Archbishop Vigneron presents 105 certificates, diplomas and degrees during commencement exercises, baccalaureate Mass on April 30
DETROIT — Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron presented 105 certificates, diplomas and degrees to 97 men and women at Sacred Heart Major Seminary's baccalaureate Mass and commencement on April 30. The number of smiles in the seminary chapel that day, however, were significantly more.
Fr. Stephen Burr bestowed the degrees in his role as Sacred Heart's president and rector. Twelve graduates earned a baccalaureate or licentiate in sacred theology conferred by the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome through the faculty at Sacred Heart.
“Graduation is a celebration of accomplishments achieved through grace and hard work as well as entrusting the next journey to Jesus Christ,” Fr. Burr said. “The graduates of Sacred Heart Major Seminary have been immersed in the philosophical and theological tradition of the Church to prepare themselves as bold witnesses for the new evangelization. In a particular way, this year's graduating classes have persevered through the obstacles and challenges of the last two years in faith and will now share the fruits of their formation and education with a world in need of the Gospel.”
Fr. Timothy Laboe, dean of studies and assistant professor of theology at Sacred Heart, delivered the homily during the baccalaureate Mass.
“I think we all recognize with gratitude the privilege we enjoy in being here together in this chapel today,” Fr. Laboe told attendees. “This privilege, however, goes far beyond the privilege of our physical location. It goes far beyond the privilege of what this day recognizes and what you have done. This privilege of having studied and completed your studies in the seminary means something more. That meaning is found in the Lord Jesus, in our relationship with him, in what he has done in us and what he will do in us and through us. It is the privilege of knowing him and loving him and sharing that knowledge and love with others.”
Fr. Laboe concluded his homily with a mission for the graduates.
“What we have accomplished here at Sacred Heart is preparation to do God’s work in the world,” he said. “As happy as we are to acknowledge these accomplishments and be grateful for what God has given us, we also recognize that what we have received, we must in turn give. We have been prepared for service, and from here, we must go forth and serve.”
The graduates came to Sacred Heart from different walks of life and with different objectives, but they shared one common goal: to use what they learned at the seminary for the glory of God.
Nancy Yousif received her Bachelor of Arts in pastoral theology. She first attended college to pursue a degree in physical therapy, then shifted to nursing. All along, she longed for more meaning and purpose in her studies. After much prayer and discernment, she enrolled at Sacred Heart with 40 transfer credits.
“When I started following what God was calling me to, it all fell into place,” Yousif said. “Being at the seminary helped me grow spiritually. It drew me closer to Jesus and helped me see how he’s calling me to serve him. When I went to class there, I felt happy, like I was home.”
Yousif plans to use her degree in both her work as an administrative assistant at her parish and as a volunteer. Eventually, she hopes to teach theology and would like to pursue a Master of Arts in pastoral studies as early as the upcoming academic year.
Fr. Iván Pertiné serves as the chaplain for Catholic campus ministry at American University in Washington, D.C., and is a member of the Saint John Society, an apostolic community founded in his home country of Argentina in 2001. On April 30, Fr. Pertiné was awarded his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL). He is the third Saint John Society priest to receive an STL degree from Sacred Heart; two others are currently pursuing the degree at the seminary.
The STL program is offered for priests only and is structured to accommodate priests’ schedules and those who are studying from other parts of the country or the world. Priests in the program take one online class per semester and then come together in the summer at Sacred Heart for intensive study.
“The Saint John Society is a community dedicated to the new evangelization, and we find that Sacred Heart fits our charism. We have a deep communion of ideas,” Fr. Pertiné said. “We think of ourselves as part of the renewal in the Church, a small part. The STL degree connects our pastoral practice with the theological and Biblical foundations. It helps me look carefully at what we do at the Saint John Society and deepen those foundations.”
Fr. Pertiné says the STL’s emphasis on the new evangelization will serve him well in his work with students on campus at American University, and with the community’s outreach to the Hispanic community.
Karam Bahnam earned his Master of Arts in theology. He migrated to the United States from Iraq in 1994 and soon after, felt a desire to understand his Catholic faith more deeply. In 2001, he co-founded the Eastern Catholic Re-Evangelization Center (ECRC) in Bloomfield Hills with a mission to bring Catholics into a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
After obtaining his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Sacred Heart in 2008, he returned for his master's.
“When it comes to orthodoxy in the Catholic faith, there’s no better choice than Sacred Heart,” Bahnam said. “They’re also top notch in academics, both in philosophy and theology. And the overall environment means a lot to me. I was so happy to be able to visit the chapel every time I went to class. It’s not just a school where you go to get educated — it’s a formation.”
Bahnam uses Sacred Heart as a model for the ECRC, striving to create an environment in which people can hear the Lord’s promptings through spirituality, education, and a welcoming, loving community.
For Yousif, being a Sacred Heart graduate is a good feeling.
“I’m just so thankful to Jesus,” Yousif said. “The goal is that we all want to go to heaven, and we’re trying to lead each other to heaven. Studying at the seminary and getting this knowledge will help me do that. Even if just one person can benefit from my studies, it’s worth it.”
The degree totals are as follows: Certificate in Catholic Theology (CCT) - 34; Basic Diploma in Catholic Theology (BD) -7; Associate of Arts in Ministry (AAM) – 2; Bachelor of Arts in Pastoral Theology (ABT) – 2; Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (ABP) – 7; Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) – 15; Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) – 8; Master of Arts in Theology (MA) – 10; Master of Divinity (MDiv) – 8; Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology (STB) – 8; Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) – 4.
This story was originally published in Mosaic, the news magazine and website for Sacred Heart Major Seminary. It is republished with permission.