SAINT BENEDICT — Mount Angel Seminary’s 33 graduates concluded the academic year with both the Baccalaureate Mass and commencement exercises celebrated on April 30 in the Abbey church. In addition to graduates and the seminary and monastic community, many friends and family with smiling faces filled the church as a hopeful sign of the great things that lay ahead.

Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith of the Archdiocese of Portland was principal celebrant for the Baccalaureate Mass, telling the graduates during the homily that they “have arrived at the starting line. Now the real race begins.”

As the graduates processed into the Abbey church for commencement, an organ fanfare echoed throughout the building, highlighting the exuberance of the day.

Msgr. Joseph Betschart, president-rector, welcomed those gathered and led the invocation. In his address to the graduates, Msgr. Betschart encouraged them to “put your faith ever more firmly in the Lord, ask for the courage to answer his call and the perseverance to be his faithful witnesses to the ends of the earth as he sends you out on mission to serve in his vineyard just as he did the apostles some 2,000 years ago and all his disciples ever since.”

Deacon Adrian Sisneros of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe gave the senior farewell. Referring to the original pioneer monks of Mount Angel Abbey, he spoke about the virtue of “holy grit,” which he described as “a noble and holy quality of character that will elevate us toward the heights of heaven.”

From Mount Angel Seminary’s College of Liberal Arts, local bachelor of arts graduates included Benedictine Brother Ignatius of Antioch Olivarez of Mount Angel Abbey and Eric Joseph Wunderlich II of the Archdiocese of Portland.

Local seminarian receiving the pre-theology certificate of completion was Erik Andrew Morris of the Archdiocese of Portland.

The following local seminarians received the master of arts (philosophy) degree: Bother Oscar Avila Rodriguez of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit; Benedictine Brother Matthew Sislow of Mount Angel Abbey; and Brother Helmer Vargas Llamas of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit.

The Master of Arts (theology) degree went to these local students: Andrew Cummings and Josué David Jiménez.

The following local graduates received the doctor of ministry degree: Father David Jaspers, Archdiocese of Portland, and James Arthur Tabor.

Mount Angel Seminary, established in 1889 by the pioneer monks of Mount Angel Abbey, is the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States.

Before giving his blessing to conclude commencement, Benedictine Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, chancellor of Mount Angel Seminary, offered final lessons to the graduates from the life of St. Benedict, reminding them that “there’s a cloister in every heart and a stairway leads to heaven.”