A true Dominican tradition: the beauty of Candle and Rose

Lauren McNeela

April 16, 2014

The Quad is dark and quiet, and you can feel the cool, gentle breeze in the night air.  You can hear the murmurs of the audience members as they sit in anticipation and excitement. You start to hear a soothing, majestic song, a cue that the celebration is about to begin.

Students come across the Cloister Walk one by one, wearing their graduation caps and gowns.  Each graduate holds a candle in his or her hand. The candle glows, radiating light and warmth onto the graduates’ faces as they make their journey across the walkway. Coming from the other side are the graduates’ partners carrying roses.

This night, students are participating in the annual celebration of the Candle and Rose ceremony.

The Candle and Rose ceremony has been a tradition at Dominican University since 1928, when Sister Constanza encouraged its creation.

Norah Collins, associate dean of students, says the symbolism of Candle and Rose are rooted in Dominican’s mission and tradition. The candle and rose represent the Dominican tradition of “Caritas et Veritas,” which encourages students to seek knowledge and truth, to offer service to others and to work towards creating a more just world.

Trudi Goggin, dean of students, recalls her first memories of the Candle and Rose ceremony.

“My first experience with the ceremony was for my mother in the ‘60s. She had gotten married to my father, had children and went back to school,” Goggin said. “I was in second or third grade when I went to my mom’s Candle and Rose.”

Goggin explained that only sisters and seniors earlier in the school’s history used the Cloister Walk. Seniors were originally asked to only pick juniors to be their roses, because their passage across the Cloister Walk would symbolize a transformation. As the juniors walked across, it symbolized their time of becoming seniors.

Now, graduates are allowed to pick anyone to be their rose. The graduates’ roses serve as their partners during the ceremony.

“The rose is someone who has shown the graduate love and affection,” Goggin said.

Senior Ivan Ortega is participating in the ceremony this year and is looking forward to it. For him, it was obvious that his girlfriend should be his rose because of the support she gave him.

 “She helped me throughout school,” Ortega said. “She kept me on the right track and helped me achieve my goals.”


Mark Carbonara, a graduate of 2007 and assistant director of alumna/i relations at Dominican, is a huge fan of the ceremony, even mentioning that it is his favorite day of the year at Dominican.

“I remember the Candle and Rose ceremony more than I do graduation,” Carbonara said.

“In 2005, I was brought out to the Cloister Walk in my pajamas and the senior who asked me opened a ring box with a rose in it,” Carbonara recalled. “Picking a rose is really special for people.”

During the ceremony, students and their partners exchange roses and candles. Their partners hand the graduates the roses as a symbol of the love and compassion they experienced during their time at Dominican. It is a living reminder of the tradition of Caritas.

In return, the graduates present their roses with candles. Goggin explained that the lit candles are symbolic of the light of Veritas and the students’ pursuit of truth. The candle also signifies the truth and knowledge bestowed upon the students at Dominican and it is presented to the partners as a means of passing on the truth and the spirit of learning.

Collins explained that incoming freshmen are prepared for this ceremony during their SOAR experience. The students have a ceremony with their SOAR leader who lights a candle for them in the chapel.

“These two experiences are like bookends,” Collins said. “Students have their candles lit as freshmen and pass the lit candle on at graduation.”

Singing the Dominican Alma Mater is a highlight of the ceremony for some students. Carbonara says that not a single senior is without goose bumps when they sing the Alma Mater.

“Everyone yells out the last line, so proudly Dominican,” he said.  

This year’s Candle and Rose ceremony is scheduled for May 2 at 8 p.m. in the Quad, but will be relocated to the Lund Auditorium if there is inclement weather.