Carlow College, St. Patrick’s Graduation Address
Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow Friday 10th November 2017

Graduates, as Chair of the Board of Governors of Carlow College, St. Patricks, I want to assure you nothing gives me greater pleasure than being here this evening to deliver the Graduation Address to you the graduates of 2017, your parents, your spouses, your family and friends. I especially greet and thank the President Fr. Conn for his invitation last November to deliver this year’s address and the warmth of his welcome and support always in the college.

I also warmly greet the entire staff from every faculty, from administration and from every aspect of college life. I also welcome the other invited guests, including members of the College’s Governing Body, the College’s Trustees, members of the Oireachtas and local public representatives. I am delighted that the President of the Institute of Technology, Carlow, Patricia Mulcahy is present with us.

We have gathered in this splendid Cathedral of the Assumption here in Carlow. It is the building you pass by every day while attending college next door. The Cathedral is your next door neighbour and has been so since the earliest days of college life. While the college came into existence in 1793, the Cathedral came into existence forty years later in 1833.

Neighbours enjoy many forms of relationships. When you run out of milk, when you want to check some fact or event, when you need someone to bring in your wheelie bin, there is nothing like a good neighbour. When the music gets too loud, the dog incessantly barks all night, when there is too much coming and going, well that’s a completely different matter! I think historically both buildings, both institutions have lived harmoniously next door to one another over the past 184 years.

Today degrees are being presented to 184 graduates, you could say a graduate for every year that these two Institutions, the Cathedral and the College have been side by side. The 184 comprises of 154 undergraduate BA degrees; 9 with Masters in Therapeutic Child Care and 21 with Carlow College Certificates in Therapeutic Foster Care. The earliest degrees were awarded here as far back as the 1840’s as students took degrees in arts or law, awarded then by London University. So the first cohort of lay students walked through Carlow College gates in 1841, that is 176 years ago.

That sure is, allot of degrees, qualifications and certificates of graduates from Carlow College, St. Patrick’s who today are literally making a difference in every part of our globe. Over the last twenty years almost 2,000 have graduated in the areas of Humanities and Social Studies. Today over 70% of the students are female. Since 1999, 1,101 have graduated in Applied Social Studies in Social Care, while 792 have graduated in Humanities, English, History and Citizenship. Since 2004, 71 have graduated in the Masters programme in Therapeutic Child Care. Since 2015, 70 people have received the College Certificate in Foster Care. This evening you graduates become part of that graduation roll of honour.

The college has witnessed great changes in the 224 years since its foundation. For me it is always interesting to walk the corridors of the college and soak up a lesson in history. The early student lists are in essence a Who’s Who of 19th Century Ireland. There is even a strong European dimension since most of the early staff were educated then on the continent in places like Paris, Louvain or Coimbra as with JKL.

How privileged I was on October 2nd last to unveil a plaque in recognition of his influence on College life and indeed a true Champion of Irish Education. In the recently restored Pugin Dining Hall at Maynooth, the very first portrait hanging on those Pugin walls is the same JKL and of course Hogan’s sculpture piece in the Cathedral is a reminder to us of his towering presence in these parts. The lecture halls in the College continue to keep alive the great alumni of the past – James Fintan Lalor, John England, John Therry and the more recently named James Doyle room. Over 3,300 priests were ordained from the college, as meticously recorded in Fr. John McEvoy’s very fine bicentenary history of the college: 1793 – 1993.

On an evening like this I reflect on the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is what’s in your brain; wisdom is in your heart and soul. Knowledge teaches us how to get; wisdom teaches us how to give. Knowledge teaches us how things operate and work; wisdom teaches us how things are. Pope Francis, who we earnestly pray and hope will join us for some part of the World Meeting of Families next August in Dublin is a genius at the off the cuff comment. His rebuff to bishops, priests and religious (including nuns) to stay off our smartphones and i-phones during liturgical celebrations was timely! So that’s the end of selfies and no more tweeting! The great phrases he proposed to couples around family life, we could adopt for any of our lives: “Please, thank you and I’m sorry!” We all agree the world would be a better place if such words were more in use.

So what can we expect out of todays graduates? What might we expect out of any graduate class. That the wisdom that has been instilled in you during your undergraduate BA course, Therapeutic Child Care course or Therapeutic Foster Care course will stand for you for life. JKL was the Bishop who campaigned for the poor. On two occasions he travelled to London to appear before parliamentary committees investigating living conditions for the poor in England and in Ireland. His knowledge of facts and his style of presenting them made a huge impression on the committees. The Duke of Wellington later stated that Doyle examined the committees rather than the other way round!

He, like many before and after him, saw education as the only route out of poverty. As you enter the world of opportunity 183 years after Doyle’s death, with most recent technology advances creating Sophia the Robot who ‘spoke’ at Lisbon’s Web Summit; a world that sees creativity and inventiveness that our parents would or could never dream of. Yet there are still children, many children and vulnerable young people experiencing a new fragility and insecurity.

Those graduating today in the fields of child care and foster care, indeed all graduates will see this for themselves first hand. We don’t need to reiterate the staggering numbers that today remain homeless, despite government and agencies best intentions, not to mention the mounting numbers lying on bed trolleys, clogging up hospital corridors. A college education needs always to fight for the poorest, the marginal, the forgotten one on the periphery at all times.

In conclusion with the mother of the college student we reflect on her promise to her college son or daughter, entitled “My Promise to my Children’:: “I am not your friend. I’m your mum. I will stalk you, flip out on you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare and hunt you down like a bloodhound when needed because I love you! When you understand that, I will know you are a responsible adult. You will never find someone who loves, prays, cares, and worries about you more than I do”. For many of you, it’s not just you the graduates who are graduating today, it is your parent, your partner, your friend. They got you through, don’t forget them or others in your celebration! Blessings and good wishes on one and all!