On May 30, 2023, the University of Santo Tomas held its annual Baccalaureate Mass at the historic Open Field, sending off 9,473 graduating students from the degree-granting academic units.
Scattered like the mustard seed
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel, the Rector, the Very Rev. fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., PhD told the graduates that “we have assembled you only to disperse you and send you off tonight. We have gathered you to scatter you like seeds in all directions. This is the Thomasian diaspora.” The Rector, in his homily, recalled how in various random occasions he will meet strangers who introduce themselves as Thomasians, and instantly, a sense of belonging and friendship will be felt.
As the Rector concluded his homily, he rallied the graduating students to prepare for the next chapter of their lives: “Do not rehearse only for graduation day but get ready for the life that lies ahead. What is your vision? What is your preferred future? Pursue it with much passion, with much gusto. Move forward and move up.”
The Rector also reminded Thomasians that despite one’s earnest efforts, these are not the solitary work of humans. “There is a greater power at work than our human efforts. Our labors are in vain unless they are covered the blessings of the Lord. Spread the Thomasian spirit as you make your niche in life. You’ve got to start where you are, do what you can, and maximize your talents and resources.”
Sent out on a mission
Apart from punctuating a Thomasian student’s journey, the Baccalaureate Mass also serves as the Sendoff Rites, which included the blessing and imposition of the Thomasian Mission Cross, which “[reminds graduates] of [their] roots as a Thomasian.” In a message to the graduating students, Office for Student Affairs Director Maria Cecilia A. Tio Cuison, MEd stated: “Let it be your shield as you venture through life outside the University. Let it remind you of the ways of St. Thomas Aquinas who upheld the truth and remained spirited in life’s struggles and triumphs. The placing of the Thomasian Mission Cross is a symbolic gesture of your formation and your continuous mission as a true Thomasian.”
The rites included the traditional Ceremony of Light, in which the Rector, through the Deans and Regents, lit the candles given out to each student as a reminder of the University’s task “to spread the light.” The Rector said: “As you pass on this light to one another, keep in mind your Thomasian values, which we have instilled in you all these years. This must be continuously shared for the good of others.”
Knowing how to illuminate
In his graduation message, outgoing Central Student Council President and Juris Doctor student Nathan Raphael D.L. Agustin looked back at how Class 2023 is finally hurdling school life after overcoming the struggles exacerbated by the pandemic: “there is meaning to the struggle! Our determination to finish what we started, despite the circumstances, has given us more than what the four corners of our classroom could ever give – LIGHT!” Encouraging Class 2023 to not forget others, Agustin added: “In a world where not everyone can enjoy the same things we do, achieve the same goals, and be with us in moments of triumph such as this, we must see this occasion not just as a time of rejoicing, but also as a reminder of our mission. We know how the darkest night looks; and our Thomasian identity, marked by commitment, competence, and compassion, demands us not to only merely shine, but to illuminate!”
The Baccalaureate Mass is the final stop before the start of the commencement exercises, with the Faculty of Pharmacy having theirs on June 1, 2023. The College of Information and Computing Sciences will be the last unit to have their Solemn Investitures, on June 30, 2023.