A bespectacled man in blue and gray academic regalia speaks at a lectern.
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The Most Reverend Evelio Menjívar-Ayala Delivers 2024 College of Arts & Sciences Commencement Address

The Most Reverend Evelio Menjívar-Ayala, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, delivered the commencement address to the Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences Class of 2024. As commencement speaker, Menjívar received an honorary degree from the university. 

“In recognition of his empathy, his walking with people, his grit, his willingness to enter into greater friendship with God and neighbor and his encouragement of others to hear and respond in their own ways to that same invitation of friendship — that is to say, in recognition of his closeness — Georgetown University proudly bestows upon Most Reverend Evelio Menjivar-Ayala the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa,” said John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University.

In his remarks, Mejívar situated the commencement within the larger context of a world desperately in need of peace. 

Two people in academic regalia shake hands on a stage.

Dean Rosario Ceballo and Bishop Evelio Menjívar-Ayala.

“I accept this great honor on behalf of the many young people from war-torn nations who despite their aptitude, eagerness and aspiration to pursue a higher education, the ongoing conflicts have disrupted their plans and have shattered dreams for the future,” Menjívar said. “I also accept this great honor on behalf of the many young people who, seeing no future in their homelands, are forced to abandon their studies as they migrate elsewhere.”

Menjívar, who himself migrated from El Salvador at age 18, reflected on the many difficulties facing those whose home countries are no longer a safe place to call home.

“In 1990, I arrived in Los Angeles, California with only a change of clothes in a backpack, but full of dreams,” Menjívar said. “As most immigrants do, I did any kind of job I could get: receptionist, construction, janitorial work, painting, youth ministry. Meanwhile, I took English classes at night, and I also studied for the high school equivalency degree.”

After feeling the call to serve, Menjívar attended St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, Florida, where he studied philosophy. Then, he traveled to Rome and earned his master’s in theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas before becoming ordained in 2004. 

“After serving as priest in the Archdiocese of Washington for 20 years, I received the news that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, had appointed me Auxiliary Bishop of Washington,” remembered Menjívar. “Not bad for someone who began cleaning restrooms and painting houses with no English, right? We all must start somewhere and seize every opportunity that life offers us.” 

Reflecting on the tumultuous time of transition in his life when he immigrated from El Salvidor, Menjívar offered the assembled graduates reflections on the importance of gratitude and human interdependence. 

“None of us is wholly self-sufficient. Each of us is dependent upon others. We are part of an ecosystem called family, community, church, and world,” Menjívar said. “For just as none of us arrived where we are without the involvement of others, even for our daily food, so too do others depend upon us. This means that we should give back to others the good we have received.”

The dignity of the individual, a hallmark of humanist thought and Catholic theology, was at the center of Menjívar’s message to the graduating class. 

“Each of us is endowed with an infinite human dignity that we are obliged to recognize, to respect, to promote and to safeguard, starting with the most vulnerable around us,” Menjívar said. “We must overcome those attitudes that cause us to look the other way, ignoring or denying our human connectedness and saying that the welfare of others is none of our business.”

“You can make a real positive difference because you are very talented young people and you have received the gift of a lifetime – a great education. You have what it takes to help bring about a world of truth, justice, solidarity, and peace. When all is said and done, that is the measure of true success, and I urge you to never accept less.”

The College of Arts & Sciences celebrated 851 total graduates, with 662 earning a Bachelor of Arts degree and 179 earning a Bachelor of Science degree.

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