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Wuerl tells Duquesne's grads to 'change the world'

Friday, May 3, 2013, 10:29 p.m.

Attired in a red silk cape and biretta over clerical vestments, Cardinal Donald Wuerl had a simple message for Duquesne University graduates who marched in commencement ceremonies Friday night.

“Change the world,” Wuerl, who grew up on Mt. Washington and was reported to have been a major player in the election of Pope Francis, challenged the graduates in royal blue caps and gowns at the A.J. Palumbo Center.

Duquesne officials said more than 700 of the 1,592 students who earned graduate and undergraduate degrees this year marched, a prelude to diploma ceremonies the university's individual schools hold on Saturday.

Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and a former bishop of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, thanked Duquesne President Charles J. Dougherty for inviting him to give the keynote speech.

“It is always a joy to come back to Pittsburgh. It's always a pleasure to come back home,” said Wuerl, 72, who taught theology classes at Duquesne during his 18 years as bishop in Pittsburgh.

Several of the graduates echoed those sentiments prior to the ceremony as they spoke of leaving Duquesne.

“I'll really miss the close-knit community of faculty and the students. Everyone cares so much here,” said Emalea Helisek, 22. The political science major from Beaver County said she is headed to American University to attend a gateway program for its law school.

Maryland native Sarah Rosch, 21, who will attend optometry school in Philadelphia after earning a science degree, concurred.

“It's the people, the students and the professors,” she said.

Later, looking out on the hall crowded with the graduates and their families and friends, Wuerl issued a challenge to them paraphrased from the gospels.

“We've all got to understand that ancient wisdom. It's not by bread alone. There's so much more to life,” he said.

Science, technology and data are little without ethics, faith and religion, Wuerl reminded the graduates.

“You have been prepared not just for a career, a specific technical way of making a living. You've been prepared to understand that life is a response to God's call and somehow each one of us has a goal.”

That goal, he continued, comes down to a relationship with God and fulfilling obligations to one another.

“This university has provided you a context in which you can begin as you face this next stage of your life to confront the great issues. But never, ever forget you can change the world. You have the power. It starts with each one of us.

“I ask you to remember always that we live in a world where so many have so little and we have so much,” Wuerl said.

“Never ever forget the possibilities that are yours. Never ever give up and never settle for less.”

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or




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