50th Anniversary Reunion
Univ. of Dallas Class 1968
My name is Fr. Mark Hamlet. I am here to boast with my classmates, about our 50th anniversary as students of the University of Dallas, and the many gifts of wisdom we received as the class of 1968.
I had converted to the Catholic Faith at age 18 before UD. I never attended a Catholic school, and I quickly learned my disadvantage. I can relate to the young man who asked Jesus,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
I prayed hard to become a good Catholic. God’s answer was the University of Dallas.
As we heard in the first reading,
I prayed, and prudence was given me;
I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
God hears us. God answers our prayers. Do not be afraid to pray for Wisdom.
Sometimes it is perfectly acceptable to boast about one’s gifts. Not boasting about yourself, but boasting about God and His gifts to you.
I learned how to love here at UD. I must tell you before I go further that I am a widower. I was married to Cynthia Convers (Hamlet), whom I met here, was also a member of our Class. Together we had six children, and five of them attended UD, as well. Two also met their spouses here.
In 1964 there was a brochure about the University of Dallas written by Dr. Donald Cowan, then President of UD. The brochure was about “the Indelible Mark”. His point was that a good Catholic education, with emphasis upon the great works of Western Civilization, would leave a lasting mark upon a person, and that was the goal of education at UD. I have found his words to be very wise, even prophetic.
Many UD graduates struggle in the first 3-5 years after graduation, because UD is not a “trade school”.
Instead, a UD education teaches you the insight that comes from true understanding. A student of UD studies man’s attempts to find “Truth”, informed by our faith. A student of UD learns to think, speak, write and communicate about truth. A UD student learns tradecraft in the workplace or graduate school. UD students often succeed professionally over time with work experience, plus the foundation and wisdom they learn at UD. I have seen this phenomena many times.
Not that UD students don’t have fun. Before Holy Trinity Seminary was completed, our favorite drinking spot on weekends was Turkey Knob. Once in a while a motorcycle found its way down the halls of our dorm. The UD Tower was being built during our years at UD. Before the roof cap was placed on top, classmates would haul cases of beer up the scaffolding and solve the problems of the world, while overlooking an amazing night view of Dallas and Love Field.
I went on to graduate school here at UD and got my MBA. Cynthia and I were married and began an exciting life that included many years living and working in Latin America and international business. Keeping a long story short, Cynthia died of cancer. The kids were grown and pursuing their lives. I tried to go on as a single man and Permanent Deacon. However, I had lived my life in love and found that I needed to continue to live my life in love. My bishop agreed and sent me to the seminary. I was ordained for the Diocese of Austin in 2010.
I found love again, as a priest and pastor. For the past six years I have been pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Austin. Sacred Heart is now over 90% Hispanic. Perhaps 70% of the adults are undocumented. We generally have 1200-1500 children in our religious education program. The parish is poor. I think I may have blessed more trailer homes than any other priest in the Diocese.
The public schools are horrible and dangerous. Our kids are challenged to declare their gang colors as early as 4th grade. Many do not graduate from high school. Drugs, sex and babies out of wedlock are common traps. Many parents are not married, living in “Union Libre”, often with multiple partners. Many adults and children are trapped in lives of hopelessness and chaos.
So, I began to do everything I could, with God’s help, to offer hope for the family. We launched a Pro-Life ministry renaming it Pro-Life/Pro-Family, with different learning programs every month, and now attended by hundreds. Last week we held our 4th annual Pro-Life/Pro-Family Fair, attended by perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 people.
We launched Scouting programs as part of our youth ministry. We have Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts and now we have a pipeline of Eagle Scouts, five this year alone. Give a child something that can never be taken away from him or her. Scouting has given us a tool to teach parents how to parent. The local scouting council boasts that we have the best-trained leadership in the council. One hundred percent of our scouts have the Catholic medals, Ad Altare Dei, or it’s equivalent.
Yes. I am boasting. God has blessed us. Go take a look at our parish website.
When I arrived at the parish I could only find seven parish children attending area Catholic schools. I began to stand in the pulpit every month and say, “You bring me a letter of acceptance to a Catholic school and your children will go to Catholic school. I promise. Together we can do this.
Today we have over 150 children of the poorest families in area Catholic schools, from Pre-K to 12th grade. In the last two years we initiated a memorandum of understanding with the University of Dallas, and now we have our first two parish students here at UD, and soon going to the Rome program.
We are producing “Pentecost Bombs”.
What is a “Pentecost Bomb”? A Pentecost Bomb is a child who comes home from Catholic school and can’t wait to tell his parents the Bible story he or she learned, or the life of a Saint. In just a few weeks the family is evangelized through their children. They begin to pray together as a family and attend Mass regularly, and a new order emerges in their family life. Catholic education is the greatest evangelization tool I have ever encountered.
Last year we launched a non-profit to help raise tuition funds, because we had gotten way over our heads in tuition subsidies. The parents always pay the first dollars of tuition, but we help them finish the job, so there are no obstacles. The foundation is called “Our Kids at Heart”. There are brochures available in the narthex.
I pray for God to give me Wisdom and Prudence as a Priest and Pastor. I thank God for his blessings to me, and to all students and faculty of the University of Dallas. Keep this university strong. We need her teaching, truth and wisdom.