Bishop Carlye Hughes: “The greatest gift that you can bring is yourself.”
Seminary of the Southwest held commencement ceremonies on May 21 and 22 – an evening service of Holy Eucharist on Tuesday and a morning prayer service with the 68th Commencement exercises on Wednesday – to recognize and celebrate graduating students and award degrees in divinity, religion, counseling, chaplaincy and pastoral care, and spiritual formation and diplomas in Anglican studies.
41 students completed their degree programs this year, receiving Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Religion, Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Master of Arts in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, and Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation degrees. Two students received the Diploma in Anglican Studies.
This year’s Commencement speaker was the Rt. Rev. Carlye Hughes. Hughes is the 11th Bishop of Newark, the first woman and African American to hold the office. She has roots in Austin, having received her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
In her sermon, Hughes urged the graduates not to let others’ ambitions for them get in the way of their calling. “The thing that every organization is hoping for when you walk in the door, … whatever it is that you are going to be doing – the greatest gift you bring to them, the gift that they are hoping for, that they may not be able to name, but the thing that they need, and the thing that you have, is yourself. They need you to be you,” Hughes said. “And the only way I can see to do that … is to make a commitment, right here and now, to put your spiritual life first.”
During the ceremony, Southwest awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity to the Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Matthews, Sr., as voted on by the Board of Trustees. Matthews is rector emeritus of Trinity Church Wall Street, a nationally renowned preacher, teacher, and leader, and a visionary and vigorous proclaimer of a relevant gospel to the world.
This year, Southwest’s commencement ceremony returned to Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. “Commencement this year was inspirational,” said the Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, dean and president. “Bishop Hughes delivered powerful remarks, and Good Shepherd provided the perfect setting. Everyone at Southwest – the students, the faculty, and the staff – work so hard to get to this moment. It was picture-perfect, and they deserved it all.”
The graduating class of 2019 was the largest since 2008 and included the largest group of clinical mental health counseling graduates since that program’s creation. “The size of this year’s class is a testament to Southwest’s continued importance in training clergy and lay leaders in The Episcopal Church and beyond,” Kittredge said.