Alumni group photos

Distinguished Alumnus Award

2023 Bro. Bob Arrowsmith ’63 Distinguished Alumnus Recipient, John Berry '77, speech at the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel on April 26, 2023

It is a great privilege and honor to be able to speak to you today. My thanks to “Z” Tate for that over the top introduction and to Dr. Paul Barker and the board for your very kind recognition, which means more than I could ever express.

Though it’s been 46 years since I sat on one of those bleachers like you, it feels like just yesterday. Time seems to only move faster as you age and with each passing year, you appreciate more how little you know. But with that understanding, let me try and share some lessons I’ve learned.

Seek a purpose filled life of love and service and the rest will take care of itself.

Love, love, love. Love everyone and everything – starting with yourself. There is no single other creation quote like you and you are deeply and profoundly love by God just as you are. When I ran the national zoo, I learned that animals are every bit as unique as us and I agree with Jane Goodall that God’s love doesn’t stop with humans. She argues that every living thing as a soul. And lest anyone think that odd – don’t forget that the Holy Spirit often appears as a dove.

Every pain in your life stems from forgetting that God loves you and is resolved by remembering it. Hell isn’t somewhere you are sent – it is just being so lost that you forgot the way back to love. It ends the moment you remember it. The best way to remember love is TC, act upon it. Be a person of active love.

Love is the only thing that you can never exhaust, because the more it is used, the more it creates. God is love and God loves to create love more than anything else so be generous with love – so generous that most people will think you crazy. That is ok – love like a crazy person.

Love will give you everything. It will give you courage to laugh at fear and even death.

When I was only a few years older than your age, a terrible scourge hit the world – much like you have had to endure these past few years. The one I speak of is AIDS, but at the beginning, it didn’t have a name and people were dying from it in gruesome ways. Everyone was so afraid, that even hospitals wouldn’t admit people – and they had no where to go to even die. Mother Teresa saw this and created a place called the “Gift of Peace” where people could go to die with dignity and I met her as a volunteer there. At the time, we volunteers were all so scared about catching aids that we suited up, used rubber gloves, wiped everything down with bleach. I will never forget her examples of active love. She took us to a patient who was very near death, and took off her mask and her gloves and lifted and gently caressed his arm. The man had not been touched by another human in months – and he wept tears of joy. So did I. I knew I was in the presence of a saint – and I was witnessing the active love of God in the world.

Dignity and respect are the first fruits of love.