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School year starts with Mass and Academic Convocation

September 03, 2015
The 2015-2016 school year opened with the Rev. Ray Dlugos, O.S.A. celebrating a Mass of the Holy Spirit with an exhortation for students to listen and respond when they are called to be a part of the larger community around them; then, during the Academic Convocation the Rev. Kate Braestrup called on students to seize their opportunities in college to prepare themselves for being worthwhile members of society.

“Together, let’s listen to that call,” Dlugos said. “Not just what we want but what is asked. We will be bigger, better, stronger, deeper than we ever would if we just listened to ourselves.”

President Christopher E. Hopey promised freshmen their teachers will offer all the help they need but the onus is on them to make an effort to succeed, while telling seniors the time has come to be leaders on the campus.

“I charge you to be models of the spirit of our community for these young men and women who will carry on after you have graduated,” he said. “Show them every day, in the classroom, on the field, in the dining halls and the doorways what Merrimack means to all of us.”

The 2015 recipient of the Edward G. Roddy Jr. Outstanding Teacher of the Year Christina Hardway, an associate professor of psychology, said everybody changes in college and freshmen will be different people when they graduate.

“You have a choice how you will change,” Hardway said. “How will you make this world more livable, humane, better?”

She urged them to look for connections between the academic and artistic disciplines then learn what they mean in deep and nuanced ways.

College is an exploration of the world, said Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Carol Glod. Students should draw on the experience and talents of their professors who are glad to share their knowledge and experience because they learn from students, too.

“It’s about testing your ideas against others and testing boundaries,” Glod said.

She urged students to nurture their hearts as well as their minds during college.

Growing up is a wonderful experience for people and society, Braestrup said.

“A child, however adorable, is essentially useless,” she said. “An adult is useful and useful is fun.”

Trustworthy adults can make the world a better place. Merrimack College with its Augustinian values is a good place to learn to be a good person, Braestrup said.

The last generation has proven the immense good people can perform when they use their talents toward helping others. Popular literature in the 1960s forecast worldwide starvation and apocalyptic disaster because the planet couldn’t handle the population boom.

Fortunately, society didn’t despair which is a useless emotion, Braestrup said. Instead, technology increased food production and since 1970 the number of people living on the brink of starvation has shrunk 80 percent.

“The world isn’t getting worse, it’s getting better through the work of people who make themselves useful,” Braestrup said.

  • Convocation Speaker the Reverend Kate Braestrup Meets with Students

    On the first day of the fall 2015 semester, a few fortunate students had the opportunity to meet and chat with the Academic Convocation speaker the Reverend Kate Braestrup in an early afternoon informal gathering in the Writers House.

    In the introduction of Braestrup, Writers House director Andrea Cohen spoke of Braestrup’s written message about taking something difficult in your life and making something of it.

    Braestrup did just that after the initial shock of her husband’s accidental death. She used that experience to help others in their time of need. A chaplain since 2001, Braestrup began working with wardens as a law enforcement chaplain whose job it is to support and comfort people whose loved ones are missing, injured, or dead due to accidents, homicides or children lost in the woods. She might ask if they are comfortable; do they need water; does the cell phone work; or what can I facilitate for you? She might pray or discuss theological issues or explain the procedures that are taking place.

    Braestrup knows that her day job as a law enforcement chaplain is more interesting to talk about than her job as an author.

    She gets to be with people when they are at their lowest and most vulnerable and see their beauty shine through, she shared. Her job becomes her inspiration.

    “Before, I didn’t know what I was writing for; [with the inspiration of my job] my writing is now a mission,” Braestrup said.

    At the request of a student, Braestrup gave this advice:

    • Wear a helmet
    • Wear a life jacket in water
    • Stay away from snowmobiles
    • Don’t drink and swim, drive, or work out personal issues
    • If you get lost in the woods, stop!

    Braestrup confided that with every tragedy, people fall. But after a while, they get back up again. Almost everyone is able to rise and be able to move forward, often doing great things. “Love can redeem just about anything,” she believes.


Watch Rev. Braestrup’s Convocation address below:


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  • Reverend Kate Braestrup with Provost Dr. Carol Glod and President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.d.
    Reverend Kate Braestrup with Provost Dr. Carol Glod and President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.d.

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