A Summer to Remember
By Michael J. Graham, S.J.
As the campus came back to life for our new school year, a staple of conversation among faculty, staff and students alike was, “How was your summer?” With a nod to them, let me tell you a bit about mine.
It was, in a word, wonderful! Just enough work—well, maybe a bit more than “just” enough—to make sure that critical projects kept moving and I was guilt-free about the time I took off. That “time off” was spent doing things I look forward to every summer: my annual retreat in Arizona, for example (where I carved out special time with special friends—one old, one new) and lazy days at Bethany Beach. As well, my best friend and I spent eight pleasant days in Ireland. (Does Ireland have any other kind of days?)
But when I look back on Summer 2011, what I know I’ll remember most are three of the four weddings I was privileged to witness. Not that the fourth one wasn’t nice. It was. It’s just that I had known the other three grooms since birth; I am godfather to two of them and dutch uncle to the third. Those were memorable and moving weddings indeed.
Of the three of them, it’s the first I want to tell you about—the wedding of Daniel and Anne Flynn—because, you see, it’s a story ultimately about all of you as well.
Daniel’s dad is that best friend I toured Ireland with. A picture from his baptism sits on a window ledge in my campus apartment, and his high school yearbook photo too. I wrote a sterling but ultimately unsuccessful letter of recommendation for him to the University of Notre Dame. Their loss! And I couldn’t have been more thrilled when he finally chose Xavier.
He met a great crop of kids when he moved into Buenger Hall as a freshman, Anne Feczko among them. With them, he got involved in campus life, from intramural sports to faith and justice work. I got to know a number of those kids myself. It was great to catch up with them throughout the wedding weekend, from the rehearsal dinner Friday night through Sunday morning’s goodbye brunch. It didn’t take many such conversations before a general pattern emerged: they were finishing up their first thing after Xavier (or shortly would), and were making or planning their next moves. And, across the board, they were finding ways to continue the trajectories of service they had established in their undergrad days. Conversation by conversation, I found myself so proud of them.
I wasn’t the only one. I lost count of the number of people who came up to me and said something like, “You must be very proud of these kids,” or “It must be wonderful to work at a place that turns out kids like these.” Something about their poise and their passion, their clear convictions and their easy grace, made everyone else take note.
And that’s where all the rest of you come in, you see, for turning out graduates like these is something it takes us all to do. Whether we are faculty members at work in classrooms, staff playing key roles across the campus, or alums supporting us as you can through the Annual Fund or your prayers, it is the sum of our work together that enables Xavier to assist students like Daniel and Anne and their friends to become more clearly who God made them to be, each of them embodying Xavier’s highest hopes in his or her distinct way, all of them ready to make the mark on our world that has been given to them to make.
There comes a moment at any wedding of Xavier people I’ve ever seen—usually when the party has been going full throttle a while and the photographer is about to leave—when all the Xavier alums gather on the dance floor for a group picture. As you can see in the photo below, so did Daniel and Anne’s friends. I confess that I am biased, but that picture is like an icon for me—like those holy pictures in Orthodox churches that let rays of divine light into our world. Certainly, the picture is a vivid reminder of why the Lord himself often compared the Kingdom of His Father to a wedding feast.
I can’t help but think as we all begin this new academic year together, that this is what we are all about, you and I: transforming the next generation of Xavier students into competent and compassionate men and women for and with others, ready to take their place in just such a picture someday.
A noble thing, don’t you think?