Get Ready to Change the World!

By Sr. Joan Burke, SND

Excerpted from a lecture given at Notre Dame de Namur University in March 2011 and a wonderful exhortation to all college and high school graudates!


Your education these years is meant to prepare you for the school of life. You have the capacity to change the world. And, in my view, if you do not do your part, it will not only be an ethical failure but have great consequences for others. Develop your mind, read widely, hone in and sharpen your skills of critical thinking. Choose to be a world citizen. Recognize in all — especially the less fortunate — our common humanity.

Take time to listen deeply to your inner heart. What are your deepest desires? What kind of world do you want to fashion for your children?  Let what is deepest ‘within’ you shape your ‘without.’  There is little as powerful as the integrity of a person who lives out of a profound harmony of their ‘within’ and ‘without.’  Bring to your mind for a moment persons who have inspired you . . .  Were they not men and women of a great inner integrity?  Were they not persons who knew what was of real value in life, and for that they lived?  And some had the courage even to die for what they held as most dear.  In recent memory of all of us here at this Notre Dame institution, can we not all think of our Sr. Dorothy Stang?  Dot had a great impact on all who knew her, and then on so many who came to know of her after her death. Undeniably, the sound of the close harmony of her ‘within’ and ‘without’ was more deafening and powerful than the assassin’s bullets which felled her. Dorothy’s passion and commitment led the people she lived among and served to say after her brutal murder in the Amazon, “No, we will not bury her.  Rather we will plant her in the forest so that justice sprout and take hold in the hearts of all!”

Pay attention to those who inspire you. Recognize that they are in fact stirring and quickening what is already within you. Be in touch with that. You need not feel that you must imitate those who inspire you, simply let their lives fan to flame the fire that is in you. Become the gift that you are meant to be for others. The capacity to seed good in the world and create a society for all to live with dignity and respect is in each one of you. Nurture it, and be faithful to it.  Follow your heart. Expanding the words of our foundress St. Julie Billiart, I pray that you grow to have “hearts [and minds] as wide as the world!”