These are times of many milestones for Divine Mercy University (DMU) as it continues its mission to serve the world through the union of the Catholic Faith and psychology.
DMU began as The Institute for the Psychological Sciences, founded in 1997 by a group of mental health professionals, academicians, and clinicians, who perceived a need for a proper understanding of the interrelationship between psychology and its philosophical foundations.
It was a big dream and small reality at the start, with a handful of instructors, students, and staff in a small rental space in Arlington, Virginia. Two decades later, the reality has blossomed into something truly special. And while the list of milestones is long, two recent ones make a strong case.
First, DMU celebrated its 18th Graduation Mass and Commencement Exercises on May 11th, 2019, with 87 new masters and doctoral graduates from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS) and the School of Counseling.This year marked the first graduating cohort from the M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, which began in 2016.
It marked the first time graduation ceremonies were held on the main floor of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The building is located on 5.1 acres. It would increase the square footage of the campus from 16,000 square feet to 46,000 square feet. The expansion will give DMU space to house its academic programs and operations and expand the training clinic. The building allows for more and varied classroom and library space, offices, community space, and a larger Chapel all for advancing the important mission of DMU. The new location allows for greater flexibility including having regular M.S. in Counseling residencies on-campus and opportunities for additional national and international training programs and conventions.
DMU has a list of its impressive milestones here. As for the 2019 graduation milestone, it has a story all its own…
DMU President, Fr. Charles Sikorsky, L.C., J.D., J.C.L. welcomed the graduates and families present and shared his enthusiasm in their great accomplishments and hope for the future:
“We celebrate your commencement knowing that as your journey begins, whether as a licensed psychologist or counselor, as an business leader, helping professional, clergy or pastoral worker – you will continue to serve and empower others in your own distinctive way, and to live in the spirit of this university and of our God, as healers and bearers of hope in the face of suffering.”
Bishop Joseph E. Strickland, of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, was the principal celebrant and homilist of the Graduation Mass and honored guest. He offered his words of encouragement to the graduating students:
“I commend you and all of this community of DMU, for entering into an important work that is very much linked with the Lord sending out those apostles to bring His light to the world. So when you become burdened, when the brokenness tends to overwhelm you, when you get bogged down in the darkness in the world, remember to look up and allow the Word of God to nurture you. Look up to the heights of grace, and hope, and mercy, and goodness – that is Jesus Christ.”
Referring to it being DMU’s first graduation on the main level of the basilica, Bishop Strickland already had “come up higher” and urged the graduates to continue to do so. “The Lord has called you to a higher place of greater responsibility, joy, and hope.”
Daniel D’Aniello, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of The Carlyle Group, was the Honorary Degree Recipient and 2019 Commencement. D’Aniello, shared with graduates his personal experience in encountering and working against the stigma of mental illness in his own family.
“We are stronger when we know we are not alone and when there are people to support us,” he said. He continued to address the graduates about the uniqueness of the integration of faith and the practice of psychology.
“You [graduates] are here to aid, to heal, to help in the ways that no others could otherwise do. Faith in God is not a neurosis, as Freud would have us believe. It is a critical component of understanding the person completely and treating the patient holistically. That wisdom will serve you well as you accept the invitation to the most private of all places – the mind of your patients. And of course, that privilege comes with the great responsibility of helping your patients comprehend the reality and shape their future.”
D’Aniello grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania, raised by a single mother and grandmother. From a very early age, he was exposed to the hard work and dedication needed to move through difficult circumstances. He received a scholarship to attend Syracuse University and upon graduation, spent three years as a supply officer in the Navy before heading to Harvard University for an MBA.
Prior to forming Carlyle in 1987, Mr. D’Aniello was a Vice President for Finance and Development at Marriott Corporation where he was responsible for the valuation of all major mergers, acquisition, divestitures, debt and equity offerings, and project financings. Before joining Marriott, Mr. D’Aniello was a financial officer at PepsiCo, Inc. and Trans World Airlines. In 2016, D’Aniello received the Lone Sailor Award from the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation.
Mr. D’Aniello’s philanthropic work follows what he calls his “five pillars” of philanthropy: faith-based giving, educational programs, free enterprise, the performing arts, and mental health research. He and his wife Gayle have been married for 42 years and have two adult children.
Dr. Gregory Bottaro, Class of 2012, was honored with the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award, bestowed upon an alumnus who has shown great dedication and leadership in his field. He shared with the graduates the critical mission of being “practitioners and protectors of integration,” and how this is essential in the future professions of the graduates.
Dr. Bottaro is a clinical psychologist practicing in Connecticut, serving the greater New York Metropolitan area and many others through online therapy. Before finishing his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, he discerned a religious vocation with the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs). He lived four years in the Bronx, serving the poor in the tradition of St. Francis. These years were emotionally, spiritually, and professionally formative as Dr. Bottaro tested his vocation and ultimately felt the prompting of God’s will to pursue family life. Six years after leaving NYC as a friar he returned as a psychologist. His aim is fundamentally the same – to serve. Instead of serving those suffering material poverty, he now seeks to serve those with psychological needs.
Dr. Bottaro cited the “beautiful harmony between psychology and out faith” as presented at DMU. But he warned that this approach would generate persecution.
“You will find enemies where you expected to be friends and friends where you expected to be enemies,” he said. “That’s because you are the stewards of the incarnation, which is denied in our world today.
“This is the greatest crisis in our Church,” he concluded. “It isn’t homosexuality…it isn’t clericalism…those are symptoms. No, the crisis today is because of the denial of the incarnation, denial that we are both material and spiritual.”