Use your education, the gifts of Vatican II, and the words of Pope Francis as guideposts for a life reflecting the compassionate face of God, the chaplain of the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland told the graduating class of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.
Sister Bernice Gotelli, PBVM, a member of the Sisters of the Presentation community of women religious, spoke at the commencement of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, May 23 at 3 p.m. at Pacific School of Religion’s Chapel of the Great Commission in Berkeley, Calif. This year, 45 graduates received advanced theology degrees, though not all were in attendance on Saturday.
Sister Gotelli said two momentous events of 2015 – the 50th anniversary of the laity-empowering Second Vatican Council and Pope Francis’ words in his “The Joy of the Gospel” exhortation – set the stage well for JST graduates as ministerial leaders. She said they should consider their job description to be “reflecting the compassionate face of God.”
“Compassion is not a pat on the back, and an assurance that all will be well,” she told the group of dozens of theology graduates. “Real compassion is an attempt to understand what is going on in a person’s life, and to share that. It is to feel so deeply their pain that it affects us.”
Sister Gotelli has spent 26 years providing vital hands-on pastoral work. She is the sole chaplain at the 100-year-old hospital, working with critically ill and dying children throughout the hospital, as well as following through with their families. She has supervised students from the Graduate Theological Union’s pastoral care field program, including 30 to 35 students from JST and several students from the other schools of GTU who have engaged in supervised ministry at the hospital.
During her address she gave several examples of JST students living out her order’s motto of “not words, but deeds,” such as a student who sat at the bed of a newly blind teen and read his favorite book to him, and one who watched SpongeBob cartoons with a lonely child in isolation.
These students “let their presence show the family that God will not allow them to go through their pain and grief without God’s presence,” Sister Gotelli said.
During the commencement event, Sister Gotelli received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree from JST. She holds a B.A. from the University of San Francisco and an MRE from Seattle University. She also holds certification from the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.
A video of St. Gotelli’s address can be found here.