New Student Convocation Address
Fr. Hendrickson addresses incoming students at the Academic Convocation at the start of the fall 2018 semester.
Fr. Hendrickson addresses campus at Convocation in fall 2017,
Fr. Hendrickson addresses campus at New Student Convocation on Aug. 24, 2016, at the start of the fall semester.
Aug. 25, 2015
A number of years ago, a Brazilian writer published a novel about a young person who went searching for a personal treasure. From the southern region of Spain, the character embarked upon a journey to the pyramids of Egypt, the place where – deep within the sands of the desert, the treasure was thought to be. From the start of the journey, however, it is clear that the traveling will not be easy. Most surely, it will be enjoyable at times, and quite life-giving, and filled with the adventures of new people and new places; but at other times it will be arduous, and the journey will require great personal effort – effort that oftentimes just barely beats defeat.
Readers of the story watch the character struggle and succeed alike – making poor choices sometimes, and great ones other times. And readers also meet other individuals in the story. Some are helpful to the traveler, offering the young person good advice, healthy provisions, encouragement, confidence, direction, and vision, and they let the traveler not only keep dreaming about the treasure, but keep chasing the dream to get to the treasure.
And then there are other characters. In the story, some individuals are not at all helpful. They distract the traveler: they offer discouragement, they don’t believe the young person, and they deny that a treasure even exists. Certain individuals even mock the thought of it all, and they belittle and berate both the person and the process. “A waste of time,” they say. Or more simply, but just as scornfully, they say, “foolishness.” So they set traps, and they offer temptations, and they work hard to prevent the traveler from proceeding. The traveler, however, does proceed.
As one reads the book, called The Alchemist (1988), and authored by Paulo Coelho, it becomes very clear that the story is much more about the journey. Whether the traveler gets to the destination is also important, and learning if there is or is not a treasure is likewise significant, and you will have to read the book on your own to learn what happens. However, the journey – that is – the process – is the point of the story, including the inquiry, imagination, and inspiration at work in the life of the young traveler.
Tomorrow, with the beginning of undergraduate classes, many of you will begin a journey of your own. In fact, in moving-in, and by being on campus these past days, and by already starting professional and graduate programs, and, symbolically, by walking the pathway we just shared, the journey has already begun.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the 16th Century founder of the Jesuits, the persona that animates and informs us here at an institution of Jesuit higher education, was referred to as the pilgrim saint. He was a man who journeyed, and his life, his way of praying, and the pedagogy of his schools the world-round reflect that sense of journey. To be sure, he traveled, but the kind of Jesuit-journey we remember of him is about his questions and queries, his searching for God, his existential meditations, his openness of heart, his hungry mind, his ability to make friends, and his capacity to attract followers.
Class of 2019, and graduate and professional students, here at Creighton University; here at a prestigious place of learning; here in a Renaissance humanist parlor of higher education; here at an institution in the service faith and the promotion of justice – you are on Jesuit-journey, and I invite you to travel in two directions.
Fifteen years ago, all Jesuit colleges and universities like ours in the United States were challenged to engage the gritty realities of the world. The encouragement was to better know global struggles, and then to someday make the world – here at home, or far afield – a better place. At the same time, it was a challenge of relationship, inviting us in privileged circumstances to befriend others. And the many of us who live and work in Jesuit higher education, that is, the faculty, staff, and administration of Creighton University – we were excited by this challenge. We were eager to embrace and taste gritty realities.
So, I invite you to travel in two ways: first, travel into your selves. Travel into your own gritty reality. Dive within yourselves, and let philosophy, theology, literature, history, art, and more take you deep down. Undergraduates, do so with your core courses. Graduate and professional students, do likewise in your programs and pursuits. For all of you, for all ages, dive down. Figure out who you are, what you have, how you think and feel, what you know and don’t know…and in a Creighton education, dream about who you can become. But class of 2019, and others, let us at Creighton University take you into your gritty selves, and allow us work with you as you unfold with questions, concerns, confidence, and great self-awareness.
And at the same time, travel out. Break the boundaries of what is familiar and friendly. Go beyond comfort zones. Go then into all the good corners of this campus – to the offices and laboratories of your professors, to library corals and study tables, and to the programs of campus ministry and student life, to St. John’s Church, to the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice; go to the offices of EDGE; step into Omaha; visit service sites around the United States; and study and work abroad. That is, reach out to those other gritty realities of the world we inhabit.
As your journey takes you into your life, as well as around you, wrestle with the global issues that haunt all of us – hunger, natural resources, climate change, migration, fundamentalism, unemployment, socio-economic poverty, racism, and so much more. As the studies of the humanities let you understand yourselves and others, let them solve problems. More so, let this University’s nationally known expertise in medicine, the health sciences, business, and law, to name a few, cultivate within you the proficiency, perspective, and professionalism that the world needs.
Class of 2019, with 1,070 of you, you are the largest class in the history of Creighton University. But guess what? You are also the smartest! Please give yourselves a hand! In just a moment, our provost, Dr. Edward O’Connor, will tell you about your academic achievements.
You are also diverse. Almost half of you come from more than 400 miles away. Congratulations, Minnesotans – there at 106 of you. Kansans, you demonstrate the greatest increase from a single state. Many of you are from California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. Eighty of you are from Hawaii, and two of you are from Alaska. And, 21 of you are from other countries. You represent an increase in cultures, customs, and people of color.
Likewise, our new graduate and professional students – those of you in law, pharmacy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, medicine, dentistry, and the college of professional studies come from all sectors of this nation; and you also represent many nations.
Of all its students, Creighton University is enriched by your difference, and it is an honor to welcome you.
Speaking of “welcome,” I want to take a moment to ask all of the students and staff of Welcome Week to stand, and for their energy and enthusiasm, for us to thank them.
Students, it’s not just that you’re on a journey. We are on a journey. And this is the difference. Here at Creighton University, in Omaha, Nebraska, it is what makes us more. It is how we stand out. We are interested in your growth, and this is both professional and personal.
I hope it becomes very clear to you that your own Creighton story will be much more about the journey. That you reach your destination is also very important, and learning of its sense of treasure is likewise quite significant. However, the journey – that is – the process – is all-important, and this includes the inquiries, imaginations, and inspirations at work in your life this semester, other semesters, and years to come.
I quite like the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. He reminds us of gritty realities – he does so in regard to the unique dimensions of our own selves, as well as of the particular places in our lives where we travel and trod. What I really like about him, though, is that he reminds us, over and again, that, wherever we go, and with whatever we find, God is with us. We, and the world we live are, are blessed. So, Hopkins combines both grit and grace.
Graduate and professional students, class of 2019, let us have a great journey together. Burrow into your lives. Break boundaries around you. Be blessed.