On Saturday 26th November, almost 300 Maryvale students from around the world were honoured for their accomplishments at the Institute’s 2022 Further and Higher Education Awards Ceremony, held at the iconic St Chad’s Cathedral, the full recording of which is available on the cathedral website.
This was the first physical graduation to be held since November 2019, after which events such as took place online due to Covid-19 restrictions. As in 2020 and 2021 graduates were only able to receive their awards virtually, invitations were also extended to these alumni, so that their achievements could also be celebrated in person.
There were plenty of smiles and proud faces from the graduands during the academic procession into the grand building, where family and friends had gathered to support their loved ones. The ceremony was formally opened by the Right Reverend David Evans, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, and was followed by an introduction from Ms Sophia Pain, Chair of Maryvale Institute Council.
Opening the ceremony, Ms Pain welcomed all present, in particular those due to receive awards:
“We are all here to celebrate your hard work and success in your academic studies and your contribution to Maryvale Institute. Congratulations on your achievements and we welcome you and your friends and family who have come to celebrate with you.”
During her introduction, Ms Pain addressed the recent decision to cease student recruitment at Maryvale due to the Diocese’s financial situation, but added that options are being explored to recommence enrolment in the future:
“As you may be aware the Diocese has had to examine where it is spending money and as it is running at a loss has decided to stop recruiting new students to Maryvale as of January this year. We are working on a way to allow students to commence studies in the future on our courses but that is still work in progress.
“Staff and associate staff have been working very hard to ensure that current students are able to complete their studies. The large number of students graduating is a testament to their continued dedication and commitment for which I would like to offer my personal thanks.”
The guest of honour, Rt Rev David McGough, Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, next presented awards to the graduands in a wide variety of subjects that ranged from Further to Higher Education:
- At FE level, awards were conferred in Catechesis, Healthcare Chaplaincy, Parish Mission and Ministry, Ministry to the People of the Sea, Religious Studies, Chaplaincy Studies, Studies in the Catechism, Catechesis and Ministry, New Testament Studies, Independent Studies, the Teaching of Pope Francis, Marriage and Family, and Latin.
- At HE level awards were conferred for the Foundation Degree in Youth Ministry and Chaplaincy, BA (hons) Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition, Ecclesiastical Bachelor of Divinity, MA in Catholic and Applied Theology, Ecclesiastical Licence in Divinity: Pathway in Catechetics, and PhD in Catholic Studies.
Since the last graduation ceremony, seven research students successfully defended their theses, leading to their PhD degrees from Liverpool Hope University through its partnership with Maryvale. All of Maryvale’s courses are taught through part-time distance learning, which has made them particularly accessible and attractive to people who need to combine their study with working, family or other commitments – as well as those from overseas.
Following the presentation of awards, two students had been nominated and received a special prize for academic excellence in and for research, respectively.
- Canon John Redford Award for Academic Excellence in Theology: Brother Michael Downie.
- Edward Hulmes Prize for Research: Loredana Zammit.
Four Fellows were also created, in recognition of their invaluable and longstanding service to Maryvale Institute:
- Mrs Rita Bannister
- Rev Dr Richard Conrad OP
- Emeritus Professor Clare Morris
- Dr Stephen Yates
Following the presentation of awards, Bp McGough addressed all present. Paying tribute to the graduates, he acknowledged the additional, unprecedented challenges they faced in completing their studies online during the Covid-19 restrictions:
“Let me offer my congratulations to all who have received awards today in such varied disciplines, and at so many levels from Certificate level to post graduate Doctorate level. Your achievements are all the more impressive because they have been achieved against the background of a pandemic which that has profoundly affected the manner in which we have lived and conducted our daily business, and has, for many months, isolated families and organisations of every kind.”
Bp McGough went on to emphasise the importance of education to the Catholic Church in England, stretching back to the Catholic Emancipation in 1829. He recalled an early experience as a parish priest when, over dinner with Fr Bill Madden, the then Diocesan Director of Education, Fr Bill outlined the seeds of his idea for using, the soon to be vacant, Maryvale House as a centre for the development of resources in religious education. While Fr Bill sadly died before this idea could be realised, Mgr Danny McHugh took hold of the baton and established the Institute at Maryvale.
Finally, Bp McGough praised the Institute itself for its continued work:
“I want to comment on the breadth of awards that have been presented today. They cover everything from the theological, scriptural and philosophical disciplines, to the many practical applications of those sciences in catechesis, chaplaincy and the life of family and marriage. I congratulate the Institute for its achievements. Such work will always be needed in a world that will never cease to change.”
Exhorting Maryvale Institute, its staff, students and graduates to continue their valued work, Bp McGough continued:
“Pope Francis has proposed a synodal approach to the future: quite simply that we should work and walk together. If this is to happen, we must ensure that the faithful are enabled with the necessary skills. I feel sure that the Maryvale Institute will have a continuing role in building this future.”
To close, staff and graduates processed out of St Chad’s to mark the end of the ceremony, before returning inside for photographs together and with family and friends, to serve as mementos of a wonderful day.
By Dr Tony Brown