Farewell Graduating Class of 2021!

In the twenty-fifth year of ITI’s existence we bid farewell to the ITI’s largest ever graduation class. Thirty five degrees total were conferred on across our BA, MMF, STM, and STL study programs, and six certificates were awarded to our SG students. The solemn commencement ceremony took place in the Schloss courtyard on June 12, 2021. It was a great pleasure for our community to welcome the families and friends of our graduates and especially two revered guests: ITI’s Grand Chancellor His Eminence Christoph Cardinal Schönborn and Rev. Fr. Patrick Erich Schöder, a Benedictine monk from the Monastery of Göttweig who serves as the Vicar of Schools and Universities for the Bishop of St. Pölten.

The festive day began with a holy Mass of thanksgiving for all God’s blessings during this academic year and for its successful completion. In his homily Fr. Schöder gave several suggestions to the graduates as they begin a new stage in their life out in the world: “The ITI has helped you to understand your faith more deeply, certainly through your studies, but also through the times you prayed together in the Christian spirit that prevails here at the campus. Cling to your faith! It is more valuable than anything else. There will come a time in life, years from now, when you will move on from the things that interest you now; but there should never be a time when you are not interested in your faith. Never move away from God and the practice of your faith! Without God there is no true happiness and no meaning! Stay close to the Lord and the Lord will stay close to you! I hope and pray that through your studies here at the ITI you have seen the light and you have tasted the salt of salvation. I pray that the spirit of Christian unity and service which you have learned here will always be a part of your life: that you will always be serving others, that you find joy in reaching out in respect and love for those in need, that you yourselves become light and salt wherever your life journey takes you.” You can listen to the full version of the graduation sermon here.

At the opening of the commencement ceremony, His Eminence Christoph Cardinal Schönborn prayed for the founding members of the ITI and for all those who have continued to support, help, and encourage the work of this university, as well as for all the alumni throughout the world who are giving witness and reasons for their faith and who, through their faithful commitment and their work, continue to bear good fruits from the seeds they received at the ITI. His Eminence again committed the ITI to the purpose of its foundation and the mission which was entrusted to it. He asked the Holy Spirit to help the ITI also in the coming years to remain faithful to its mission and the Holy Church. Concluding his prayer, he invoked the intercession of our Founder, Pope St. John Paul II.

Cardinal Schönborn conferred academic degrees and awarded certificates to the happy graduands. Afterwards, in accordance with the requirements for the STM and STL degrees of the Church, all the graduates made a profession of faith.

The solemnity continued with a students’ address in the longstanding ITI tradition of the seminar method. In their speech, STM graduates Danylo Kolasa and Dominic Nalpon reflected on the questions their fellows graduates are currently facing: What will you do? How will you contribute to the life of the Church and the world? The speakers built their discussion on the motto of the Carthusian order - Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis. The Cross Stands Firm, while the World Turns. This motto is intrinsically linked to the roots of the ITI, which was born at the Kartause in Gaming. They say: “Its [the motto’s] meaning is clear: the world moves, changes, goes through seasons of ups and downs, cold winters and stifling summers. But the Cross does not: it stays the same, standing firm as a beacon of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness for those who have eyes to see - a manifestation of the Love of God for us, His beloved creatures and children.” On behalf of all the graduates they expressed their thankfulness for having the honor and privilege of experiencing the stability of the Cross here at the ITI, at a place where they felt secure in what matters most: “their identity as beloved children of the Father, and living in accordance with this truth.” They encouraged the festive assembly “to cling to the Cross in love, no matter if one goes out into the world or remains at the ITI.” Click here to listen to the full version of the students’ commencement address 2021

The Rector’s commencement address has been always the summit of the farewell feast at the ITI. Prof. Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau began his address with a quote from one of the greatest political scientists of the 20th century, Hannah Arendt, who wrote the book The Origins of Totalitarianism. She says: “The more highly developed a civilization, the more accomplished the world it has produced, the more at home men feel within the human artifice - the more they will resent everything they have not produced, everything that is merely and mysteriously given them.”

Dr. Geusau pointed out that this is exactly the world into which the graduates are being sent and that is the vineyard (in the biblical sense) in which they are called to work; a world that generally rejects everything that it has not created itself. He continued to reflect on the same essentially real question discussed by the Class Speakers above: How should you go about being fruitful in a civilization that tends to reject or deny that which it has not produced itself? In his answer to this question the Rector referred to three topics - Beauty, Truth, and Heroism - that he together with the ITI Dean Dr. Bernhard Dolna discussed in the latest episode of the Education at the Crossroads series. He said:

You, Dear Graduates, have the task of showing – wherever you go and in whatever field you work – that the whole of the order of creation actually makes sense because of its beauty, beginning with the fact that each one of us has been created from the moment of conception as a man or a woman. I am sure that the new couples that have fallen in love amongst the students this academic year can attest to the fact that there is beauty in the way that we have been created as man and woman.

You, Dear Graduates, have the task - with the help of that understanding of the beauty - to invite and motivate all whom you encounter in your private and professional lives to join you on the life-long and deeply rewarding journey of finding the truth of what it means to be human. And what a great task this is in a society that utterly rejects the idea that there is such a thing as truth! Your counter-cultural efforts will bring much good to society and in the process, you will be saving souls.

You, Dear Graduates, have the task of living out a heroism that shows fortitude, perseverance, and great charity. You will need a good dose of heroism to convince our highly developed civilization – which loves to play god – that, in fact, the real God is to be found elsewhere, and can be searched out through beauty and an openness to seeking truth. In living out this heroism you can and should leave your comfort zones and offer a joyful and inspiring alternative to what we find so prevalent in our current culture, as one famous and highly successful executive leadership coach to business and political leaders observes it: ‘We have encouraged a culture of soft, weak and delicate people who can’t keep promises, who fail to keep commitments and who quit pursuing their aspirations the moment the smallest obstacle shows up.’

You, Dear Graduates, are not to be like that,” continued Dr. Geusau. He shared the story of his friend Esteban Bullrich, the current Senator in the Parliament and former Minister of Education of the great nation of Argentina, who despite a severe illness has the courage to witness to what it means to be Christian in this world. Mr. Bullrich’s position is strong and is finely expressed in these words: “This illness does not define me, what defines me is how I face it. To be alive is a gift from God. To wake up every day with an opportunity to change what happed the day before is a gift. The past does not condemn you, what matters is what you do today. What matters is what you do with what you have, to keep looking forward.”

Given that example, the Rector invited graduates to think about how this is what our world today needs to hear and needs to see in them and what they need to live out in a world that is trying to identify people by all sorts of things that should not define them. “My suggestion for you, Dear Graduates, as you are graduating and going out into the world, would be: follow this example and get to work in that vineyard of the world,” were the words with which Dr. Geusau concluded his speech. You can listen to the full version of the Rector’s commencement address here.

With these inspirational words from the ITI Rector, the ceremony was closed with the ITI Anthem Sicut Cervus, written by G. P. da Palestrina and sung by the ITI student choir; afterwards the whole assembly proceeded to have a festive dinner at the ITI Campus.