Almost 250 Maryvale students from around the world were honoured for their accomplishments at the Institute’s 2019 Further and Higher Education Awards Ceremony held at the iconic St Chad’s Cathedral.

There were plenty of smiles and proud faces from the graduates during the academic procession into the grand building, where family and friends had gathered to support their loved ones.

The ceremony on Thursday 7 November was formally opened by the Right Reverend David McGough, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, and was followed by an introduction from Professor Simon Lee, Acting Director of Maryvale Institute.

In congratulating the successful students, Professor Lee highlighted what a special time it was to graduate from the Institute, following the recent canonisation of Maryvale’s founder, St John Henry Newman, and that all should take inspiration from this event:

“It [Maryvale] was a place of tranquillity for him [Newman] and his little group at a time of change, of transition, of reflection. So it can be for others, as you have experienced. Every Maryvale graduand will know that Saint John Henry Newman famously called for an educated laity.
"You may know that he described a university as an alma mater, a nourishing mother, who knows her children one by one. He said that holiness is unseen, in your hearts, how you go about your duty.
"Saint John Henry Newman knew that for each of us there is some definite service assigned to us and no other, we can be a link in a chain, a bond in a community.”

Professor Lee went on to emphasise that, as Maryvale graduates, their “contributions to life and to one another make a difference" and that his "message at graduations is that you go out with more than a certificate: that the deeper, the more profound, the longer lasting the influences on you from your student experiences turn out to be, the less likely you are to have noticed them at the time they happened.”

The Acting Director provided an example of how one alumnus went on to make such a difference towards the work of the Church.

Deacon Tony Schmitz, who took his first degree at the Institute, not only went on to guide diaconal students on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference in Scotland, but also adapted the Maryvale model in partnership with Cardinal Tamkevicius in Lithuania.

Professor Lee also recalled his own experience, as an undergraduate, of listening to a homily about hope by Cardinal Suenens, which he later recalled and employed as part of the title of the newly renamed Liverpool Hope University, to which he had been appointed rector.

Professor Lee also paid tribute to the outgoing Director, Fr Edward Clare, who has just completed his tenure at Maryvale, thanking him for his invaluable contribution to the Institute since his appointment by the Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, in 2013.

The guest of honour, Mr Eddie Hughes, MP for Walsall North, next presented awards to the graduands present, that ranged from Further Education Certificates in Catechesis, Healthcare Chaplaincy, Religious Studies and Marriage and Family, as well as Divinity and Philosophy degrees, to postgraduate MAs, Eccleciastical Licences and PhDs.

Following the presentation, Mr Hughes addressed those present, calling upon his personal experience of Maryvale, since he grew up locally, having attended Maryvale Primary School, and maintains close links to the Institute and the area to this day.

As the UK heads into a general election, Mr Hughes commended the role and value of the Institute in offering spiritual and moral guidance for the challenges faced by society today and suggested that graduands were now in an excellent position to spread this message in their own parishes, dioceses and countries.

This year five research students successfully defended their theses, leading to their PhD degrees from Liverpool Hope University through its partnership with Maryvale, while two students gained the MPhil award.

All Maryvale’s courses are taught through part-time distance learning, making 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, six students had been nominated and received a special prize for their accomplishments in Catechesis, Research, Special Achievement and Theology, as well as for exemplary studentship in FE:

• Canon Drinkwater Award for Exemplary Studentship in FE: Hilary and Kevin Higgins
• Philip Walkling Award for Special Achievement: Amanda Carney
• Canon John Redford Award for Academic Excellence in Theology: Jacqueline Wilkinson
• Kevin Preston Prize for Catechesis: Rev Arthur Grant
• Edward Hulmes Prize for Research: Dr Tamra Fromm

Due to the international character of the Institute, not everyone could attend the ceremony at St Chad’s.

While the achievements of Maryvale students at centres in Abu Dhabi, Ardagh, several dioceses including Bamenda in Cameroon, Cork, Edinburgh, Galloway, Galway, Portsmouth, Singapore and Westminster were acknowledged and commended on the day, domestic graduation ceremonies have already taken place in those dioceses.

Representatives from several of Maryvale’s validating bodies – The Open University and École Cathédrale in Paris – were also in attendance and took part in the ceremony.

Sincere thanks were also given to Maryvale staff and the Bridgettine sisters for all their hard work and commitment, which contributes towards the unique atmosphere of 'The Maryvale family'.

To conclude, the congregation took part in Evening Prayer at the Church before moving onto refreshments back at Maryvale.

Could it be you at the next awards ceremony? There are still opportunities to apply for a wide range of part-time, distance-learning courses beginning in January and beyond. Courses at Maryvale Institute