Homily at Mass of thanksgiving in advance of the Graduation at St. Angela’s College, Sligo (Bishop Kevin Doran)

St John's Carraroe

(St John’s Church, Carraroe, Sligo, Friday 6th November 2015)

Like most people, I love hope filled moments, and I am delighted to be here with you to celebrate this important moment in your journey as you graduate from St. Angela’s College. I want to begin by testing your memory.

Look for a safe place
Don’t hurry, stop and wait,
Look around and listen, before you cross the road
Let all the traffic past you
Then, walking straight across, you
Keep on watching
That’s the safe cross code.

Do you remember learning this when you were in primary school?

I am often reminded of the Safe Cross Code when I hear the passage from the prophet Jeremiah that we have listened to this morning. But the safe cross code is just about getting safely from one side of the road to the other. Jeremiah is inviting us to go deeper and to discern what path we will take. That in turn raises the question of where we are going. These questions are not simply about course content or about career options. They are about who you have become down through the years, and indeed who you are still becoming. That, after all, is one of the most exciting things about today. It may be an ending, but it is also a beginning. The journey goes on.

Looking back. Part of discerning your path is knowing where you come from. Looking back is very much a part of today’s celebration. You will have a whole album of memories of your time here in St. Angela’s, moments of success and struggle; the great crack you had with friends and – yes – the moments when you felt you were in over your head. But there was life before St. Angela’s and that is also an important part of what you are. As you look back, I hope you will recognise how much you are loved, not just for what you have achieved, but also for who you are. Our Christian Faith tells us that we are the daughters and sons of a God who loves us and who has loved us, even before our personal history began.

The day he began his ministry as Pope, Benedict XVI reflected on the purpose of our human existence. He said:  “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” This is where you have come from and I want to encourage you to reflect on it often as you continue in your journey.

Of course this is also a day for looking forward. I invite you to make your own of the words of Jesus as he read the words of the prophet Isaiah to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth. The Spirit of the Lord has been given to you too; the very same Spirit that came upon Jesus at his Baptism. This is a Spirit of wisdom, a Spirit of courage; a Spirit of service. It is this Holy Spirit who will guide you along the paths of life, helping you to use the gifts that you have received, including the gifts you have developed through your education here in St. Angela’s.

Life moves on from here; change happens. We are constantly in a process of becoming. You can all go out from here, confident in the knowledge that you are ready to slot into any hospital, or any school or into any one of a number of other situations. One of the fruits of education, however, is that change should not simply be something that happens to us. It is our privilege to be agents of change, people who make things happen. This is exciting.

For St. Angela’s too this is a time of transformation as the College prepares to for a new stage in its own journey as part of NUIG. St. Angela’s has a long tradition as a Catholic College inspired by the gospel and by the vision and mission of the Ursuline Sisters, some of whom are here with us today, and I welcome them.  In this time of transition, I like to think that St. Angela’s is not just going to be absorbed into NUIG but that the unique gifts of each party, like in a marriage, can be brought together in the formation of a new family. The challenge is not just to preserve the characteristic spirit of St. Angela’s here in Sligo, but to do so in such a way that the ethos of St. Angela’s will make a real contribution to the development of NUIG into the future..

Going back for a moment to the “safe cross code”, perhaps I could remind you that the code of life for every Christian is associated with the cross, which is the sign of self-gift and sacrifice. That self-gift was what motivated the life of Jesus. Similarly, the sacrifices that others have made are part of what has brought you to where you are today. I invite you to adopt the cross as your own code for life, in the sense that, with God’s help, you allow the gift of life that you have received to become the gift of service that you offer to others.

In the midst of all of that I invite you to remember that, for all the impact that you will make on the world around you, the first and most important result of all your decisions and actions will be who you become. As you step out from the crossroads today, my prayer for you is that, in whatever you do and achieve in your live, you will continue to recognise yourselves as the beloved sons and daughters of God and that you will be transformed gradually into what he has called you to be.