Grad 2020: Convocation Words Inspired by St. Pope John Paul II



Shortly after the virtual convocation!

Many of you know that I love St. Pope John Paul II. It was through his writings that I was inspired to start a podcast and started to truly understand my identity as a Catholic woman with a unique purpose.


I recently (FINALLY) graduated from SFU with my degree after six years. Even though we didn't have an in-person convocation ceremony due to COVID-19, the university still held a virtual convocation, and individual faculties and departments held their own online ceremonies. I was fortunate enough to be asked by my department, the School of Communication, to give a convocation address.


It was a real dream come true.


However, for a period of time, I was super stuck on what to write. What could I possibly have to say? As I thought long and hard about it, I felt myself continually hitting a wall.


That is until I surrendered whatever words I wanted to say up to God. And in turn, He inspired me with words from Pope John Paul II. Below is the address that I gave. Happy reading!

SFU 2020 Virtual Convocation

School of Communication

Thursday, June 11, 2020


Thank you Dr. Balka, SFU staff and faculty in the School of Communication, and all family and friends for being here and joining my fellow graduates and I in celebrating such an important moment in our lives. Despite the strange circumstances, I am thankful that we are still able to gather together in this way. It’s now my pleasure to share some thoughts with my fellow graduates.


The late Pope John Paul II once said: Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.


I believe that all of us can take something from that. All of us are gathered here today to celebrate a moment of triumph. We’ve made it. We’re finally graduates. No matter how you got here or how long it took you, you’ve made it.


Of course, the hard work starts now. For many of us, we’re making the transition into a life that isn’t bound by Canvas modules, all-nighters, or as of late, awkward online classes on Blackboard Collaborate.


This of course is clouded by a global pandemic and difficult events that have happened in recent days. I don’t know about you, but I’m scared for the world. How could they ask us to be real adults now?


But as John Paul II said, Do not be afraid. As a fellow graduate on the threshold of “true” adulthood, I urge you to be courageous with me. Whether we realize it or not, we’ve been preparing for this. I know I’ve learned valuable lessons about what it means to be a good listener, empathetic, to recognize privilege, and to turn things in on time. Be kind to yourself. Do not be afraid of the future. After all, you are now the master of it. This isn’t to say that there won’t be hardship, but I hope you remember that you’ve faced trials before. In my 6 years, I certainly have. And we will conquer them again and again.


Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Like many, there have been times where I’ve been lazy, just barely squeaked by, or submitted the bare minimum. If the saying is true, that our lives are what we make of it, then I challenge you to not be bogged down by “just okay”. We are meant for so much more than “meh”. Whatever it is that you are most passionate about, whatever sets you ablaze, I hope that you bring that same fire to every aspect of your life. Especially now, the world needs us and our fiery selves. We cannot and will not be a passive generation. We can no longer afford to be silent.


Put out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch. The point of this is not necessarily the fishing, but the idea of taking risks and diving into the unknown. The world that we’re stepping into is unknown and our future is unwritten. It can be easy to resist the change and stay back in what we’re comfortable with. But art, science, philosophy and technology never developed with people gingerly dipping their toes in. All of us have an opportunity to enact some kind of change with the platforms we have. I know that all of you are folks who will use their talents to advance every facet of our lives and society. And that catch that John Paul II speaks of? That is your niche. Your contribution. The thing that sets you ablaze.


Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch. Class of 2020, it’s our turn to take the reins and make our mark. I’m thankful to all the SFU staff and faculty for celebrating this moment with us, and in a special way, I thank my family who is here with me. I know you will, but thank those folks who’ve journeyed with you and left their imprint on your degree. Because of their passion and love, we now have an opportunity to pay it forward and go bravely into the uncertainty.


Be well and congratulations again!



©2019 Rachel Wong.