A Guiding Light for the Class of 2024

By Ambassador Callista L. Gingrich

In recent weeks, students have gathered with family and friends at colleges and universities across the nation to celebrate their graduations. For many of the graduates of the Class of 2024, this was their first commencement ceremony, as their high school ceremonies were shuttered due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

With more than 200 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, thousands of students recently graduated from Catholic institutions of higher education.

Graduates from the Catholic University of America, Benedictine College, and Ave Maria University heard from a lineup of inspirational and incredible Catholic commencement speakers.

On May 4, at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida, Fr. Mike Schmitz, host of “The Bible in a Year” podcast and chaplain at the University of Minnesota-Duluth Newman Center told graduates that life after college would be akin to bushwhacking through the wilderness.

Though the unmarked path may be tumultuous, Fr. Mike told graduates that “God is a good dad” who makes His children strong because He wants more for them than they want for themselves. He harkened back to the experience of the Israelites who, after God freed them from slavery, spent 40 years waiting to enter the promised land (which was “not a resort”) and learned that “freedom” and “easy” are not synonyms.

Like the Israelites, Fr. Mike said, God trains us in the deep end,” and “only gives us enough light for one more step” so that we learn how to trust Him. He said to the graduates that every day, they must pour themselves out to God, because “That’s life in the wilderness. That’s life bushwhacking.”

Fr. Mike offered the graduates encouragement and said, “Life takes courage … because love takes courage. And every one of you is called to love, even if you don’t do it perfectly. … Do the things you’ve learned, and you will be blessed.”

On May 11, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker spoke to graduates at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. While congratulating the Class of 2024, he spoke about the importance of faith, family, and leaning into God’s call for your life. “Being locked in with your vocation and staying in your lane is going to be the surest way for you to find true happiness and peace in this life,” Butker said. “It is essential that we focus on our own state in life, whether that be as a layperson, a priest, or religious.”

Butker also advised Benedictine graduates against seeking a life of comfort and complacency. “Never settle for what is easy,” he said. “You might have a talent that you don’t necessarily enjoy, but if it glorifies God, maybe you should lean into that, over something that you might think suits you better. I speak from experience as an introvert who now finds myself as an amateur public speaker and an entrepreneur — something I never thought I’d be when I received my industrial engineering degree.”

On the same day in Washington, D.C., star of “The Chosen” television series Jonathan Roumie addressed the Catholic University of America’s graduating class. He offered the graduates advice that he has learned as he’s grown deeper in his faith while playing the role of Jesus Christ in “The Chosen.”

First, he encouraged the students to follow Jesus Christ’s example, saying, “You don’t need to play Jesus for the world in order to be Jesus to the world.” In addition to emulating Jesus Christ, Roumie challenged the graduates to “pray more” because “the era we are living in demands a revolution of deep prayer.”  Lastly, drawing upon his own personal experience of having no money and no job, Roumie called on the graduates to surrender their lives to God which “leads to salvation in every way possible.”

For Roumie, surrendering his life to God’s will was the “hardest thing” he ever did, but, he concluded, “I would not be standing with you here today if God had not brought me to my knees in utter desperation to surrender my entire life and more specifically my career over to him.”

These three messages: to trust God, answer His calling, and surrender to His will, are a guiding light for the Class of 2024.

For more commentary from Callista Gingrich, visit Gingrich360.com.