In her Lady of the Manor address, senior Abigail Gibson joked that she was thankful to be Jesuit-educated, or “Jesucated,” as she put it.
“I truly believe that I have become a better, more caring, and socially conscious person after taking all of the Jesuit catch phrases to heart. That being said, I should take a moment to apologize for taking St. Ignatius’ advice (to set the world afire) and setting the Tierney Hall microwave on fire,” she said.
“I should also apologize for insisting that ‘men and women for others’ means that freshmen are required to give me meal swipes. One final thing I need to apologize for is skipping class to take a bubble bath because, cura personalis.”
Class valedictorian Brett Bonfanti likewise got laughs, saying “many of you may not know me … I just got out of the library where I have been secluded for the past 4 years.” He asked his fellow classmates to reflect upon the ways they’ve changed since first stepping foot on the Rose Hill campus four years ago. If they fail to habitually reflect on their past, he cautioned, they might end up becoming something they really didn’t intend to be without realizing how it happened.
“What really made you into the person you are right now? How have the last four years affected you? Changes come in many forms: social, intellectual, and moral,” he said.
Bonfanti said that his time at Fordham had dramatically expanded his worldview through interactions both off campus and on. He recalled wrestling with questions of guilt and conscience after reading Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. A political science major, he also cherished how small, seminar-style classes allowed for robust discussions about life or death issues, redistribution of wealth, and Supreme Court decisions. It was up to the Class of 2016, he said, to use their education “wisely, and with purpose.”
Maura Mast, PhD, dean of the college since 2015, beseeched the first class to graduate on her watch to make gratitude a part of their daily life. After intimating that they must be grateful to have been earned college degrees, Mast corrected herself, noting that it was they who would know what they were grateful for. She called for a moment of silence to ponder that question.
Mast said that Society of Jesus founder St. Ignatius of Loyola took gratitude very seriously, calling ingratitude one of “the most abominable of sins.”
St. Ignatius’ solution to ingratitude, the “Daily Examen,” has been described by theologians as the act of “rummaging for God,” said Mast—a metaphor that appealed to her.
“When I rummage through a drawer or a box, I’m looking through a bunch of stuff. I may find something familiar, or something I’ve overlooked or forgotten about, I may find a treasure, large or small,” she said.
“St. Ignatius’ point was that God freely and abundantly gives to us. By reflectively walking through our day looking for gratitude, we begin to identify the gifts—the treasures—we are given.”
Mast said that understanding gratitude transforms one’s relationship with God, oneself, and the larger world. She cited the late Daniel Berrigan, SJ, who saw God in the faces of the people, and imagined them as connected as beads on a rosary.
“I encourage you to keep gratitude present in your daily life, and to let gratitude guide your future,” she said.