Though she already had a degree in social work, Mercy Sister Rosemary Sherman had always wanted to enhance her education. Father Jim Schwartz, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Penfield, and her fellow sisters of Mercy encouraged her to pursue an advanced degree at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry.
Sister Sherman was one of 50 people to receive advanced degrees from the school during its May 9 commencement at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Twenty-one candidates earned master’s degrees from St. Bernard’s programs in Rochester and Albany, while others earned graduate certificates in pastoral studies, lay leadership and ministries. Graduate certificates in pastoral studies as well as certificates in lay leadership and ministries also were awarded.
Sister Sherman’s new degree is a master’s in pastoral studies. A social worker at the Mary Cariola Children’s Center, she said St. Bernard’s faculty helped her deepen her faith during her 2 ¬Ω years of study.
“They have enriched the depth of my knowledge,” said Sister Sherman, who read from Corinthians during the commencement. “I’ve formed a new relationship with Jesus at St. Bernard’s.”
Noting that many of the graduates juggled family and jobs as they took night classes, the school’s president, Sister of St. Joseph Patricia Schoelles, remarked, “I am in awe of their commitment.”
Mary Van Houten, music minister for the Newman Community at State University of New York College at Geneseo, was among the graduates who juggled multiple commitments. She noted that the process of earning her music-ministry certificate was a long one, beginning with an audition in 2001 and moving forward one course at a time.
Van Houten said the courses she took at St. Bernard’s will aid her in helping to choose relevant music and minister to people through music.
“(St. Bernard’s) deepens our knowledge of the Roman Catholic Church,” noted Van Houten, who sang “Psalm 19: Your Words, O Lord,” during the commencement ceremony. She had set the psalm’s words set to music for the dedication of Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“It was a great privilege to do that,” said Van Houten
Also among the 50 graduates were three who received certificates from El Instituto de Pastoral Hispano at St. Bernard’s, which offers ministerial classes taught in Spanish.
“I love the institute,” said Mar√≠a Rodr√≠quez de O’Hearn, who teaches Spanish-speaking students through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program at St. Luke the Evangelist parish in Livingston County. “I love to go there.”
Rodr√≠quez de O’Hearn, who is also the program director for Hispanic outreach with Catholic Charities of Livingston County, enjoyed the institute so much that she intends to continue taking classes there without receiving academic credit, noted Brother Juan Lozada, director of El Instituto as well as the Spanish Apostolate for the Diocese of Rochester.
An interest in enriching his faith also motivated Edward Kohlmeier, a member of the three-church cluster of Church of the Epiphany, Sodus, St. Rose, Sodus Point, and St. Mary of the Lake, Ontario, to try the permanent diaconate and St. Bernard’s. Kohlmeier earned a master’s degree in pastoral studies and will be ordained as a permanent deacon May 31.
“It was just a love for the church and wanting to do something in the church and wanting to learn more about my faith,” Kohlmeier said of the impetus for his pursuit of the diaconate program and studies at St. Bernard’s.
Though most of the graduates are involved in some sort of ministry, commencement speaker Mark Gearan, president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, encouraged them to continue their service to the community.
Gearan, who served as an assistant to President Bill Clinton and as director of communications and deputy chief of staff in the Clinton administration, left politics in 1995 to head the Peace Corps. In 1999, he was appointed to lead Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where he has been an advocate for service-learning opportunities like the Peace Corps.
In thanking St. Bernard’s graduates for their own commitment to service, Gearan encouraged them to share that spirit of service with young people.
“There are opportunities for us to touch upon, help and assist what could be the next greatest generation,” Gearan said.
During his time in the White House, Gearan also traveled to Rome, where he accompanied President Bill Clinton to the Vatican to meet with Pope John Paul II. He said he always saw his Catholicism and his liberal political orientation as being in sync.
“The Christian Gospel certainly does not endorse the status quo,” Gearan said.