Licentiates in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome through Sacred Heart Major Seminary faculty.

Despite their differences in backgrounds and areas of study, Fr. Mabee said what makes a university a university is a united purpose of study — at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, the person of Jesus Christ is what unites its scholars.

Fr. Stephen Burr, rector and president of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, addresses the graduates of the Class of 2024 during the commencement exercises following the Baccalaureate Mass.
Fr. Stephen Burr, rector and president of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, addresses the graduates of the Class of 2024 during the commencement exercises following the Baccalaureate Mass.

“The question of what our universities and colleges are for is ever more pressing, with the best available responses to those questions becoming thinner, as our colleges and universities are losing their unified sense of purpose,” Fr. Mabee explained. “Thanks be to God, our principle of unity is the cornerstone that was rejected by the builders, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is ever present here. Not just in the words of the mission statement, which can so easily seem ossified. He is present with us in word and sacrament, every day in our walls.”

Fr. Mabee said it was up to the graduates to take Christ’s presence at Sacred Heart Major Seminary out into the world and use the lessons they learned at the school to become vehicles for the New Evangelization.

Fr. Mabee warned against the temptation to become “ivory tower theologians," caught up in the questions of the day without being rooted in where God’s people dwell, but also to avoid a pastoral ministry rooted in “a kind of cheap, pastorally rationalized, intellectually bland,” approach to ministry.

Fr. Mabee said it was up to the graduates to take Christ’s presence at Sacred Heart Major Seminary out into the world and use the lessons they learned at the school to become vehicles for the New Evangelization.
Fr. Mabee said it was up to the graduates to take Christ’s presence at Sacred Heart Major Seminary out into the world and use the lessons they learned at the school to become vehicles for the New Evangelization.

“Fr. Jean-Jacques Olier, founder of the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice, famously said of seminary communities that 'If in a seminary there are three men of apostolic virtues of wisdom and knowledge, they would suffice for the sanctification of the entire diocese,'” Fr. Mabee said. “Not three apostolic men of prayer and zeal – no doubt he would see these virtues as essential – but three men of wisdom and knowledge. The knowledge we build up so we come to know and love Jesus Christ, whom we are so beautifully reminded in yesterday’s and today’s Gospel, is the way, the truth and the life, the singular path to the Father.”

After Fr. Stephen Burr, rector and president of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, along with Fr. Timothy Laboe, dean of studies, conferred the diplomas and degrees on the graduates, Archbishop Vigneron congratulated the graduates for their accomplishments and thanked the families of the graduates in the congregation for all the prayers, support and encouragement they have provided throughout the graduates’ studies.

“This school, which the people of this archdiocese have supported for over 100 years, this institution, this apostolate, is integral to the life of the church,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “You make us very proud by what you have done, and I’m grateful to all the faithful of this archdiocese, who I’m sure there is a future for this school. I’m very grateful for what you have achieved, what learning you have achieved, so that you might continue to spread the truth of Jesus Christ, congratulations.”

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit congratulated the graduates of Sacred Heart Major Seminary Class of 2024, commending them for their studies and encouraging them to take the lessons they learned at the seminary out into the world, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit congratulated the graduates of Sacred Heart Major Seminary Class of 2024, commending them for their studies and encouraging them to take the lessons they learned at the seminary out into the world, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Near the end of his homily, Fr. Mabee called upon the graduates to think of the mission of Sacred Heart Major Seminary when they go on in ministry.

“May we be reminded of Christ’s ever-present, counseling company, may we never fall into that ubiquitous and contemporary state of sluggishness and inactivity, mistakenly content in His support for us,” Fr. Mabee said. “I think our mission statement calls us out of this too. We who serve as or are becoming priests are to have the heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd. All of us who serve, who are dispatched from this place, are to be about the work of the New Evangelization.”

The best way to remember the lessons, insights and clarity each of the graduates learned at Sacred Heart is to remember who is at the center of the institution.

“Brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus Christ truly is the reason for this place, especially in our celebration of the sacred mysteries here,” Fr. Mabee said. He is the locus and the lifeblood of this institution, day by day. He is the one who animates our souls by the ever-dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and who invigorates our hearts with the true Gospel wisdom and knowledge.”

The Sacred Heart Major Seminary Class of 2024 features 58 students who earned diplomas and degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and School of Theology, ranging from certificates in Catholic Theology to Baccalaureates and Licentiates in Sacred Theology.
The Sacred Heart Major Seminary Class of 2024 features 58 students who earned diplomas and degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and School of Theology, ranging from certificates in Catholic Theology to Baccalaureates and Licentiates in Sacred Theology.


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