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March 01, 2023

Pittsburgh Priest and Iraq War Veteran to Speak at La Roche University’s 57th Commencement

PITTSBURGH, March 1, 2023 – Father Paul Abernathy, an Orthodox Christian priest and the founding CEO of the Neighborhood Resilience Project, will deliver La Roche University’s 57th commencement address and receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters on Saturday, May 6. 

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Howard Ishiyama, Ph.D., said, “As a dedicated community servant and advocate for underserved communities, Father Paul is an exceptional role model to La Roche University graduates, and we are pleased to present him with an honorary degree. His ministry is a fine example of how a commitment to promoting justice and peace—a core value in La Roche’s long-established mission—can change lives and transform entire communities. We look forward to hearing his message at the 57th commencement this spring.”   

Since 2011 Father Paul has labored with his community to address community trauma with Trauma Informed Community Development. This framework facilitates the transformation of trauma-affected communities to resilient, healing and healthy communities so that people can be healthy enough to sustain opportunities and realize their potential. Under Father Paul’s leadership, innovative trauma-informed grass-roots strategies have been developed and implemented to address acute, historical, transgenerational and complex trauma on a community level.  

In addition to programming, millions of dollars in various kinds of support have been distributed to the Greater Pittsburgh Area with Father Paul’s direction. Community groups from across the nation have worked with Father Paul to be trained in the Trauma-Informed Community Development framework.  

Father Paul earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from Wheeling Jesuit University, and he holds a Master in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. He obtained a Master of Divinity from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and was selected for Harvard Business School’s Young American Leaders Program. A former Non-Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army, Father Paul is a combat veteran of the Iraq War. He is and has been a member of numerous community, state and national boards. 

The pastor of St. Moses the Black Orthodox Church, he is an author, a husband and the father of two children. 

Visit for more information about La Roche’s commencement events. 




About La Roche University: A private liberal arts university in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, La Roche University offers 66 undergraduate programs of study, six master’s degrees and one doctoral degree, with particular strengths in education, business, criminal justice, psychology, nursing, and health and medical sciences as well as interior architecture & design and graphic design. This residential university provides a vibrant campus community for nearly 1,200 men and women enjoying 30-plus student organizations and an exciting NCAA Div. III athletics program. Founded by the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1963, La Roche University embraces its Catholic heritage while welcoming people of all faiths and backgrounds. With a legacy of social justice and a commitment to international exchange, La Roche University educates students to be lifelong learners and achievers in an increasingly diverse and global society.