By Patricia Brennan
The University of Dallas received a letter from the Vatican addressing students and their petition to have Pope Francis as the 2015 commencement speaker. The letter, which was received on April 19, was written by Monsignor Peter Wells on behalf of the pope. Though the pope will not be attending, Msgr. Wells said that the pope “was pleased to receive your letters and he has asked me to thank you for your kind invitation to your graduation.”
Every year, members of the University of Dallas community are invited to submit names to university President Thomas Keefe for consideration as the speaker at the commencement ceremony. Last April, members of the class of 2015 decided to take steps to see if it would be possible to bring Pope Francis to Irving this May.
What started out as a joke became a legitimate project, motivated by the possibility of having the most important figure in the Catholic Church send UD graduates off into the world at their commencement ceremony.
The Vatican responded to the students who reached out and requested the pope as the commencement speaker.
In the letter, Msgr. Wells expressed Pope Francis’ thanks and the assurance that he would be giving the university “special remembrance” in his prayers. Additionally, he granted the graduating class, students’ families and the university as a whole an apostolic blessing “as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.”
“His Holiness prays that your pursuit of personal excellence will continue to be inspired by a deep and living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” read the letter. “He encourages you to find lasting joy by living in fidelity to the Gospel and by helping to build a world based on justice, love and truth.”
Alex Taylor, a senior who was one of the leaders of the initiative, was excited to find that something had come of the students’ endeavor.
“It was really great to get a response in the mail. That was a large part of what we were hoping for by reaching out to [the] pope, just to have him reach back to us,” said Taylor. “It was really incredible to have him give us an apostolic blessing, and to know that he’s praying for us and remembering us. That was a lot of what it was about.”