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Notre Dame Class of 1964 Reunion
Msgr. James Michael Doyle
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Our own Father Doyle gave the following speech this May.
He thought we might enjoy it. I did and I trust you will too!



USD COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS, Msgr. James Michael Doyle, 5/8/2004

Thank you, all graduates of 2004. Thank you President Abbott and distinguished faculty and administration. Thank you parents, families, friends and alumni. Thank you all. I am very humbled and honored to receive this Doctorate from one of our nations finest small Universities and deliver the commencement address. It is all so unmerited.

Exactly 25 years ago, I attended USD Commencement ceremonies to receive a farewell honor. Then, with the Irish affliction of tears too close to the eyes, I quickly hid myself back at the Newman Center and wept as though I had lost my Mother.

I was so blessed to occupy the sole chair of Religious Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences and pastor the Catholic Newman Center for 12 wonderful years, 1967-1979. Historians call them today the soaring 60s and the sizzling 70s. They were the years that rocked the world. . . .and this campus.

Please permit me a few personal memories. . . .The Student Association and the Newman Council jointly sponsored the appearance of many prominent speakers. They came from movements that challenged assumed customs and conventions of culture and society in that day, and their effects are far-reaching to the present day. How sad our current culture is beguiled by hollow heroes and sheros who stand for glibness, sport stardom, superficial beauty and the illusion of celebrity. Today famous faces are brought into our living rooms by a miracle of television...but there is something so specially felt when we are in the physical presence of greatness. WE are formed by what excites us and what we admire. Here were a few examples...African American JAMES MEREDITH came to our campus in 1965, shortly after he broke the color barrier of Southern University systems when he braved the throwing of insults and rocks to register at 01 Miss. Rocket scientist WERNER VON BRAUN pointed our gaze to the stars. Two years later, Americans walked on the moon. DR. LEO BUSCAGLIA taught a course at Southern Cal entitled LOVE 101. He gave us all permission to say out loud I love you and to go home and give a startled Dad a big hug as well as Mom. New York Apostle to the poor DOROTHY DAY helped us better understand there is a spark of the Divine in EVERY human being, regardless of how mixed up or impoverished he or she might be. Her message was a constant inspiration as we struggled to start the BANQUET service to the poor in Sioux Falls. Death camp survivor, DR. VICKTOR FRANKL insisted any of us can endure almost any HOW if we have a WHY for doing it. Senator GENE MCCARTHY convinced us that loyal dissent of a presidential decision to engage in war (then the Vietnam war) is not treason, and GEORGE MCGOVERN proved that just because you are from South Dakota, does NOT mean you cant run for President of the United States. Many were ground-breaking messages leading us to places we werent that anxious to go. It was a time of vision and growth for almost everyone, including me. It used to bother me, when I heard Commencement speakers telling graduates how it would be, once they got out in the real world. There was, and always will be as much Joy and Sorrow on the campus mall as in the market place. It is real. In that wonderful fantasy novel, the Little Prince says it is such a secret place, the land of tears. One secret place on campus in my day was my office...like trying to convince a young man his Father still DOES love him, even if he threw him out of home until he cut his haira young UNMARRIED couple telling me through their tears how it was going to kill their parents when they tell them of the human life their flesh has created counseling a med student whose whole future was derailed when he flunked microbiology or holding a sobbing student, in my arms who just learned his Father had suddenly died, or brother came back from Vietnam in a body bag. And I found my own Faith challenged often by deep questionsas when a senior law student, editor of the law review, and his wife carrying their first child were flat run over by an Old Home Bread truck on highway 50 when they tried passing a car in snowy weather.. .some of his classmates said to me after the funeral, God cant be both all powerful and all good. If he was all powerful, he would have used His power to avoid the accident, and if all good, his goodness would never have permitted Joe and Mary to die that way. I said, I promised I will always tell you the truth. Truth is, I dont know. Philosophers and Theologians have been struggling with this from the dawn of human consciousness. But every time Im faced with such mysterious workings of creation, as a man of Faith, I have to give God the benefit of the doubt about the doubt. I always felt it wasnt as important for me to identify with the students, as getting them to identify with what I stood for.

There are other warm memories of happy times living with USD students, even in their mischief. Like a senior from Watertown, who even at that young age was a certified member of the CIA (Catholic, Irish and Alcoholic), who after being jailed for DWI, used his one phone call to order pizza. Or the ski-masked streaker who ran right in front of me as I was presiding at Sunday Mass, but revealed his Catholic identity when he genuflected while passing the altar. And the good news is that almost all students came through in aces from those wild years, (except for a few geriatric hippies) and today are in leadership positions in our government, journalism, health and legal services, education and business throughout our whole State and indeed throughout our nation.

Now, from the museum of memories to the living garden of graduates before me... representing almost every discipline. Your one common link is that you are all graduating from USD, the University of South Dakota this morning. So lets use that acronym USD to suggest three words which were hopefully involved in your formation hereU for Understanding . S for Sincerity.and D for Destiny.


When I think of UNDERSTANDING, I always flash on God promising Solomon when making him the King of Israel, He would give him whatever gift he asked for...power, riches, other skills.. . Solomon said, Dear Lord, just give me an understanding heart, so that I can lead my people! From the very beginning of the University system at Paris in the Middle Ages, with such stellar professors as Aquinas and Abelard, a University was commissioned to impart both knowledge and understanding. Knowledge and Understanding are siblings, but they are not twins. Understanding embraces and enriches knowledge. It puts working clothes on knowledge. In our cyber world of today, you can find all the knowledge you would ever want with a few clicks of the computer. Understanding helps us to discern between what is credible and what is flawed. Some larger institutions simply wholesale knowledge. USDs more modest-sized classes truly enhances that understanding. Knowledge is like a knife it can help or hurt you, depending on whether you grasp it by the handle or the blade. Our University has helped you put the handle of understanding in your hand. And mind you, as you leave here with a freshly-minted degree, your understanding curve has not spiked. It has only just begun.

S stands for SINCERITY. The ancient Romans certified that a sculpture did not have a crack or miscue filled in with wax by inscribing on the bottom Sine Latin word for without, Cera word for wax. Sincerity is that tiny, Jimmy Crickett voice inside whispering, just be true to yourself Some of my friends in high corporate positions have told me that they prefer hiring graduates of smaller, Midwestern Universities because those of larger, more prestigious schools often come to them with an attitude that lacks sincerity to learn, and are more difficult to train. A good example of insincerity during my days directing the Newman Center, was when I was annoyed that I would seldom see some students at Mass who came from a strong Catholic background, EXCEPT when their parents were visiting on campus. So as Parents Weekend was approaching one year, I put a big, rather costly Ad in the Volante, with a picture of me standing in front of the Newman Center and the inscription bring your parents to Mass on Parents Day weekend, and I will pretend I know you. The very next day a sign went up in the front window of the Charcoal bar & lounge saying bring your parents here to lunch after Mass and we will pretend we DONT know you. I have a hunch that your fellow USD Alumnus Tom Brokaw is always at least two links ahead of other network News anchors because his sincerity just lights up the screen. Keeping this attractive quality of sincerity may well help separate your future career from being just adequate to being exceptional.

And D is for DESTINY. All of us have experienced those brief moments when the borders between Heaven and Earth seem to fade, and we are blessed with a fleeing glimpse of our Destiny and are confronted with the 5 most important questions of life.. .Who am I? Where did I come from? How did I get here? Where am I going, and how will I get there? This commencement ceremony may well be such a moment of Grace for you. Here today, hundreds will get the same degree as you, and as you market your newly-honed skills, thousands will be doing what you hope to do in life. But in this gathering, and in the whole world, you have something no one else has. you are the only person on this planet who has control of your own Destiny.

When todays graduating Seniors came to campus at least four years ago as freshmen, our world was much different. Then there was relative peace and the soaring economy seemed to defy gravity. Today, nations are tittering and corporations are tottering and terrorism has metastasized. During the depression and dustbowl days of 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed, this generation of Americans has a rendezvous with Destiny! Could it be that you, the graduates of today have a Destiny to stabilize our world again. Dont laugh. When Lewis and Clark walked within a few miles of here on their way to Spirit Mound exactly 200 years ago this very August, do you suppose they had the faintest notion their Destiny would be to open up the whole Northwestern part of our continent for development? Bear in mind that prior to their journey, all of that territory Northwest of St. Louis had been declared unfit for human habitation.

Once a young monk asked St. Francis of Assisi brother Francis, how can I help to change the world into a better place? Francis said get a piece of chalk; draw a big circle and then sit in it and first begin making things better for the whole world right within that circle...Even Albert Einstein, crusty old agnostic he was, used to say, a life not spent in helping others is a life wasted.

Have you ever watched the State Special Olympics when they meet on this campus? I have. And more than once Ive seen these physically and mentally challenged people stopped in their tracks when racing.. .when they heard someone crying who had fallen on the cinder track of old Inman Field. Then they turned around, ran back and helped the fallen contestant, and went on to finish the race. What a wonderful lesson taught by Gods special people! Life means more than winning, or being driven by the goddess of Greed. It means helping others to win also, even if we have to slow down to do it.

It has been said many times, life is not a dress rehearsal. . . .you only live it
once. . .but trust the ol Padre on this one.. .if you work it right.. .once is enough!
For everything that has been, YES with gratitude...
For everything that will be YES with Hope!

Congratulations Graduates all! Gods best blessings be with you on your new Journey. And thank you all for listening to me this morning!