Scullion Renews Call for Empathy, Social Justice in Commencement Address

Project HOME co-founder Sister Mary Scullion

ISABEL BIMAIRA/THE HOYA Project HOME co-founder Sister Mary Scullion called for renewed compassion and empathy to solve the problems of inequality and cruelty in her commencement address to the Georgetown College Class of 2017.

Inequality and human suffering can be addressed by activists driven by empathy and care for others, according to Sister Mary Scullion, R.S.M. in her commencement address to the Georgetown College on Healy Lawn on Saturday.

Scullion, who joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1976, is a co-founder of Project HOME, an organization that provides homeless and low-income individuals in Philadelphia with shelter, employment, education and health care. She is also an advocate for those with mental illness and other disabilities.

In her address, she cited Pope Francis’ call for a “revolution of tenderness,” which he made in an April speech on compassion and solidarity to the TED2017 conference in Vancouver, and encouraged the graduates to live a life of caring for others in the face of a growingly impersonal society.

“Whether it’s our brothers and sisters who are living on the streets of this city with such great power or the tens of millions of people around the globe who have become refugees due to economic and political violence, today there is devastating human suffering and dehumanization,” Scullion said. “Today more than ever we need this revolution of tenderness.”

This revolution begins with each of the graduates, Scullion said. Scullion cited the founding of the student group Unsung Heroes by Febin Bellamy (MSB ’17) as a use of the power of interpersonal connection to enact change. The group, founded in Spring 2015, sought to share the stories of on-campus workers. Unsung Heroes began to garner national media attention in October 2016.

“The power of this story is that it gives voice to the very real economic divides that are endemic in American society, and it shows us how this revolution of tenderness is and must be rooted in personal relationships as it seeks to weave new webs of human community and inclusion,” Scullion said. “Amid the challenges of our day, see the human face of those you earnestly seek to help.”

Scullion said the graduates’ education will help empower them to make a positive change in the world.

“Your education can and must play a role in addressing the systemic injustices in these tense and troubling political times,” Scullion said. “We need you, the next generation of leaders, a blend of personal passion, tenderness and practical wisdom that can help us break the paralysis of ideological polarization and the stranglehold of concentrated economic power.”

Scullion then turned to the meaning of education in the lives of students and society. She said education drives the pursuit of social justice.

“True education is transformative and dynamic. The pursuit of truth, mercy and justice never lets us rest. And we won’t rest until we listen for and hear the voices of all, until we are moved to action to address the inequities in our society,” Scullion said. “We need to unite with those struggling to find new paths to economic inclusivity.”

Scullion said she hopes the graduates use their talents to enact change to help those who are struggling.

“We celebrate the accomplishments over these past four years, but I hope and believe that in the coming years, the graduating Class of 2017 will give us much more to celebrate as you use your gifts to nurture that fragile but profound common bond of our humanity,” Scullion said. “I am convinced that seeking to heal the broken world is the true path to a life of wholeness for all of us, as well. We are one.”

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