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2017 Commencement Speech: Sister Maria Marciano, O.P., Dominican sister

Dr. Patrick Carey, Professor Emeritus of Theology, read the speech written by Sister Maria Marciano, O.P.

I want to thank Professor Michelle Medeiros for translating from the Portuguese the rest of Sister’s talk.

I want to share with you the graduates the words of the gospel that keep me going.

On one occasion, Jesus was in the midst of a crowd, and his disciples told him that his mother and brothers were looking for him, and wanted to talk to him. Jesus simply responds: my mother and my brothers are all those who do the will of my father.

By saying this, Jesus teaches us how to have a more comprehensive view of the human universe. Jesus wants us, no matter our profession, our class, or our race to learn that doing The Father’s will is to do good, concretely to those the least favored who need the most.

Doing good is not complicated. Jesus wants us to use common sense to realize what needs to be done. This is precisely what we have tried to do over the years.

We saw, for example, that people needed support in education, healthcare, food production, environmental recovery, roads and water, to supply their basic needs. Helping these people in my view is to fight for the good for the full life.

Actions which help improve people’s quality of life, especially the lives of the poorest are at the heart of the gospel. Those who are willing to do this should be careful too, to respect the freedom of the people they are going to help considering them as human beings who need mercy.

Jesus makes it clear that when facing deprivation, we cannot have the attitude of those two disciples who wanted to know who was the greatest among them. Jesus joins their conversation and makes it clear that anyone who wants to be first must be the very last and the servant of all.

With this advice, Jesus reverses our hierarchy of values serving others must be the goal of our lives. Then we will be following the master who came to serve and not to be served.

We must understand that the greatness of our life is not to follow the logic of the powerful of this world. They spend their lives pursuing prestige, fame, profit, power. Instead, the greatness of our lives should lie in our ability to use all of our knowledge to aid the people so that they can recover the sacred right to live with dignity.

Jesus’ lesson is clear: when he says that he came so that we could have life. Indeed so that we could have life to the fullest.

To fulfill Jesus’ will we must support people, so that they can regain their self-esteem however great their misery might be they can rise.

In order for poor people to regain their sacred right to dignity, they need both opportunity and conditions. How can we improve people’s lives if illiteracy is widespread? How can we improve agricultural production if there are no roads to carry the products we produce? How can people have good health if the water they drink is contaminated? What is the point of agriculture if production techniques are rudimentary, the quality of the seeds is low, and the condition of cultivation are poor?

We do not have the right to criticize or judge by saying that they are lazy, mischievous, irresponsible. They did not have, and still do not have the same opportunities we had. The opportunities our country has afforded us.

Generally, their country suffered the consequences of colonization or of devastating occupations.

In working for human dignity for all, I like to think of what the prophet Isaiah said. The fruit of righteousness will be peace. The effect of justice will be quietness and confidence forever.

To reach this level, society must provide for the needs of its citizens especially those who do not have the opportunity to meet their most basic needs. When this does not happen, justice will not bear its fruit which is peace.

In fact, if there is no social justice, society is degraded, becomes conflicted reverses fundamental values, and becomes chaotic.

True justice brings tranquility which means permanent safety for the people. This vison of what the world could be is what sustains us. As the prophet Isaiah warns us, bring out the people who are blind even though they have eyes and the deaf even though they have ears.

If people are intellectually and emotionally blind and deaf, it is because they are immersed in deep selfishness and extreme insensitivity. They lack a vision of humanity as a whole. They’re closed in upon themselves not seeing what Jesus came to announce and implement as the Son of God.

To do good to all human beings also means to take care of creation. God said that everything he created was good. And He made men and women in His own image.

He asked humankind to watch over all things that He created. And gave them the power to enjoy them. So much wealth at the service of humanity. This implies a relationship of responsibility and affection for the created world, a reciprocity between humans and nature. Each person must be aware that nature provides all that is needed to live. The land that produces the fruits, the water that irrigates and keeps human beings alive, the sun that invigorates the plants, the wind that pollinates them.

If we are not mindful, we will destroy or mutilate nature and threaten our own chances of survival. If we do not protect the life of the cosmos, it is because we lack the knowledge, intelligence and global vision needed to respect its own laws.

Without ecological balance, the life and dignity of the underprivileged will be very difficult. Natural resources must be fairly shared to ensure better living conditions for all. The Creator God has given us the conditions necessary to work for the dignity and stability of all men and women. People who work for the Creator’s intention to be sustained, who fight for the defense of life, are people of faith.

Faith helps us carry on this important commitment and make us believe that a better world is possible. When contemplation and action come together in Christian life, the world can be reformed. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, that source of contemplation and motivation for action is truly revolutionary.

Unfortunately, some people who call themselves Christians are afraid of this word revolutionary and the truth it reveals. They then tried to disguise its message and use it for their own benefit.

If our ideal is that of the gospel, we cannot be naïve, neutral, insensitive.

On the contrary, we must listen to the call of the Gospel and engage in the struggle that can change the logic that everything that happens is God’s will. This logic is perverse and self-indulgent, acquitting the true culprits who are the ambitious, the greedy, the unscrupulous who make the poor their means of success.

The word of God leads us to the truth and as Jesus said, truth will set us free. Christians who have faith and are consistent with the faith they profess do not support the passivity of many who call themselves Christians. And who are happy with the way things are. Refusing to see the need of their brethren.

These are the bourgeois, the accommodated, Christians for convenience, but never the followers of Jesus who gave up his life so that we would be free and happy. Even when we are faithful to our commitment to Jesus, we cannot be satisfied with how little we do.

We can always do more.

For this purpose it is important that we seek partnerships with people and organizations that have the same purposes. United we can do more, and the ones who need help will benefit from this and begin to overcome difficulties. I am convinced that the Christians who fight for justice are happy and are able to find the true meaning of life. They live in fullness and are free to love and can say we work for progress, justice, order in the name of Christ and the Creator.

Dear parents and graduates, we have an important task in our hands today. What could it be?

Do something different from the ordinary. We cannot do things just because others do them.

We have to make a difference.

We have to do good in our daily lives.

We cannot be like sheep all of whom do the same thing.

The world needs women and men who can overcome mediocrity in which they live. When we get out of ourselves others follow us and so the world begins to receive what each one of us does.

And that makes the difference.

A different world for the good.

The good that passes through my mind and yours, will make the difference in the 21st century. As the Psalm says, when I called, you answered me. You greatly emboldened me. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes. With your right hand, you save me. The Lord will vindicate me your love Lord, endures forever. Do not abandon the works of your hands.

Once again, I thank you, I tried to convey in this speech what I believe.

I take this opportunity to invite everyone to visit us in Haiti.

I promise to show you a face of the world that you never imagined existed.

May God bless us and help us all.


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