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Seniors react to commencement speaker

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cardinal Timothy Dolan will deliver the Commencement address to the class of 2013, and the selection has prompted seniors to reflect on Dolan’s relevance to the student body and his ability to successfully connect with them.

Dolan, the Archbishop of New York and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will receive an honorary degree from the University at the May 19 ceremony in Notre Dame Stadium.

Senior Jason Kippenbock said he is thrilled by the selection because Dolan’s charismatic personality and intellectual background make him an ideal fit for the event.

“When [Dolan] speaks, he has always emphasized how important it is to live out your faith fearlessly and not back down, like the way he lead the bishops’ opposition to the health care mandate,” Kippenbock said. “I’d expect his message to us as graduates of America’s greatest Catholic institution would be to not back down, and to use our gifts and our strengths to live out the gospel.”

Senior Camille Suarez said she initially reacted negatively to the announcement because she doesn’t believe Dolan is the most relevant selection for the class.
“I feel like this choice isn’t perfect for this moment,” Suarez said. “I was hoping Notre Dame would use this opportunity to kind of move the University forward, and I think this might be setting us back a couple steps.”

Suarez said she hopes Dolan will present an image of the Church that is relevant and accessible to her and her classmates.

“I hope he talks about Catholic Social Teaching because I think that’s one image of the Catholic Church that needs to be promoted,” Suarez said. “I hope he makes a call to the graduating student body and encourages us to use our [Notre Dame] degrees to promote Catholic Social Teaching and help the poor and suffering.”

Senior Katie Pryor said she is excited to hear Dolan’s speech because he is a prominent figure in both the Catholic Church and the world, as demonstrated by his mention in Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People of the World in 2012.

“When I heard Cardinal Dolan would be the commencement speaker, I was very pleased with the decision,” Pryor said. “He is not just another Cardinal but a Cardinal that actually has a lot of substance in his views and beliefs and a lot of wonderful things to say.”

With the ongoing discussions about the next Pope, Pryor said Dolan is an “especially exciting” choice because he is a member of the Church hierarchy.
“Cardinal Dolan is even one of the people being talked about for Pope, showing the great importance he has worldwide in the Catholic Church,” she said.

Seniors Julia Kohn and Rachel Chisausky said while Dolan is a prominent leader, they are concerned the speech would be relevant only to students that identify as conservative Catholics, leaving others disappointed.

“I took a moment to look him up before I formed an opinion … and everything I’ve read seems to indicate that he appears to have a political agenda rather than just being a religious figure, and I don’t agree with any of the views that his agenda suggests,” Kohn said. “I just don’t know what he’s going to talk about that’s going to be that relevant to my beliefs and opinions.”

Chisausky said she hopes Dolan’s speech is not “homily style” and that it doesn’t alienate non-religious students.

“I was disappointed, because I don’t really know much about him but I’m not Catholic or really religious at all,” she said. “I just hope [his speech] is very open and applies to every student in the graduating body and not just to religious people.”

Kohn said if the University wanted a “famous” speaker, they should have sought a more relatable figure.

“For a school the caliber of Notre Dame, that has the name recognition of Notre Dame, I feel like we could have gotten someone really exciting,” Kohn said. “I don’t know that Cardinal Dolan is as relevant to everyone as a different famous person would be.”

Senior Colin Campbell said he understands there isn’t a speaker who can please everyone, but he is personally excited by the University’s decision to give Dolan a platform from which many will hear him.

“I hope Cardinal Dolan helps us to understand the gifts that we have been given through our four years at Notre Dame and then provides motivation and support as we carry those blessings with us and walk out of that football tunnel for the last time,” Campbell said.