Thirteen degrees were awarded at the May 6 commencement of Saint Vincent Seminary.
Receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters degree, honoris causa, and giving the commencement address, was Sister of Charity Melanie DiPietro, S.C., J.D., J.C.D. of Greensburg.
She was honored for her “distinguished leadership and humble service to the students, staff and faculty members of Seton Hill University, as well as for her many contributions to the Catholic church at the regional, national and international levels, her contributions to the practice of law and to higher education as well,” said Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B., Saint Vincent Seminary rector.
Father Edward said she was a model of prayer and devotion as a member of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, “who exhibits a life characterized by charity and joy as a disciple of Christ who puts into practice for the greater glory of God that faith which she holds dear.”
He cited many accomplishments to note on her life’s path.
A native of Greensburg Sister Melanie entered the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in 1962. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Seton Hill University, a master’s degree in urban studies from Occidental College, and holds a juris doctor from Duquesne University and a doctorate in canon law from the University of St. Thomas in Rome, also known as the Angelicum.
Her career of teaching, legal practice and writing resulted in expanding and defending the rights of many persons and institutions affiliated with the Catholic Church and its apostolic work.
Sister Melanie taught at Seton Hall Law School, where she was director of the Center for Religiously Affiliated Corporations. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and currently serves on the board of Holy Family Institute and on the Legal Commission of Caritas Internationalis, with many published articles on the interrelationship of canon law and American nonprofit corporation law. She was a shareholder in the law firm of Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney, where she worked extensively with nonprofit corporations in governance, transactional and litigation matters.
“A critical agent in articulating the role of Catholic institutions in the public square and a consistent voice for the downtrodden of our society,” Father Edward said Sister Melanie has “helped to give shape the efforts of the Catholic Church in America that in turn have greatly benefited the members of the body of Christ who stand in need in our region as well as those seeking to live the Good news in dioceses and religious communities throughout the United States, bringing the joyful spirit of the Gospel to the classroom, to the board room and to her religious community as an attorney, author, advocate and consecrated religious woman.”
Sister Melanie has spent much of her career working on issues of the church in civil society through Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA). Catholic Charities agencies across the nation share a mission to provide service to people in need, to advocate for justice in social structures, and to call the entire church and other people of good will to do the same. For more than 100 years, CCUSA has been committed to supporting the nationwide network of Catholic Charities agencies in executing their mission and has provided the tools and resources to enable each agency to live out its mission in these challenging times. Threats to religious liberty and the way Catholic Charities agencies conduct business continue to pose unique problems. Navigating issues related to the church in the public square require CCUSA to devote ever-increasing attention and resources to help member agencies to contend with such difficulties.
CCUSA made a significant commitment to providing proactive and practical advice to its member agencies by hiring Sister Melanie.
At CCUSA, Sister Melanie has assisted member agencies with implementation of canonical principles in their governance structures and analysis of federal and state laws impacting the ability of Catholic Charities to provide services in the community. Sister Melanie has been available to all agency members, to help navigate the church-state waters in times of increasing complexity.
“May your life and labors be a continual laudato si, offered to the Lord,i bearing fruit for the Church and for all those who hope in the name Lord Jesus,” Father Edward said.
Those receiving degrees were from the Archdiocese of Beijing, the Diocese of Brooklyn, the Diocese of Covington, the Diocese of Erie, the Diocese of Greensburg and Saint Vincent Archabbey as well as lay students.
ARCHDIOCESE OF BEIJING
Joseph Chen Guo earned the Master of Divinity degree. He is a 2010 graduate of Sheng Xin High School, Han Dan, China. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese linguistic literature from Beijing Normal University and has also studied at Beijing Diocesan Seminary. His parents are Jun Jian Guo and Pin Shu Wang of Zhangjiakou City, Hebei Province, China.
DIOCESE OF BROOKLYN
Brendon J. Harfmann earned the Master of Divinity degree, cum laude. He is the son of Lawrence and Kim Harfmann of Glendale, New York. He is a 2012 graduate of Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, Elmhurst, New York. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology from Saint John’s University, Jamaica, New York, in 2016, and has also studied at Saint Joseph’s Seminary. Harfmann also received the Judge Bernard Scherer award, granted by the faculty to the student who most exemplifies the qualities in the life and the mission of Judge Scherer, who was also a professor at Saint Vincent. He dedicated much of his life to teaching and forming students at Saint Vincent College and Seminary. Consideration is not just based on the student’s grade point average, but the recipient must also share Judge Scherer’s love of learning, the ability to discern God in all things, and the desire to share the faith with all of God’s people. Harfmann earned the respect of the respect of both his professors and his peers for his commitment to growth in faith, to academic achievement, and to his formation.
DIOCESE OF COVINGTON
Alexander J. Gedney earned the Master of Divinity degree, cum laude. He is the son of John and Taryn Gedney of Florence. He is a 2010 graduate of Saint Henry District High School, Erlanger, Kentucky. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 2015. He will be ordained to the priesthood on June 3, 2022 in the Diocese of Covington by Bishop John Iffert. Gedney received the Diakonia Award, following nomination by the student body and faculty for outstanding academic performance, service to the Seminary community, contributing to student morale and spirit, leadership within the community, as well as creative outreach to others. His time has been characterized by the word Diakonia, that is service, a man dedicated to prayer, study and a commitment to God and the Church, noted Academic Dean Father Patrick Cronauer, O.S.B., who presented the award. Gedney was also awarded the Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B., Sacred Scripture Award, honoring a member of the graduating class determined by the Scripture faculty to a student who has excelled in the study of Sacred Scripture in the spirit of Father Demetrius, who read Scripture within the context of real life and real life within the context of Sacred Scripture. Father Patrick noted that the award recognizes the student who has the potential to become, in word and deed, a teacher in the likeness of Father Demetrius.
Rev. John Joseph Michniuk of the Diocese of Covington is the son of the late Agnes Mary Michniuk of West Chester, Ohio, received the Master of Arts degree, magna cum laude. He is a 1979 graduate of Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1994 and a Masters of Public Administration degree in 1996 from George Washington University, Washington, D.C. He also earned a Master of Arts degree in Liturgy and Pastoral Ministry from Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California in 2005. He received the Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in 2012, with honors. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 22, 2012.
DIOCESE OF ERIE
Nicholas J. Fratus earned the Master of Divinity degree. He is the son of the late Robert Fratus and Heidi Fratus of Erie. He is a 1997 graduate of McDowell High School, Erie and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Gannon University, Erie, in 2001. He has also attended Saint Mary’s Seminary and University. He will be ordained to the priesthood on May 27, 2022 by Bishop Lawrence Persico in the Diocese of Erie.
Christopher Wheeler of Escanaba, Michigan earned the Master of Divinity degree, cum laude. He is the son of Victor and Sandra Jean Wheeler of Girard. He is a 1997 graduate of Northwestern High School, Albion. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education and history from Edinboro University in 2001. He will be ordained to the priesthood on May 27, 2022 by Bishop Lawrence Persico in the Diocese of Erie.
SAINT VINCENT ARCHABBEY
Brother Francis Jin, O.S.B., earned the Master of Divinity degree, cum laude, and the Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree, magna cum laude, which is given in conjunction with Sant’ Anselmo, the international Benedictine university in Rome. He is the son of Wuxing Jin and Xuezhen Li of Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, China. He graduated from Zhouzhi No. 6 High School, Xi’an, in 2005. He earned a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree from Xi’an Jiaotong University in 2009. He began studies at Saint Vincent Seminary in 2016, and in 2018, he received the Master of Arts degree in Catholic Philosophical Studies. He will be ordained to the priesthood on May 14, 2022 by Most Rev. Larry J. Kulick, Bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg at the Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica.
Brother Barnabas (Michael) O’Reilly, O.S.B., earned the Master of Divinity degree. He is the son of Lawrence and Eileen O’Reilly of Johnstown. He is a 2008 graduate of Bishop McCort High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology in 2012 from Saint Vincent College. He began studies at Saint Vincent Seminary in 2016. In 2018, he received the Master of Arts degree in Catholic Philosophical Studies, cum laude. He will be ordained to the priesthood on May 14, 2022 by Most Rev. Larry J. Kulick, Bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg at the Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica. O’Reilly also received the Omer U. Kline Excellence in Preaching Award. He clearly demonstrated excellence in preaching as determined by the Rector’s Council, noted Father Patrick Cronauer, O.S.B., academic dean. Father Omer was a professor of homiletics from the Seminary. The award has been presented since 1991 in his honor.
Brother Francisco (Samuel) Whittaker, O.S.B., earned the Master of Arts degree in Catholic Philosophical Studies, summa cum laude. He is the son of Daniel and Kathleen Whittaker of Grove City, Pennsylvania. He attended Mother of Divine Grace School, graduating in 2015. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry in 2019 from Saint Vincent College, magna cum laude.
DIOCESE OF GREENSBURG
John Torres earned the Master of Divinity degree. He is a 2001 graduate of Professor Clodoveu Barbosa High School, and earned a Bachelor’s degree from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Campinas in 2017. His parents are Antonio Torres Farias and Lucia Galisa Torres. He hails from the Diocese of Amparo, Brazil.
MASTER OF DIVINITY, NON-ORDINATION
Eugene E. Yeo of New Kensington earned the Master of Divinity degree, cum laude. He is a graduate of Pavilion Central School, Pavilion New York. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in classical rhetoric from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, in 2016. He has also studied at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
Pictured front, from left, Rector Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.; Most Rev. Mark Bartchak, Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown and member of the Board of Regents; Most Rev. Larry Kulick, Bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg; Sister Melanie DiPietro, S.C., who gave the commencement address and received an honorary degree; Archabbot Martin Bartel, O.S.B., Seminary chancellor; Father Patrick Cronauer, O.S.B., Academic Dean; second row, from left, Vice Rector John Mary Tompkins, O.S.B.; Rev. john J. Michniuk, Diocese of Covington, Master of Arts degree; Joseph Chen Guo, Archdiocese of Beijing, Master of Divinity degree; Christopher Wheeler, Diocese of Erie, Master of Divinity degree; Brother Francis Jin, O.S.B., Saint Vincent Archabbey, Master of Divinity and Bachelor of Sacred Theology degrees; Brother Barnabas O’Reilly, O.S.B., Saint Vincent Archabbey, Master of Divinity degree; Brother Francisco Whittaker, O.S.B., Saint Vincent Archabbey, Master of Arts in Catholic Philosophical Studies; third row, from left; John Torres, Diocese of Greensburg, Master of Divinity degree; Brendon Harfmann, Diocese of Brooklyn, Master og Divinity degree; Alexander John Gedney, Diocese of Covington, Master of Divinity degree; Eugene Edward Therizien Yeo, Master of Divinity, non-ordination student; and Nicholas Fratus, Diocese of Erie, Master of Divinity degree.
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