ST. LEO, FL – Saint Leo University students ended their time at the university as they started it—in prayer and thanksgiving. On Friday, May 13, the university community came together to celebrate Baccalaureate Mass in the Marion Bowman Activities Center at University Campus in St. Leo, FL.
Presiding was the Right Reverend Isaac Camacho, OSB, abbot of Saint Leo Abbey. Concelebrants were Reverend Randall Meissen, university chaplain and director of University Ministry, and Reverend Lucius Amarillas, OSB, prior of Saint Leo Abbey. Camacho graduated from Saint Leo in 1995 and Amarillas earned degrees from Saint Leo in 2018 and 2019. Visiting concelebrants joined in the celebration, including Reverend Felix Forgap Nkafu, who earned a Master of Business Administration: Human Resource Management degree.
“How beautiful it is to be grateful for big and small accomplishments,” said Camacho, addressing the graduates.
He told them, “You always had someone behind you pushing you to do good, pushing you to be the best you can be. You will apply all that you have learned here.”
Camacho said, “Sons and daughters forget to say ‘thank you’ to parents for everything they do.” He then asked the soon-to-be graduates give a loud “thank you” to their families.
Brother Apollo Rodriguez, OSB, and a 2019 graduate, served as cantor for the Mass, while the Dr. Cynthia Selph, assistant professor of music and music ministry directed the musicians including student-singers and Christine Honein, and Dr. Chul Young Kim, adjunct voice instructors. The Brass Menagerie was directed by Ken Watts.
Hannah Wiand, who graduated cum laude with bachelor’s degrees in psychology: clinical counseling and religion, presented the first reading, Acts 13:26. Caitlin Markey presented the prayers of the faithful. Markey graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice: criminalistics.
Presenting the gifts at the Baccalaureate Mass were Kennedy Messina, a member of the women’s soccer team who graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s in marketing, and Saint Leo University Board of Trustees chair John View, a member of the Class of 1972.
University President Jeffrey D. Senese served as a Eucharistic minister, distributing Communion to the graduates and their families as well as faculty, staff, and guests.
On Saturday, May 14, more than 1,200 Saint Leo students proudly walked across the stage at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa during two commencement ceremonies in which doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degrees were awarded.
The ceremonies celebrated students who studied at the main campus north of Tampa in St. Leo, FL; at its Florida education centers in Tampa, Ocala, Lake City, Jacksonville, Key West, and at the East Pasco Education Center locations in Pasco and Hernando counties; at MacDill Air Force Base (Tampa); at Naval Station Mayport (Jacksonville); and online throughout the world.
Senese told the graduates to “think big.”
“Think about the expanse of possibilities in front of you today,” Senese said. “There is no limit ahead of you today, tomorrow, or the day after! You are a Saint Leo University graduate . . . you can do all you desire.”
The new Saint Leo graduates also should “think differently,” the university president said. “You have learned how to learn,” Senese said. “You have been ‘instructed.’ You have paid attention. Now it is time to make your own decisions. Now it is time for you to lead your own professional path in life. Now is the time to keep listening and paying attention, and to use that to make a difference as you see fit.”
And lastly, Senese told those assembled to think about others. “Think about what is possible and do it,” he advised. “Think about the help you were provided and do the same. Think about paying it forward when you can.”