“Academic credentials? Who cares about them? What’s important is what you do with them,” Bishop Martin Amos told graduates at the May 9 commencement ceremony for Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology. The ceremony took place in the Aula Magna at the Center for Pastoral Leadership in Wickliffe. Family, friends, fellow seminarians and other invited guests filled the room.
A Cleveland native, Bishop Amos was one of 37 men who were ordained priests in 1968. He served the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland as a priest until 2001 when he was ordained as an auxiliary bishop for the diocese. He ministered to the Akron area until 2006, when a call from Rome informed him that the Holy Father had appointed him as the eighth bishop of Davenport, Iowa, where he served until his retirement in 2017.
After retiring, Bishop Amos returned to Cleveland where he continues to serve the Church.
“That’s what he looks like on paper,” said Father Mark Latcovich, president-rector of Borromeo and Saint Mary seminaries, as he introduced Bishop Amos.
“I find him to be – in real life – witty, genteel and amiable. He emulates the Good Shepherd’s heart,” Father Latcovich said.
Bishop Amos’ brief commencement address offered a glimpse of what Father Latcovich said. He spoke about how Jesus was unpretentious and washed the feet of his disciples. The bishop said the disciples may have argued over which of them was best, but Jesus didn’t care. He washed all of their feet -- something that was necessary in those times because of the dusty roads.
Bishop Amos described what some of those feet might have looked like: “Feet firmly planted in defiance” is how he described Judas’ feet. He said the feet of Matthew, the tax collector, might have been soft since he sat at a table and didn’t do manual labor like some of the other disciples who were fishermen, carpenters or plied other trades.
“Jesus washed feet time and time again – the feet of all kinds of people,” Bishop Amos said. “Each of you graduates was washed clean in baptism. But how many other times did he wash your feet?” he asked.
In The Joy of the Gospel, Bishop Amos said Pope Francis tells us we are all missionaries and we are always “disciples touched by the master who washed our feet. Our role is to be missionary disciples spreading the word of God,” he said.
“You must be a servant leader and use your degree in a special way,” he added.
Bishop Amos shared the story of a crucifix in a California church that vandals had damaged by breaking off the hands. Instead of replacing them, a plaque was affixed to the crucifix. It contained an excerpt from a quote attributed to St. Teresa of Avila: “I have no hands but yours.”
The bishop told the graduates that they are molded and formed into servant leaders.
“Recognize what Jesus has done. Go now and do the same,” he added.
Cleveland Bishop Nelson Perez, seminary chancellor, congratulated the graduates on their accomplishments.
“You came here on the first day because of a particular passion and love for the Lord. Congratulations on earning your degrees and thank you to the faculty for walking with you and sharing their gifts. They handed on their love, care and passion for Jesus Christ to you,” Bishop Perez said.
Mary Frey, pastoral associate at St. Albert the Great Parish in North Royalton, and Father Andrew Turner, vice-rector and dean of students for Borromeo Seminary and director of field education and assistant professor of pastoral theology at Saint Mary Seminary, earned doctor of ministry degrees. Father Turner also was chosen to carry the mace in the commencement procession of graduates and faculty.
The nine deacons who will be ordained to the priesthood on May 18 each earned two degrees, a master of divinity and a master of arts in theology. They are: Deacons Martin Dober, Kevin Fox, Andrew Gonzalez, Francisco Garnica, Inwoo Jeong, Michael Petkosek, Daniel Samide, David Stavarz and Joshua Trefney.
Also earning a master’s in theology ware Mercedarian Sisters Yvelyne Bernard, April Candelaria, Kathryne Lopez and Katherine McCloskey; Jeffrey Botos, Ronald Nowak and Janet Tuttle.
Seminarians Kevin Bertleff and William Wainio each received a certificate of completion for the pre-theology formation program and requirements in philosophy and religious studies, as set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Nine Borromeo seminarians – Michael Garvin, Maxwell Giorgi, Samuel Hadjis, Bradley Jasko, Andrew Karpinski, Jason Keller, Luke McNeill, Edward Miller and Ryan Schmeltzer – received certificates for completing the Borromeo Seminary formation program as set forth by the USCCB. They also will graduate with bachelor’s degrees on May 19 from John Carroll University.
After commencement, graduates posed for photos in the seminary library before heading to the Founders’ Room for a reception.