May 13, 2023
 A student wearing a cap and gown smiles while surrounded by her fellow graduates during this year’s commencement ceremonies. (Catholic University/Patrick G. Ryan)

The Cardinal community gathered May 13 to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2023. The University Lawn was packed with joyful graduates and their families all excited for the beginning of a new chapter in their lives.

The main commencement, held at the East Portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, opened the day. University President Dr. Peter Kilpatrick announced the civil degrees to be conferred and University Chancellor Cardinal Wilton Gregory, of the Archdiocese of Washington, did the same for pontifical degree recipients. The thousands in attendance cheered as the students stood up to be recognized. 

During an address, Dr. Kilpatrick shared how honored he is to celebrate his first commencement as a member of the Cardinal community. He thanked all those who have lived out the values of the University through their commitment to truth, charity, and excellence. 

“We have so much for which to be grateful. Our very lives, our intellects, our wills, our family and friends, our faith, and the hope that stirs deep inside of us,” said Dr. Kilpatrick. The president advised graduates to take what they have learned through their years of study by committing themselves to “love without limit and to pursue excellence.”  

University President Dr. Peter Kilpatrick shares words of wisdom to the crowd gathered on the University Mall. (Catholic University/Patrick G. Ryan)

The keynote address was given by bestselling author, columnist, and scholar Arthur Brooks, Ph.D., who discussed his signature topic: the science of happiness. He told the graduating class that a life committed to loving others, no matter your vocation, is what leads to personal fulfillment. 

“Dedicate anything you do, big or small, significant or insignificant, to the good of others,” said Brooks. “The best way to bring people to the love of Christ is to be great at what you do. The reason for that is that excellence draws people like moths to a flame.”

Other honorary degree recipients included alumna and nationally syndicated journalist Kathryn Jean Lopez, B.A. 1997; former CEO of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona Marguerite Harmon; and founding leaders of a University minority student scholarship initiative that was called the Partnership Program, Thaddeus Aubry, Jr., B.A. 1966, and Leon LeBuffe, B.A. 1966, Ph.D. 1973. 

Students and their families share remarkable journeys 

After celebrating the culmination of their years of study together as one University community, the students and their loved ones then attended the diploma distribution ceremonies for their respective schools. Regardless of their plans, students expressed their gratitude for the formation they received in their years at the University. 

Derlie Palor, with tears in her eyes, described her journey to finish her Master of Science in management while in chemotherapy and working full-time. Soon after being diagnosed with cancer, Palor and her husband learned she was pregnant with their second child. She chose life and prayed that her entire family would see this day. 

“I think God gave him to me to encourage me to keep going,” said Palor, while holding her healthy newborn son after receiving her degree. She said the Metropolitan School of Professional Studies faculty helped her plan her coursework around her treatments to help her get to the finish line.   

“A lot of people told me to take a break,” said Palor. “I wanted to prove that I could earn it no matter what.” She said she wants to continue her education by applying for doctoral programs, but for now will take a well-deserved break. 

Students gather on the University Mall for the main commencement ceremony (Catholic University/Patrick G. Ryan)

Nursing graduate Luke Filomena said he also found a supportive community on campus and the small class sizes helped him make the most of his four years of undergraduate studies. His next step is to pass his licensing exam, so he can work as a nurse at nearby MedStar Washington Hospital Center. 

“I don't feel like there's many other universities where you're able to really get close with all of your classmates,” said Filomena. He said that the Commencement is bittersweet because “we're all sort of going our separate ways, but it was a good experience to be able to share it with people.” 

Commencement was the culmination of days of activities celebrating graduates on campus. Events included a Baccalaureate Mass, doctoral hooding ceremony, and more.

See more information on the 2023 Commencement page.