Nothing has been typical about this spring’s commencement ceremonies at Catholic colleges. Many of the ceremonies are socially distanced, outdoors, or even online. But the limitations are unlikely to dampen excitement about the distinctive achievements of the Class of 2021, who endured more than a year of COVID-19, financial struggles, and safety precautions to get to this moment.
There is also extraordinary relief about the continued vitality of Catholic higher education: every Catholic college in America survived the 2020-21 school year, and enrollment numbers at many of the most faithful Catholic colleges are looking quite good.
It’s also a welcome surprise that—according to The Cardinal Newman Society’s preliminary review of commencement speakers and honorees, with some colleges late in reporting their plans as of mid-May and others foregoing the typical celebrity pomp—there seems to be a reduced appetite for honoring public opponents of the Church’s teaching on abortion, marriage, sexuality, and other moral issues. This has been a sad trend over the past few decades at many Catholic colleges, which have largely secularized.