“What Will Your Choice Be?” Graduation Ceremony 2020

The Pontifical Anthem and the National Anthem of Austria solemnly opened the curtain on the livestreamed ITI graduation ceremony 2020. Those graduands and students who had left Campus due to the current global corona crisis, could join the gathered ITI assembly virtually for a festive closing of the academic year in the Allan and Radwan Riley Hall. As is traditional for the commencement ceremony, the ITI Grand Chancellor, His Eminence Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, honored the ITI community with his presence, prayer and blessings.

In his words of greeting, so fitting for the eve of the feast of the Most Holy Trinity and right before the graduands proclaimed the Profession of Faith, his Eminence reflected on the essential mystery of Christian faith: the Blessed Trinity. Studying the teachings of the Church in Holy Scripture and Tradition is the basis of our faith in order to be able to see its reasonability. The most important questions, however, that the Cardinal posed and asked the graduands were: “Do you believe in the One God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? Does it matter that we believe in the Holy Trinity? How does It work in our life? And what does it mean to invoke the Holy Spirit?” His Eminence brought two passages from the Gospel of Mark to the attention of the assembly as key revelatory passages in the New Testament for the foundation of our faith. The first narrative tells of Jesus before the Council (Mark 14:53-65) when ‘all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes were assembled to seek testimony against Jesus to put Him to death’. The high priest asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you will see the Son sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” The second passage speaks of the death of Jesus and the pagan soldier who stood at the cross (Mark 15:38-39). “And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion saw that… he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” The Grand Chancellor’s Address

The celebration continued with the conferral of twenty two academic degrees and six certificates to graduands from different countries and continents, among them four licentiate degrees in sacred theology, successfully defended by Elizabeth Schick, Claire Coulombe, Andrew Steele and Joshua Madden. A doctoral degree was conferred to Fr. Johannes Fischereder for the successful defense of his dissertation titled Und das Wort ist Fleisch geworden. Gott-menschliche Seelsorge an der Schwelle zur Kirche.”

The class speaker this year, Elizabeth Hince, shared about how happy she is that God overlooked her initial plan and, instead of putting her on the path to a fashion school, brought her to the ITI. She witnessed with gratitude and joy to the uniqueness of the ITI and the beautiful experience she received. “The first thing that struck me was a strong, faith-filled community, a community of good and devoted individuals who were here to better themselves and to pursue the truth”, says Elizabeth. She is convinced that the studies at the ITI help students to find their life vocation and their role in the Church and society.  “I believe there have been many moments for all of us when we are “struck”. “Struck” with the truth and beauty of a class reading or a reflection. It is that moment of realization, that moment of understanding, uncovering a deeper truth. I remember one of these moments in an exam, when the reality of Christ’s death on the cross was in front of me and I broke into tears. Yes, I grew up learning about the faith, but this was a moment where the truth penetrated in a personal way. This was just one grace-filled moment but there are many more inside and outside of the classroom that everyone experiences at ITI” – summarizes Elisabeth. The Student Commencement Address

At the end of the graduation ceremony, the President and Rector of the ITI, Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau, delivered his traditional Commencement Address to graduates and students. In the midst of the pandemic and its devastating consequences, he spoke about freedom and choice. He began his speech with the quote from Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”: Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Citing the example of the Holocaust survivor Edith Eva Eger, the Rector encouraged all to be brave and choose rightly.  Edith Eger experienced the unspeakable horrors of Auschwitz, but she made a choice to be a victor over her sufferings. In her book The Choice: Embrace the Possible, which tells of her life, she describes how ‘she chose her freedom, her attitude, her own way - not to be a victim of her sufferings but to transcend and use them for the benefit of others’. Dr. Alting von Geusau asked everyone to reflect upon the question of how we, as Christian leaders, can respond to the current situation; how we can change the world and have impact in it. He left the graduates, and with them the whole assembly, to answer the following: “Will we today, will you, dear graduates... be victims of this crisis or the victors over it? Will the suffering and death of so many around us, around the world every day, inspire you to magnanimity and taking responsibility, or will you retreat in righteous self-pity pointing to that evil world? What will your choice be?” The Rector’s Address

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