While celebrating finishing one journey in the Camino of Life, Fresno Pacific University graduates need to look to the road ahead.

That was the message of Noel Castellanos, nationally prominent figure in Christian community development, brought to the FPU 2018 Fall Commencement Saturday, December 15, 2018. “Together, the sum total of these experiences we call The Camino of Life are what the Lord uses to forge our character; to define our burdens and callings; to sharpen the unique gifts and talents that we have been entrusted with to bless others; and most importantly, to invest our lives pursuing the mystery that is loving and being loved by almighty God,” he said. “All of the hoopla, fiestas and flowers, make it clear that this day is all about you; and for good reason. What you have accomplished was not easy. You should be proud and full of joy. But it will serve you well to remember that your journey is just beginning.”

Beginning the journey were an estimated 439 graduates—327 from bachelor’s degree completion programs, 58 traditional undergraduates and 54 graduate students, including three from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary—while just over 6,000 family, friends and loved ones looked on from the stands of Selland Arena in downtown Fresno. Graduates came from campuses in Fresno, Merced, Visalia and Bakersfield. Also on the platform were President Joseph Jones, Ph.D.; Joshua Wilson, chair of the FPU Board of Trustees; and D. Gayle Copeland, Ph.D., senior vice president/provost. Music was provided by the university Pacific Brass ensemble, Chamber Choir and music professor Walter Saul, D.M.A., organ.

Since 1982, Castellanos has ministered in Latino urban communities in San Francisco, San Jose and Chicago, where he still lives in the La Villita barrio with his wife and four children. He was the founding pastor of La Villita Community Church in Chicago, and established the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Institute, serving as CEO and president for 12 years. His newest venture is Camino Alliance en las Americas, which invites men and women of faith and good will to affirm the God-given dignity and celebrate the contributions of Latino immigrant neighbors. Castellanos has a bachelor’s degree from Whitworth University, which also conferred an honorary doctorate on him.

Two things Castellanos told graduates to remember about the Camino of Life:

The Camino is difficult: “Don’t be fooled by rosy Instagram posts that make it appear that we always look fabulous, and that all of life is a selfie-worthy adventure. The truth is, like every graduating class before you and after you, it is certain that you will encounter challenges,” he said.

“And, consider this: if life is hard for us who are educated, and live in the wealthiest nation in the world, imagine how impossible life must seem for the majority of men, women and children on our planet who have to exist on meager wages, enduring debilitating oppression and injustice, and have little or no hope of ever experiencing the kind of life that we enjoy and often take for granted,” he added.

The Camino is not meant to be travelled alone: “One of the greatest tragedies in our nation today is the escalating division that is widening along racial, class and political lines. Hate, racism and bigotry threaten the very fabric of our national tapestry—and, the reality is, we do not know each other personally. The rich do not know the poor, yet we are the ones that often create policies to address their needs. We don’t know our Muslim neighbors, and fear creates chaos instead of cultivating community. We don’t know the millions of undocumented men and women that put affordable food on our tables, clean our hotel rooms, cook our meals, build our homes and, ironically, even raise our children as nannies,” Castellanos said.

As they set out on the next part of their Camino of Life, graduates must decide how they will love and live for Jesus as they, by virtue of graduating from FPU, are positioned to become wealthy compared to most of the world’s population, Castellanos said. But there is joy in the journey. “Graduates, what is the Camino that God has called you to? I can’t wait to find out!,” he said. “Buen Camino!”

View the ceremony at fresno.edu/live