Marquette Today note, this reflection is from Danny Chekal’s 2023 Baccalaureate Mass speech, which was given on May 19, 2023.
By Danny Chekal, Klingler College of Arts and Sciences graduate and Baccalaureate Mass student speaker
I want to begin by congratulating my fellow graduates, I want to thank Campus Ministry Staff and Volunteers, and the Jesuit community, for arranging and executing this final chance for us to prayer together as students in the Marquette Community. I want to thank all the professors and family members, but especially my own, for the years and decades of support that have led us to today but will surely continue into the future
The readings we’ve just heard, tell us that God’s love is all power, God has a plan for each of us, and this plan requires us to love one another. These are the most important lessons I’ve learned at Marquette. One of my very first classes was Theology 1001 with Dr. Kelly and Fr. Duns. It was Wednesday 12 p.m., in a large lecture hall in Marquette Hall, filled with 200 or some first year students, I’m sure many of my fellow graduates remember this course because you were probably there. It seemed like half the freshmen class was enrolled. The biggest thing I remember that class was two question Fr. Duns asked us:
“Who is your God?” and “What does your God call you to do?”
Not only do today’s reading seek to answer these questions, but these questions have been answered gradually through my time at Marquette. My answer to both questions is Love. God is love, and God call us to Love. This has been the most important things I’ve come to see at Marquette.
Years ago when I was in high school my mom, a Marquette Alumna, gave me a poem, originally written by the Jesuit father, Joseph Whelan. It goes like this:
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, that is than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
At Marquette, I have come to know love.
Marquette has seized imagination in my classes.
Marquette has gotten me out of bed early in the morning, to watch a sunrises over Lake Michigan.
Marquette has shaped I how spend my free time, with service trips to remote places like Oglala South Dakota and Talcott West Virginia with strangers who became like family.
And Marquette has broken my heart.
My college experience did not go as I had wanted.
My heart broke with long stretches of loneliness and isolation,
My heart broke with friendships lost,
My heart broke with canceled events as campus continues to a long recovery from COVID.
My heart broke with the faces of joy and pain and hope on those I’ve served at the Gathering’s Meal Program through Midnight Run.
My heart broke that Thursday of Spring Break freshmen year when I was told I wasn’t able to return. But that moment of heart break was also filled with wonder and amazement, and one of the purest expression of I love I can recall from my time at Marquette.
That day I was on a Marquette Action Program, service-immersion trip at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and my group, already knowing that we would not be returning to campus after our trip, was driving through the Badlands, when were confront by a large group of Bison. If you’ve never seen a Bison in person, they are huge and terrifying. We tried turning the car around, only to find that we were surrounded on both sides. Eventually, the sun had set, but the number of Bison kept increasing. After over an hour, the driver pressed down on the gas and speedily maneuvered through the herd, bringing us to safety. Once we were out, everyone in the van was shaken from the experience, and I asked the driver, if want me to take over driving for a bit so he could rest, but what he told me I will never forget: “I am exactly where I need to be.”
My parting hope for all of you, my fellow graduates,
is that you fall in love,
that you stay in love,
that you hearts break
and that you know you are exactly where you need to be.