2023 Baccalaureate Mass gathers over 9000 candidates for graduation

Nine thousand four hundred and seventy three Thomasian candidates for graduation celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass at the UST Grandstand and Open Field on May 30, 2023. The UST Rector Very Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., Ph.D., served as the main celebrant and homilist during the Mass, which was concelebrated by the Dominican Fathers.

Quo vadis? Where do you go from here?” asked the Father Rector. There is no universal answer to this, as so many paths are open to the students, but he urged Thomasians, “Do not rehearse only for graduation day, but get ready for the life that lies ahead. What is your vision? What is your preferred future? Whatever it is, pursue it with much passion, with much guts and gusto.”

“Ironic as it sounds, we have gathered you to scatter you like seeds in all directions. This is what I call the Thomasian diaspora,” shared Fr. Ang, who has met many alumni by chance in varied places, and a sense of immediate belonging strikes upon learning that they are from UST.

“Wherever I go, it is always a joy to hear a stranger come to me and say, ‘Father, I am a proud Thomasian!’”

Included in the annual Post-Mass program is the recitation of the Thomasian Pledge of Loyalty and the Blessing and Imposition of the Thomasian Mission Cross, which serves as a reminder to stay true to Thomasian ideals, even after they leave UST.

The Office for Student Affairs Director Asst. Prof. Ma. Cecilia Tio Cuison emphasized, “Let it remind you of the ways of St. Thomas Aquinas who upheld the truth and remained spirited in life’s struggles and triumphs. The placing of the Thomasian Mission Cross is a symbolic gesture of your formation and your continuous mission as a true Thomasian.”

The Ceremony of Light, which represents the light of education through evangelization, was at the core of the event. The Father Rector’s torch flame is passed on to the torches of the Deans and Regents of the academic units, who in turn pass the light to each of their students’ candles.

As the outgoing Central Student Council President Nathan Raphael D.L. Agustin put it, “Through the times we felt like we were exhausted, we found light and still pushed forward. We became competent. In clinging to our hopes and dreams, we became committed, but we must not forget those who were left behind. In a world where not everyone can enjoy the same things we do, achieve the same goals, and be with us in moments of triumph such as this, we must see this occasion not just as a time of rejoicing, but as a reminder of our mission. When we cross that Arch and exit the gates beyond the four corners of the University, let us devote ourselves not just to prosperity, but to service.”

“Why do we have to take up this tall task?” Agustin, who is a Juris Doctor student, asked in his message to the students. “Because we have been through the darkness. Now, let us be each other’s light so that we will finally complete the three Cs. In the future, we will continue to build what is true, just, open, loving, and with no one left behind. We will exemplify compassion. We know how the darkest night looks, and our Thomasian identity, marked by commitment, competence, and compassion, demands us not to only merely shine, but to illuminate!”

The Father Rector and the Father Secretary-General, Rev. Fr. Louie R. Coronel, O.P., EHL., with the administrative and academic officials and Marching Band, led the traditional recessional procession walking out of the Arch, which was the original gateway of the University when it was still in Intramuros. Students exited through the historic Arch of the Centuries and completed their life at UST, which comes full circle since the same students, as freshmen, entered the Arch to signify the beginning of their Thomasian life.

Following health policies such as health declaration via the Thomasian Online Medical Services and Support (ThOMedSS) portal, wearing of masks, and frequent hand sanitization, the graduating students gathered as one batch to commemorate their Thomasian journey before the actual solemn investiture ceremonies per academic unit, which were held throughout June 2023.

The program ended with the highly anticipated pyromusical presentation.

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