April 09, 2021

Student at commencement
 A graduate celebrates at the University's 2019 Commencement Ceremony on campus. This year, COVID precautions will move the ceremony to a larger off-campus venue. 

After months of research and preparation, Catholic University announces that its 132nd Annual Commencement Ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 15, at 10 a.m., at FedExField in nearby Landover, Md. 

Since the 1960s, Commencement has traditionally taken place on the University Mall, first with the John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library as a backdrop, then beginning in 1973, facing the east portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. A nontraditional off-campus ceremony became necessary to secure a venue large enough to safely accommodate our graduates and their loved ones while also allowing for sufficient COVID-related protocols such as social distancing. 

“Commencement on our beautiful campus is the event we most look forward to every year, but COVID continues to make that impossible,” says University President John Garvey. “Location is secondary for us this year. After so much time apart, our priority was to bring our community together, but to do so safely. I look forward to seeing everyone in person.” 

The event will feature remarks from the Commencement speaker, William Chester Jordan, Dayton-Stockton Professor of Medieval History at Princeton University; President Garvey; and Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington and chancellor of the University. 

Graduates and up to four guests each are invited to attend along with University faculty and staff. The event will be ticketed. (More information on tickets will be announced in the coming weeks.)

The stadium is located at 1600 Fedex Way, Landover, Md. Guests will not be allowed in the stadium unless they are wearing a proper face covering/mask. Masks must be worn at all times by ALL attendees over the age of 2. Tailgating/congregating will not be permitted in the parking lot. Visit FedExField’s website for more information on COVID precautions. 

This event will take place rain or shine. If the forecast includes a chance of rain, guests are encouraged to bring rain ponchos. Stadium staff will check bags as a standard security measure, though strict adherence to the NFL bag policy will not be required (small personal bags will be allowed). 

“I would like to acknowledge the creativity of our team that has worked so hard over the past year to explore alternatives to virtual ceremonies,” says Garvey. “We know that everyone is suffering from Zoom fatigue. It’s a testament to the community culture of the University that we are able to find a way to come back together for graduation.” 

The event will be livestreamed for those who are unable to attend. Diplomas will be shipped to all graduates.

In addition to Jordan, honorary degrees will be presented to Pierre Manent, French political scientist and academic; Tommy Espinoza, president CEO and co-founder of Raza Development Fund, the largest Latino Community Development Financial Institution in the U.S.; Kathleen McChesney, former FBI executive assistant director and a leading expert in addressing the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse and coverup crisis; and Joe Carlini, CEO at McKean Defense Group, 1984 graduate of Catholic University, and outgoing chairman of the Catholic University Board of Trustees.

Phi Beta Kappa, Honors Convocation, Nursing Pinning, and Baccalaureate Mass will take place on Thursday, May, 13, and Friday, May 14, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Great Upper Church. More information on these events, their times, and whether attendance limits will allow for guests will be announced on the Commencement website. 

This Commencement ceremony will be for members of the class of 2021 only. As a follow up to the Class of 2020 online conferral ceremony, the University and Alumni Association continue to plan for an in-person celebration on campus for the class of 2020. Currently, COVID restrictions still prevent this from happening. 

The Columbus School of Law will hold its commencement ceremony on Friday, May 21. Details regarding the event will be announced to the Law School community in the coming days. 

Please note that all in-person ceremonies and celebrations described are tentative and contingent on requirements from Prince George's County, the State of Maryland, and the CDC, and are subject to change. More detailed information will be shared with graduates in the next few days, and will be posted on the Commencement website, along with other frequently asked questions.