By Michael J. Graham, S.J.
I had a richly rewarding and relatively rare experience several weeks back over Easter break: I worked with a good friend to tune up his garden for a new year. An old hobby of mine, gardening has become something of a rarity nowadays for me, and all the more rewarding as a result. But it was rare and rewarding for one important reason more. Since most things I do don’t quite work out this way, it was wonderful at the end of our two days together to step back and behold all that we had accomplished. Sure, the shrubs and trees and flowers all have some growing to do. But still in all, there the result was before us. Done.
Would that the life of a university were only like that. While much about an academic year has comparable beginnings, middles and ends—courses and committees, the academic year itself—the fundamental work of a university never ends.
Perhaps this is especially true here at Xavier. Certainly, this year has seen a huge amount of work undertaken by way of planning for our future. That work has occupied committees, taken up the time of task forces, engaged men and women across the entire University. Nor is that work done yet. We will be weaving it together in the coming months with the hope of having something to stand back from and appreciate sometime near the end of this calendar year.
But I’m especially aware in this springtime season that our real work here is never done, whatever projects and plans may come and go. For as a Catholic, Jesuit University, Xavier knows in its bones the truth of something Oscar Romero, the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador, once said: “It helps now and then, to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. We are prophets of a future not our own.”
The seniors and others that we graduated in May remind me how fundamentally “undone” our work here at Xavier always is—and not only because we are preparing to take in a new crop of students next fall even as we graduated these students this spring. The real work of a university goes on beyond the university itself, for it goes on in and through the work of our alumni—of you. It goes on in your homes and communities, your places of work and those places you serve. It happens in large ways and in small. But because our work is your work, and because we are always sending out into the world the men and women who have passed through our doors, Xavier’s work will really never be finally finished. Except, that is, in the Kingdom of God’s good providence.
And so, as our graduates of 2003 take their places alongside you, let me thank you for the various ways that you help Xavier fulfill its mission in the world, until such time as we can all rest from our labors and look back in satisfaction at all we have accomplished together. Done at last.