December Grads Receive a Fond Farewell

December Grads Receive a Fond Farewell

Fr. Neenan continues tradition of Winter Baccalaureate Mass

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

They depart the Heights with less pomp and circumstance than their senior classmates who remain for Commencement in May. But a Winter Baccalaureate Mass said specially for December graduates by Vice President and Special Assistant to the President William Neenan, SJ, sends early grads on their way with prayers and pride.

Vice President and Special Assistant to the President William B. Neenan, SJ, speaks with Lisa Lawler, a December graduate, and her mother, Luann, after last month's Winter Baccalaureate Mass. Lawler offered the first reading at the Mass, held in Gasson 100. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Fr. Neenan offered the Mass for the 54 December graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences on Dec. 18 in Gasson 100. It was the 23d time the Jesuit administrator had presided at the mid-year service since he began the tradition as A&S dean in 1980.

"Because of Fr. Neenan, I understand that I was and forever will be a part of the Boston College family and tradition," said Kari Knight '02, a December graduate who was a reader at last month's Mass.

"Through his inspirational words at the Winter Baccalaureate Mass, Fr. Neenan made me understand that it is important to be proud of where you come from - then where you come from will be proud of you," Knight said.

"The Winter Baccalaureate Mass is a necessary tradition, important not only because it offers December graduates some parting words of wisdom, but because it offers them a sense of closure that is crucial when leaving Boston College and moving on to new endeavors."

Lisa Lawler, another December graduate, said the Mass "exceeded all expectations" for her and her parents.

"The service was very special because it was small and intimate," said Lawler, who offered the first reading at the Mass.

"It felt very personal and made me feel ready for the transition away from Boston College. This tradition is very valuable for December graduates who are as much a part of the BC community as other students and deserve as much recognition as those graduating in May. I really hope the tradition will continue as I know it meant a lot to me and my parents."

The annual service for early graduates began in 1980 when Fr. Neenan was in his first year as dean, and he was approached by that bane of college administrators, the committee-of-students-bearing-demands.

It turned out the leader of the three-student delegation was a young woman from St. Louis who was graduating in December and wasn't able to return for Commencement in the spring. The request they brought was uncomplicated.

"She was demanding we have a Mass," Fr. Neenan recalled. "I thought, 'Ho, ho, I can handle that.'"

They also asked for a speaker. Fr. Neenan took care of that, too. "I said Mass, then returned in a jacket and tie and gave a talk," he recalled.

In the years since, the Mass has shifted venues from Gasson Hall to Newton's Trinity Chapel and back, and other professors, such as Rattigan Professor of English John Mahoney Sr. and A&S Honors Program Director Mark O'Connor have given the accompanying address. But Fr. Neenan always has said the Mass.

A variety of factors lead students to elect to graduate early - and it is for those very reasons that those students should not be overlooked, the former academic vice president and dean of faculties said.

"These kids that are mid-years - they get sick, they run out of money, they have to step out a semester. These are the kids we ought to be taking care of."


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