Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

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Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology awards degrees

Nine advanced degrees from Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology and certificates of completion for five Borromeo Seminary students were awarded during the annual commencement exercises on May 10 in the Aula Magna at the Center for Pastoral Leadership in Wickliffe. Saint Mary’s was founded by Bishop Amadeus Rappe in 1848, a year after the diocese was established.

Doctor of ministry degrees were awarded to Marianne Ivany, David S. Kushner and Marie J. Kushner. The Kushners are the first husband and wife to earn the doctor of ministry degree from Saint Mary’s and David Kushner is the first diocesan permanent deacon in the Diocese of Cleveland to earn the degree. He heads the permanent diaconate formation program.

Ivany’s colloquium was “The Judaic Background of Christianity in the Story of Salvation History: A Study of the Old Testament for Catholics.”

David Kushner’s colloquium was “The Development of a Field Education Program for the Permanent Diaconate Formation Office of the Diocese of Cleveland” and Marie Kushner’s topic was “Toward a Theology of Efficiency: Administrative Practices and Procedures in the Parishes of the Diocese of Cleveland.”

Master of divinity degrees were awarded to Deacon Matthew Michael Cortnik, Deacon Michael John Feldtz and Deacon Armando Emmanuel Padilla Contreras. Deacons Cortnik and Feldtz will be ordained to the priesthood on May 19; Deacon Contreras will be ordained at his home parish in Mexico in the fall.

Master of Arts in theology degrees were awarded to Deacon Cortnik, Mary Kathleen O’Neill and Mary P. von Carlowitz.

Deacon Richard Joseph Samide, who also will be ordained on May 19, earned his two master’s degrees last year.

Borromeo seminarians Riley Joseph Arnemann, David Theodore Chojnacki, Dominic Francis Gideon, Christopher Daniel Stein and Michael Scott Viator received certificates of completion for requirements in philosophy and religious studies as set forth in the program of priestly formation and will graduate from John Carroll University on May 20.

Arnemann, Stein and Viator also received a certificate of completion for the requirements of the religious studies major or minor from JCU.

Bishop Nelson Perez, Saint Mary’s chancellor, and Father Mark Latcovich, president-rector, officiated at the ceremony which included a greeting, opening prayer, reading, responsorial psalm and a Gospel reading, with a solemn blessing at the conclusion. Faculty member Father Joseph Koopman, associate professor of moral theology, carried the school mace and led the procession into and out of the aula.

The Rev. Daniel Aleshire gave those attending the ceremony an interesting perspective on dress and ministry during his commencement address. Rev. Aleshire, who retired last year as executive director of The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, spoke on “Getting Dressed for Ministry.”

He quoted two Scripture pieces, one in which Jesus tells his disciples to proclaim the good news, to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons.”  He told them to take no money, no bag for their journey, no extra clothing, sandals or staff.

“Jesus gives us some advice about clothing as he commissions his disciples,” Rev. Aleshire said.

The other dealt with Jesus’ passion, when he was stripped of his garments and clothed in a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns. After he was mocked, he was stripped again, dressed in his own clothes and led away to be crucified. Then the soldiers cast lots or gambled to see who would win his clothing.

Rev. Aleshire said when he began his ministry 44 years ago as a Baptist preacher, he scraped together money to purchase a suit for Sunday services. “It was a polyester suite, blue, and as durable as plastic can be,” he quipped. After wearing it every Sunday for a year, some of the church deacons suggested that he didn’t need to wear the same suit every week, so he bought another suit and rotated them.

He said Jesus advised his disciples to have a minimalist wardrobe since their work would be all-consuming and would require traveling light. He compared this to his single, blue polyester suit.

In the second reading, he said clothes “are portrayed as vehicles for meaning, and in this text, the meaning was ridicule. Of course, these texts were not written as advice about clothes, they are statements about service and sacrifice,” he added.

Rev. Aleshire also talked about the academic garb worn by the faculty and graduates at the ceremony. “Unlike liturgical dress that weaves centuries of theological meaning and historical custom in albs and stoles and chasubles, our dress doesn’t convey any substantively theological theme,” he said, noting, “the robes themselves are straight out of the middle ages.” He mentioned the various hats or caps being worn and explained that his had belonged to his late father-in-law, who had a long career as a Baptist minister and served as a university president, then chancellor, for a total of 50 years. He received the tam after his father-in-law’s death

“He was not a perfect man, but he was perfectly grateful,” he said, recalling his father-in-law never missed an opportunity to thank those whose support, kindness and generosity made his accomplishments possible.

“Gratitude is central to a life in ministry. Its roots are in the heart of God. It grows as we understand that God has acted time and time again on our behalf, and time and time again we have been the beneficiaries of God’s generosity,” Rev. Aleshire said.

“Gratitude is important in ministry because we are not responsible for the most precious things we say or most meaningful things that we will do,” he added.

Rev. Aleshire also talked about how a few years ago, he spoke at the final commencement of a theological seminary whose “mission had lasted longer than the money.” He relayed a touching story about how the night after graduation, a group of pastors sponsored a prayer service to recognize the school’s faculty and administration. During a liturgy of transition and release, faculty members were asked to remove their academic hoods and place them on a chair. Later in the service, they were called forward and each received a blessing and a prayer shawl knitted by church members.

“Could these hoods – the ones you are wearing today as a symbol of academic achievement – be transformed into a garment of prayer?” he asked.

He said Jesus prayed a lot and said a lot about prayer, “So much of Jesus’ teaching was indirect, in parables, often confusing his disciples. When it came to prayer, however, he was very specific and concrete,” he said, explaining that Jesus said to pray like this, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Imagine what it would be like if we prayed so devoted and lived so faithfully that God’s will was done on earth/”

Rev. Aleshire asked the audience to imagine a world where no child is abused or a wife battered; where there are no wounds caused by racism, privilege or pride; where no one is unloved and no one suffers because of others’ greed or disdain; where sins are forgiven and forgotte3n; where people do good and love each other; where evil is destroyed. “Would that be worth a prayer?” he asked. “The world needs all the prayer it can get.”

He left this “fashion advice” for ministry: “Weave gratitude into a seamless cloth and wear it like a covering on your head. Gratitude will soften hurt, strengthen effort, sustain energy. Clothe your ministry in prayer. Pray the way Jesus taught us to pray. Pray for the world that God wants; pray for the life that people need. Pray like you mean it; pray like the world depends on it.”

After receiving congratulations from the faculty – who formed the traditional receiving line outside the aula – graduates posed for photos and then enjoyed a reception in the Founder’s Room.

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