It has long been my contention that a single person can have an impact upon the affairs of the world. Maybe that person will become a force for good or maybe they will become a force for evil, one cannot always tell. However, history has shown that one caring, concerned and committed person can influence events within the lives of other people.
That is the point of this visit with you. I have met such a person.
Let me suggest to you that it is my intention to stand on a point of personal privilege this time around my friends. A singularly important occasion was marked in the Carter Family and it is my intention to share it with you. However, as is my way, I will attempt to share with you a few lessons which were learned along the way.
May 14 and 15, 2010 will long stand out in my mind for the personal importance of the events which occurred. While they were momentous days for the Carter Family, they are probably of minor consequence to the rest of the world. However, all that I have to say in this visit with you will be of little value unless you come to understand the context within which my personal thoughts were developed.
On May 14, my son Todd received his first master's degree at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, PA, not far from Philadelphia. He received his Master of Divinity cum laude upon the completion of five years of study. He is now in the home stretch for his second master's degree which he should complete by next May.
It was with a great deal of pride and joy that my wife, Jackie, and I, along with her sister Meg, watched Todd receive his degree from Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of the Arch Diocese of Philadelphia, and Monsignor Joseph Prior, Rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. As my wife and I sat there basking in the glow of the moment, my mind began to drift back many, many years.
There were the thoughts of Todd as a young child struggling to overcome the curse of his speech afflictions. Then there were the thoughts of his time in the special needs course program under the direct tutelage of Nancy Muck, a high school classmate. But then there was the joy occasioned by his graduation from middle school and then high school as a member of the National Honor Society.
Of course there were the many hours which he and I shared as members of the school bands in middle school and high school. It was one of the great joys in my life getting to play in the bands which performed at all of my children's graduation ceremonies. His high school principal, Dr. Hayden, used to introduce me as Dr. Carter, Grade 20 at his school events.
Then again there was also that happy day back in 2005 when Jackie and I sat in the bleachers at the College of New Jersey commencement ceremony. That was the day when Todd earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics. Many of you out there have known these same sorts of banner days in your family. For those you who have children that are still younger, please savor your time with them my friends, because they will all-too-soon pass to adulthood.
Saturday, May 15 was an even bigger day for us. It was on that day that our son Todd was raised to the order of Deacon in the Diocese of Trenton, in a service of ordination at Mary, Mother of God Church in Middletown, NJ. He was one of seven young men who were ordained to the Deaconate by Bishop John Mortimer Smith. It was at some point during this service that my wife turned to me and commented that Todd had truly made his firm commitment to our Lord.
Later on Saturday, my wife and daughters, Ellen and Katie, and I, ably assisted once again by my wife's sister Meg Muller, journeyed to Todd's home parish, the Church of St. Catherine, in Port Monmouth, for his first mass as a Deacon. This was a particularly moving event because it was at the 5:00 p.m. mass that Todd delivered his first homily. My heart was bursting with pride as Todd spoke of the story of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. I will be offering more thoughts on this story later.