The front design of the formal invitation sent to family and friends for the May 2016 celebrations in Washington, D.C. and Utica, New York. Click here to view the full printed invitation, designed by Perisphere Media.
The image of the papal Mass at The Catholic University of America is copyright and is used with permission.
Basillica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The sky cleared for this photo of the National Basilica as we processed for the entrance procession of the Baccalaureate Mass, kicking off Commencement weekend.

The dreary weather of spring 2016 in the Washington, D.C. area, which saw a record 16 straight overcast and rainy days, lifted, as if on cue, for commencement weekend at The Catholic University of America, beginning a celebration for thousands of newly minted graduates, including me as The School of Theology and Religious Studies commemorated the conferral upon me of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in HIstoric & Systematic Theology. I say this was a ‘commemoration’ of the conferral because, unlike most of the undergraduates and many of my graduate colleagues, I had completed the requirements for the Ph.D. in December 2015 with a successful doctoral dissertation defense on the day after my 40th birthday; it can be funny how God works things out! I received my official degree in the mail in February, so the ceremony of the day was truly only ‘pomp and circumstance’ as the large envelope I received on stage on Saturday was blank. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful celebration which highlighted a series of relationships with professors and others that I found both life-giving and engaging.

Those who came to join me for some or all of the weekend helped me kick off the first of two celebrations. This one, in the D.C-area, was focused around the extended Commencement Ceremonies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. proper, and a catered party and celebration at a beautiful, natural historic building in suburban Maryland. Below is the itinerary with some images from the events:

Baccalaureate Mass: Friday, May 13

The weekend of commencement kicked off on ‘lucky day’ Friday the 13th, with the return of the sunshine mere moments before the 4 p.m. procession, which included me and my other graduate and undergraduate colleagues, came together to begin the celebration of the University’s Baccalaureate Mass, in which graduating students from all levels of the University are invited to process in and participate with the gathered assembly of the church, family, friends, and gathered dignitaries in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception which sits adjacent to the Catholic University campus. The presider and homilist at the Mass was Rev. Jude DeAngelo, OFM Conv., University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry. Several ministers in the celebration were former classmates of mine at the Washington Theological Union, at which I received my Master of Divinity and M.A. in Systematic Theology in 2006.

I was grateful for the presence of my cousin Debbe, her husband Tom and their son Dominic at the Mass, who were able to stop while passing through to return home. We were then able to enjoy a nice evening meal at one of my favorite restaurants in D.C., Fogo de Chao – mere steps from the White House. Prior to that, we briefly participated in the President’s Reception in the nearby Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, located in the center of campus. 

Commencement: Saturday, May 14

The main Commencement Ceremony took place at 10:30 a.m. under a bright blue sky with some humidity on the East Steps of the Basilica (the side facing the campus) with the dais beneath the east portico. While a largely forgettable affair (as most commencement ceremonies are), the location can’t be beat on a beautiful day, and the collaborative speech of comic Jim Gaffigan and his wife Jeanne was amusing and provoking in the best possible way.

A nice plus to the celebration for those of us who were doctoral degree recipients was that we were the only cohort of degree recipients to be named individually and “walk” across the dais. Other graduate and undergraduate students had their degrees conferred en masse, so the conferral ceremony itself was a highlight. (I’ve been looking for a video that includes this on YouTube but haven’t found it yet. If I do, I’ll post it here.)

After the conclusion of the main ceremony, each of the schools of the University had their own diploma distribution ceremony; the one for the School of Theology and Religious Studies was at The Hartke Theater on the campus’ west side. A much more manageable affair of about 40 graduates and undergraduates and family and friends, it was followed by a reception in Caldwell Hall, the home of STRS on campus.

Pentecost Sunday, May 15

Photos courtesy of my friend Alanna Dushok. Click on the images to advance the slide show manually.

Sunday saw another beautiful weather day and a catered heavy hors d’oeuvres reception and celebration at the historic Adelphi Mill in Hyattsville, Md. The reception celebrated my doctoral degree achievement and marked the launch of my ministry consulting services, including this website.

The Adelphi Mill proved to be a great venue. It is an historic landmark converted into a recreation center by the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation. This beautiful structure, which dates from the late 18th century has been completely renovated for indoor and outdoor parties and recreational use. It sits on the edge of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River with its Tributary Trail system that runs for miles. There is an outdoor playground for children and lots of space to run, hike along the river and more. The event was joyful with many friends and colleagues coming in and out and a beautiful menu and dessert catered by long time friends Russ Testa & Megeen White-Testa of Your Chef’s Table Farm based in Brookeville, Md.

The menu included a seasonal array of local cuisine, which Russ and his team made within 24 hours and served on site. (I highly recommend them for your catering needs!)

Appetizers

  • Crab and Goat Cheese Frittata with Kale and Tomato Coulis
  • Hot Spinich Dip with Chesapeak Crostini
  • Cold Carrot and Ginger Soup

Main Meal

  • Rosemary and Chicken Rotini
  • Spring Vegetable Alfredo Farfelle
  • Kale and Apple Salad with Hot Vinaigrette
  • Garden Salad with Balsamic Mint Vine grate

Dessert

  • Watergate Cupcakes

The event was not without its drama however; with the previous two weeks of rain, a tree near the entrance to the mill was not able to remain in the saturated ground. It fell right across the entrance road! Fortunately, no one was near it at the time, but it left us temporarily trapped at the location. A visit from the Prince George’s County police followed, and when the time came to depart, we drove our cars along a narrow path normally for walkers out of the park into a nearby neighborhood where we picked up regular roads again! Everyone had a good time with it and it was a wonderful day.

I am grateful for all who took time to celebrate with me in person and in spirit throughout the weekend 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.

Read about the celebration in Utica, NY on May 22.

Read the reflection on Philippians 2 which I prepared for the Utica celebration.

For more information on my doctoral degree celebrations and the launch of my consulting services, click here.