2024 Commencement Citation, Address

Commencement citation from Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B., rector of Saint Vincent Seminary.

Sister Judith, the Saint Vincent community honors you today for your distinguished leadership and humble service to the congregation of Sisters of Saint Felix of Cantalice and to the universal Church as well as for your many contributions to American higher education.

As a professor and academic dean at Christ the King Seminary in New York, and later as a professor of liturgy at Fordham University in New York City, you have strengthened the Catholic understanding of the liturgy, and the sacraments, and brought a new focus to the sacrament of the Eucharist as a powerful source of Christian witness to justice and peace in our world.

In addition, you continue to be a model of devotion as a member and the provincial minister of the Felician Sisters of North America, our Lady of Hope Province, exhibiting a life characterized by charity and joy as a disciple of Jesus Christ who puts into practice, for the greater glory of God, that faith which you hold dear.

There are many accomplishments to note on the path you have traveled through life. Following your undergraduate studies at Daemen College, you earned a Master of Arts degree at Canisius College as well as a master’s and a doctoral degree at the Catholic University of America. Then began a long period of teaching, administrative work, research and writing, which resulted in expanding and deepening the minds of many members of the contemporary liturgical and theological community, and which has shaped many of the church’s ministers in the area of Catholic religious practice, as well as seminary formation and pastoral theology.

Along the way, you have served as president of the North American Academy of Liturgy, and as chair of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. You have always exemplified Saint Anselm’s description of Fides Quarens Intellectum by taking to heart the Gospel proclamation and by mastering the art of proclaiming it humbly and unaffectedly through the very way of your life.

As a critical voice  in teaching Catholic seminarians, you have helped to give shape to the program of priestly formation that in turn has greatly benefited the priests who currently work in the vineyard of the Lord and who will be leaders of the New Evangelization in dioceses and religious communities throughout the United States.

Bringing the joyful spirit of the Gospel to the classroom, to the faithful, and to your religious community alike as an educator, author, advocate, and consecrated religious woman, you have always striven to let the transformative life and teaching of Christ shine forth for the benefit of all.

We honor you today, Sister Judith, for your gracious efforts to share the hope of our Risen Lord with your family, friends, and professional colleagues and all of your coworkers in the vineyard here at Saint Vincent and beyond.

Inspired by the vision of Saint Francis and Blessed Maria Angela Truskowska, who so beautifully integrated their faith and their way of living, may your life and labors be a continual Laudato si’, offered to the Lord bearing fruit for the Church, and for all those who hope in the name of Jesus.

In recognition of your truly outstanding leadership and service to the faithful of the Church in the United States and to her future priests, Saint Vincent Seminary confers upon Sister Judith Marie Kubicki the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, on this 10th day of May in the year of Our Lord, 2024.

The 2024 Commencement Address by Sister Judith Kubicki:

Your Excellency Bishop Larry Kulick, Bishop Mark Eckman, Archabbot Martin Bartel, Rector President Father Edward Mazich, faculty, administration, staff, graduates, students, family and friends,

I am deeply honored and grateful to Saint Vincent Seminary for the invitation to offer the commencement address and receive an honorary degree.

As we gather this evening, the 50 days of Easter are quickly coming to completion. Yesterday, we celebrated the Ascension. In a little more than a week, we will celebrate Pentecost. The more we enter into the rituals of these holy days, the more we marvel at the richness and the depths of the Church’s liturgy.

Yet all our liturgies occur within the context of real life situations and challenges.

So this evening, I would like to explore the experience of celebrating the liturgy in a world plagued by suffering, violence, war and forced migration.

Advances in technology, science and medicine provide unprecedented opportunities for improving life and solving problems. Nevertheless, threats of random attacks perpetrated through terrorism and gun violence undermine the ordinary citizen’s sense of security, not only in war torn places like Ukraine, Gaza, Israel, Sudan and Haiti, but across the globe and in our neighborhoods.

The violence we inflict on each other, however, is only part of this story. Environmentalists have identified humankind’s exploitive relationship with the earth as the direct cause of growing environmental ills. Such woes threaten not only the well-being of the planet, but also the integrity of a sacramental system that speaks to us of God’s activity through the elements of creation.

Industrialized nations pursue strategies that put profit before conservation and squander our planet’s resources for the benefit of a powerful and wealthy minority. Such policies have been identified as the root cause of human strife. Indeed, most of the world’s conflicts spring from greed, religious bigotry, and fear of the stranger. On the individual level, threats to security include sudden loss of employment or health, natural disasters and the day-to-day challenges of providing for one’s family, including elderly parents.

We know that suffering is an intrinsic part of the human condition. In the 21st century. however, it is possible not only to be instantaneously aware of what is happening, hundreds if not thousands of miles away, but also to feel the shock waves of disruption to ecological, social, economic and political systems that undergird our lives.

Nevertheless, within our world of strife, fear and disruption, Christians continue to celebrate God’s promise of healing and reconciliation, won for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We do this in a particular, though not exclusive way, through liturgical rites.

Some years ago the New York Times ran an article entitled “why do we believe?” I would like to reframe the question and ask “why do we worship?” or perhaps more to the point, “how do we worship in a time such as ours?”

Responses to this question will vary. Some people yearn for traditions that they believe provide stability and comfort. Using this approach, worshippers look to symbols, not so much to assist in interpreting the contemporary experience, but to allow them to retreat into the formulations of the past, to find solace and hope.

Another approach is to abandon worship altogether, as irrelevant or meaningless, especially in the face of the absurdity and terror of contemporary life.

In his book Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence, the French theologian Louis Marie Chauvet offers two helpful frameworks for understanding the role of liturgy and sacraments. The first is through his theological anthropology of symbol. Chauvet describes the human person as both shaping and being shaped by symbolizing activity, that is, the liturgy.

In his schema, human beings recognize one another and discover themselves as persons of faith, through the exchange of some object, word, gesture or person. These liturgical symbols enable us to discover our identity as Church.

A second contribution is Chauvet’s method. Theologically, it begins with a consideration of the Easter mystery rather than the incarnation. This may not seem surprising since the Church has always celebrated Easter as the first among feasts.

However, the gradual fragmentation of the Paschal mystery into a multiplicity of feasts makes it easy to forget the eschatological “today” of the Paschal event.

Liturgical symbols negotiate identity and relationships. By highlighting the Paschal Mystery as the starting point, it is possible to see liturgical symbols as a means for shaping a people who are instruments of reconciliation, and signs of eschatological hope, in a world torn by violence and disruption.

Genesis tells us that before the fall, our first parents were in right relationship with God, self, each other and all of creation. The New Testament proclaims that the rupture that resulted from the fall has been repaired or reconciled by the death and resurrection of Christ.

Our participation in worship is part of a lifelong response to God’s invitation to be reconciled with God, and hence with each other and creation. We see this in the celebration of the sacraments. A commitment to building right relationships is rooted in baptism. This sacrament plunges us into participation in Christ’s Paschal Mystery. Indeed, it is the point of entry into a lifetime journey that comes to fruition when after our death, we enter into the fullness of God’s kingdom.

Because of baptism, our living out of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ enables us to weave and re-weave right relationships. Liturgy becomes the Church’s primary means by which those relationships are initiated, healed, or reconciled. In other words, the symbolic order that constitutes the liturgical celebration of the sacraments provides Christians with the means by which our commitment to right relationships is communicated and nurtured.

But what Christ has accomplished through his death and resurrection is not yet experienced in its fullness.

However, through the sacraments, Christians can become signs of eschatological hope in the face of evil, violence and despair. Let us look at just one paradigmatic moment to discover how the interplay of symbols can both express and shape reconciliation and eschatological hope.

No liturgical event is richer in dense symbolizing activity than the Easter Vigil. For that reason, it is a prime example of liturgy’s inherent power to proclaim the Paschal Mystery. The Easter fire, the extended Liturgy of the Word, the initiation rites, and the Eucharist involve an interplay of symbols that function as archetype for all liturgical celebrations. Let’s look at the signing of the Exultet, the Easter proclamation, to see how this is the case. The Easter Vigil begins with the blessing of the Easter fire. Amid actual darkness, the Paschal candle is lit and Christ is proclaimed the light of the world. The fire is shared and the assembl,y lighted candles in hand, listen to the opening lines of the Exultet.

“Let them exalt the hosts of heaven. Let angel ministers of God exalt. Let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph. Be glad, let earth be glad. Let glory flood her, ablaze with light from her eternal King. Heavenly powers, sing choirs of angels, exalt all creation around God’s throne, Jesus Christ, our King is risen. Sound the trumpet of salvation.”

Unbounded joy is the tenor of these lines. A joy that bursts into song from the firm conviction that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. This cry of joy calls upon heaven and earth to join in celebrating this event. The text describes a world in which all creation is in right relationships because Christ is risen.

This reference to creation is rooted in a Biblical understanding of the cosmos, as infused with a loving and active power of the Spirit’s creative presence. The call for a royal trumpet fanfare complements the reference to Christ as King and underscores the significance of this earth and heaven shaking event.

The royal metaphor expresses the belief common in the Medieval world in which this text originates, that all is well in the realms of heaven and earth, when the King, in this case the risen Christ is victorious. The text continues, be glad, let earth and heaven be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal king, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

The text is filled with images of light proclaiming that the darkness of the earth is vanished in the shining splendor of Christ’s victory. That is, creation reflects in its own radiant beauty, the moral beauty of Christ’s victory over sin and death.

The text announces something more, however. It claims that darkness is ended. The old translation was clearer. “Darkness vanishes forever.”

Our sights are set on a future that is being celebrated as already accomplished in the present.

Later on, the text continues, this is the night of which it is written, the night shall be as bright as day. Dazzling is the night for me and full of gladness. Here, light and darkness are more broadly juxtaposed. The wonder is that out of darkness, light and life erupt by the power of Christ’s resurrection. This is the Paschal Mystery. The paradox of life emerging out of death is expressed through the description of night appearing as bright as day.


Light provides a sense of well-being and happiness. What follows describes that sense of well-being even more specifically when it says, the sanctifying power of this holy night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty. Oh, truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth and divine to the human.

The message is expressed in the present tense. The claims are bold. This night dispels all ev=il washes guilt away, drives out hatred, brings joy and peace. Finally, this signals an even deeper reality. The divine is wed to the human, that is, humankind is reconciled with God.

Notice that the text does not say that the light achieves this, but that the night achieves healing and reconciliation. The night of sin and evil, the night of Christ’s suffering, and death, result in a world where joy and peace prevail.

This paradox is captured by the exclamation,, oh truly necessary sin of Adam destroyed completely by the death of Christ. Oh, happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a redeemer.

Because of the construction of the text and its interplay with the symbols of darkness and light, the healing and reconciliation proclaimed so boldly in the song is envisioned as already achieved. This ability of symbolic language to name the sources of both the darkness and the light shapes the Christian community. It enables us to discover the reason for our hope.

This language is expressed not only by text, but also as movement and gesture. Music, silence, darkness, light.

In this way, the interplay of text with the symbols of the candle, fire, song, procession and posture, serves to both express and shape the Easter faith of the community. Repeated year after year on this night, the celebration of the Easter Vigil through sacred symbols, including the singing of the Exultet, mediates the transformation of those who participate.

Such liturgical events empower Christians to be for the world a sacrament that speaks a vision of hope through the power of Christ’s resurrection. The exultet closes with the following petition, “may this flame be found still burning by the morning star, the one morning star who never sets, Christ, your son, who coming back from death’s domain has shed his peaceful light on humanity and lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.”

The eschatological theme that runs throughout the Exultet, expressed in cosmological terms, is reiterated in these final lines, and the morning star Venus serves as a feminine image of Christ. Christ’s resurrection from the dead is humankind’s source of hope and peace. That hope and peace are symbolized by the tangible experience of light conquering darkness. Basking in that light, the assembly prepares for what will follow, the scripture readings, the initiation rites, with water, oil, and candle and the Eucharistic sharing of bread and wine.

The Exultet as liturgical event enables the Church to face the darkness of the present old world, and yet envision a future new world ,where evil, guilt and hatred are cast out and joy and peace prevail.

This enables Christians to live in the present world without despair or cynicism, facing the darkness of evil with the firm hope that the salvation not yet experienced in its fullness, will be enjoyed at the end of time.

Regularly celebrating the sacraments does not provide Christians with rose-tinted glasses that block out the stark realities of our world. Rather, regularly celebrating the sacraments over time, transforms us into people who put on Christ and commit ourselves to living the Paschal Mystery.

The over time part is how transformation occurs. By our daily, weekly, yearly commerce with God and with each other by means of such symbols as bread, wine, water, oil, and fire. We can name the violence and hate that pervades our world not only as a reality out there but also as a reality present in every human heart. The transformation, healing and reconciliation of the world begin with the transformation, healing and reconciliation of us into the body of Christ.

By signaling Christian identities, sacramental symbols constitute the Church. But while the sacraments point to the particularity of God’s grace within the Church, the universality of God’s reign reminds us that the spirit is present in the Church so that the Church may be sacrament for the entire world.

This has serious implications for the way Christians relate not only to each other but also to the world, for which we are meant to be signs of God’s healing and reconciliation. This is what we commit ourselves to when we celebrate liturgical rights as people living out the Paschal Mystery in their very flesh we are called to cooperate with the spirit in the healing of the world.

It involves not only the poor and the disenfranchised, but also the stranger, the alienated, members of other faiths and religions, those who do not believe in God ,and every element of creation. When the reign of God is fully revealed, all our relationships will be righted.

The God whom we encounter through the most material, most corporeal action of Christian sacraments is the God we also encounter in the building up and healing of our world. When we celebrate the liturgy, when we commit ourselves to becoming that sacramental sign, that body God inhabits to reconcile a world that longs for the peace promised as its inheritance.

The Paschal Mystery. It’s the starting point and the bottom line.

Congratulations graduates. May all your celebrations of the liturgy contribute to the healing and reconciliation of our broken but beautiful word. Thank you.

Photo caption:

Sister Judith Marie Kubicki, C.S.S.F., Ph.D., received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa, from Saint Vincent Seminary on Friday, May 10, and gave the commencement address. Pictured presenting Sister Judith, provincial minister of the Felician Sisters of North America, Our Lady of Hope Province, Beaver Falls, Pa., with the degree are, from left, Archabbot Martin Bartel, O.S.B., Seminary chancellor, left; Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B., Seminary rector, third from left, and Father Nathanael Polinski, O.S.B., Seminary academic dean.