Thursday, May 23, 2019

(226) Graduating From the Ohio State University


       This past Sunday the Ohio State University awarded close to 12,000 degrees.  It took over an hour for all of the graduates to process into the stadium and take their seats in the end zone (see  The opposite end zone was empty.  Some 58,000 parents and friends filled the rest of the immense stadium to the top.
The president of Ohio State University, Dr. Michael Drake announced the National Anthem and the singing of “Carmen Ohio”, the Alma Mater as seen on  The fact that Dr. Drake happens to be black is a testament to how far we have advanced in the area of racial equality since slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow laws.  True, we still have to make the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King come true.  There were several speakers, the main one being the CNN political commentator and Washington Post columnist, Dr. Fareed Zakaria who challenged the students to make a difference in their careers for better communities and thus a better world.

       The caps and gowns are sustainable and great for the environment, having been made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.  That indeed is a lot better than the islands of plastic containers in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Credit Ohio State University and its retail outlet, Barn & Noble for finding the right vendor to make it.

A typical graduation day at the Ohio State University, looking at the back of the stage.  In front are the tables for distributing diploma.  The 12,000 graduates of Spring 2019 sat in the far end zone seats.
       It took another hour and more to hand out all 12,000 diplomas from numerous tables.  No names were announced except for those receiving the PhD degree.  The graduates hailed from Ohio mainly, but also from all over the United States and the world, including such countries as Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Israel, Somalia, Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and a great number from China, among others.

Parents and family come from all over the world to be there for the big day of
their sons and daughters.
         This shows that one of America’s major exports is education which is contributing significantly to our balance of payments and the economic development of the world.  May American students befriend them and thus broaden their education by learning about foreign cultures.  May the international students see the good and the greatness in America, thus being forces for peace and ambassadors for friendly relations with the United States.  God forbid that they ever use their newly found knowledge against us.  That can indeed happen and has in the past when we ignore international students and are not hospitable.

       Although Ohio State University is very secular, it does have a person in charge of chaplaincy.  However, her prayer was very politically correct, ostensibly not to “offend” anyone.  Nevertheless, it did offend at least some believers as Dr. Anselam Newberry invoked “the spirit of light and life according to your belief”.  Why not use “the supreme being” or simply “God”?  Have we as a nation gone crazy over political correctness?  True, that’s better than no invocation at all.

Sunday Mass at the St. Thomas More Newman Center, the Catholic Parish for the Ohio State University Community.

       The St. Thomas More Newman Center, the Roman Catholic Campus Ministry for The Ohio State University had a beautiful Saturday night baccalaureate Mass on the eve of graduation as the Catholic students in cap and gown sat with their parents.  I never saw this done before on any secular campus.  However, I wish that the Newman staff would put more substance into the baccalaureate Mass…..perhaps with a procession and homily to energize the students to be aware of their responsibilities as Catholic laymen in a secular society and in the Church in great need of renewal.

Independent of Ohio State, it is the university parish that attends to the spiritual needs of students, faculty, and staff as well as and their families.  The staff of four Paulist Fathers and a dozen laymen provide a Catholic presence and an excellent program for Catholic students with Sunday after Mass breakfasts and evening suppers, classes, two retreats per year, Eucharistic Adoration, a prayer group, Bible studies, daily Mass, picnics, etc.  We are grateful for what they have done for our son.

In collaboration with the St. Paul’s Outreach, which our son Joseph belonged to and lived in community with, 300 students participate in small group Bible study throughout the academic year.  Joseph was the leader of one of the groups.  Student evangelists of St. Paul’s Outreach recruit other students of diverse backgrounds to dine at one of their eight houses for community living and participate in Bible studies.  The houses are like sororities and fraternities, where students live, pray, and do things together……all part of their daily spiritual formation.

Members of the parish community participate in a food for the homeless ministry, a soup kitchen for the poor, and Habitat for Humanity.  It also has a young Catholic professionals group for faith, service, and fellowship.  It even has a local counterpart to the internationally known Catholic Relief Services (CRS) that engages students and the wider community in tangible acts of solidarity to build a more just and peaceful world. CRS meets bi-monthly on Monday evenings at 7 p.m.

Students also have the opportunity to train and develop as leaders.  ESTEEM (Engaging Students to Enliven the Ecclesial Mission) is a national leadership program in the Church. ESTEEM leaders provide leadership in the community, go on retreats, have bi-weekly formation nights, attend a national conference, and are paired up with a community mentor.

The student organization (a Newman Club) is called Buckeye Catholics, or BCAT, for short.  BCAT meets on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at the Newman Center where there are speakers, live praise & worship music, and fellowship!  There will be opportunities for students to socialize and build life-giving community throughout each semester.  There are other opportunities as well for students to socialize and build life-giving community throughout each semester.

    Despite such an ample program, Fr. Ed Nowak, the director, says “only about 10% of OSU Catholic students take advantage of it.  True, some go to surrounding Catholic churches”, especially if they commute.  When students become active in the St. Thomas More Newman Center, they no longer are a number, one among thousands of other students.  On the contrary, they become part of a university parish community with opportunities to blossom socially and spiritually. See and a video at

Our son, Joseph Sebastian is flanked by his parents Paul and Jaga.  Big sister Naomi is on the right.  Joseph is wearing the scarlet and white sash, given to those who graduated with honor…….his was Magna Cum Laude.  Do you notice anything different about Joseph’s tassel?  Not having one, he improvised a tassel out of dental floss and dyed it with hot sauce.  His cap and gown is a hand-me-down from his big brother, John-Paul.
        Within that tremendous diversity in the Class of 2019 were three graduates that are from Appalachian Gallia County in southeastern Ohio where we live.  They include Varun Sharma of Gallia Academy who graduated in Architecture.  Joseph Sebastian of Gallia Academy and the University of Rio Grande graduated Magna Cum Laude (.03 short of summa) in Computer Science and Engineering.  They both were teammates on the Tennis team at Gallia Academy High School.

       After being a varsity gymnast for four years in the Vault and Floor Routine, Janelle McClelland of River Valley graduated (Cum Laude) in Speech and Hearing.  After teaching gymnastics this summer, she will study Speech Pathology in a master degree program at the University of Cincinnati.

    Our thanks to Stanley Harrison for sponsoring scholarships to residents of Gallia and Jackson Counties who study Engineering at the Ohio State University.  He grew up in Gallia County and now lives in Jackson County after a successful engineering career.  Numerous engineers today have a debt of gratitude to his generosity.  May they in turn give something back to other needy students who are now working their way through college.   

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