The weekend after a full and festive celebration in Washington, D.C., family and friends from the Central New York area gathered to continue the celebration of the conferral of my doctoral degree in Historic & Systematic Theology from the School of Theology & Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America and the launch of my ministry consulting services and website.
While removed from the pomp and circumstance of the grand graduation ceremonies of the previous weekend, this celebration provided a more intimate gathering which focused on relationships built among friends and colleagues over many years, a reunion of sorts, and an opportunity to remind those in attendance of the unique God-given gifts we share and the presence of God who inspires all of us.
The celebration began on Trinity Sunday, May 22, with a festive celebration of the Eucharist at St. Mary of Mt. Carmel / Blessed Sacrament Church in Utica, where I have served as a ministry consultant for many years. The opportunity to celebrate with a community that has been a spiritual inspiration for me was a wonderful opportunity, and the context of the solemnity reminding Christians that the God we worship and in whose divine life we share is a communion – a community – of Persons was especially meaningful. After a warm acknowledgement of my accomplishments at the conclusion of the liturgy by pastor Fr. Jim Cesta, all were welcome to a post-Mass reception organized by Anne Elacqua, and including many homemade Italian pastries and joyful fellowship.
Later in the afternoon, family, friends and members of the community re-gathered in the church for a concert celebrating charisms and the presence of God. The word “charism” comes from ancient Greek and was used by Paul in his letters to highlight the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to enrich the believing community and lead it forward in the service of God, Jesus and the Reign of God’s justice and peace. This concert, organized by Director of Music at St. Mary of Mt. Carmel / Blessed Sacrament and close friend Peter Elacqua, and participated in by many past and present members of the parish choir was a joyful celebration of everyone’s giftedness. While I was the catalyst for this celebration, it was important to me that we acknowledge the gifts of everyone and Peter did a wonderful job celebrating the gifts that enrich us all and the God who is always present to us in love and inspiring us forward as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The assembly sheet for the event features some of the wonderful music that was prayed, and the photos below, by local photographer Thomas Loughlin, capture the spirit of this joyful celebration.
The afternoon included with a sit down dinner at Ventura’s Restaurant, a classy Italian place in East Utica. This function allowed me to share with those gathered some reflections on a reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians which I had prepared for the occasion. I was grateful to all who participated in person and in spirit and I offer special thanks to Perisphere Media for the design of the full printed invitation to both the D.C. and Utica events, the additional invitation to the Utica dinner and the prayer card designed for the celebrations.
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For more information on my doctoral degree celebrations and the launch of my consulting services, click here.