nurses grad cap
nurse grad cap


Do you know someone graduating from nursing school? I learned of a 100 year old tradition that is currently carried on by only a handful of nursing schools. Is your graduate performing a candle light ceremony at the school of graduation? The nurse training is especially stressful. Nursing is not a job: It is more of a calling to do God’s work. Not everyone can minister to the injured or infirm.

If your graduating nurse does not get a candle light ceremony to honor his/her entrance to the field of the caregiver, I suggest giving the gift of a candle to the graduate.


This is a nursing school that celebrates its’ junior year students annually, in April, with a ceremony by candle light. Carolyn Miller, an official of the university, notes that the candle light ceremony is a tradition in nursing. The ceremonies were mostly held at the end of a certain amount of training, along with a probationary period. It was at these ceremonies that students received their “cap”. It wasn’t the type of graduating cap pictured above, but the white nursing cap. The cap is significant and I will write about it in a minute.

In current times, nursing practices have changed. The ritual has mostly been left behind. The Franciscan University at Steubenville provides a ritual for the dedication of graduates to the healing ministry of nursing.

nurses at graduation with candles
nurses at graduation candle ceremony

The above illustration is a generic image of a nursing graduation candle ceremony, not indicative of the ritual at Franciscan University. At the school’s ceremony, the junior year students file into the room, each holding a candle. The candles are symbolic: Florence Nightengale used a kerosene lamp to tend to patients during the Crimean War. In addition, Saint Catherine of Sienna held a lamp while tending to the victims of European plagues.


The traditional white uniform and cap date back to the Medevil times. The uniform was inspired by a religious sister’s habit. Miller says it is professional garb. Nurses receive special pins at the graduation, too.

The little white caps worn by nurses initially represented a specific religious order, bgut have been redesigned over time to represent different nursing schools. These historical elements are included in the Franciscan ceremony to honor the nursing tradition.

The ceremony includes the “blessing” of each individual student and is done by the president of the university. In the last 38 years, Miller says the ceremony has grown since she has been there. More officials of the school attend, as do many families of the students; some come from as far as Alaska to attend.

The class gets to choose a patron and a prayer: “Help us to recognize the face of Jesus in our suffering brothers and sisters and to serve Him with humility and joy” – Class of 2019 nursing students’ prayer.

nurses at graduation with candles
nurses at graduation candle ceremony

The school states it keeps this tradition and ritual in order to recognize our commitment to the care of the sick and injured and to offer this whole business of nursing to the Lord, says Miller.


The purpose of the ceremony is to honor the students for their achievements. It also dedicates future nurses to God’s service. Senior nursing students often attend the ceremony along with their junior year schoolmates. It is truly a time of love, acceptance and hope for the future.

There is a speaker at the Franciscan ceremony. This year, The speaker was Ginna Dumbrowski, who spoke about “being the presence of Christ to your patients…”.The entire ceremony is quite beautiful and holy. It speaks to the kind of spirit one needs to choose nursing as a profession. Nursing is a calling to minister or serve, meeting the needs of the most vulnerable.

I believe a candle is the best way to honor an entrant to the nursing profession. A candle is symbolic of Christ’s purity and guidance. Christ IS the Light of the world. What better way to honor one’s choice of selfless service to mankind than a candle to light the darkness.

The lighting of a candle is representative of so many aspects of life and hope. Knowledge is light – ignorance is darkness. A flame symbolizes a spirit. A candle flame symbolizes a prayer, too. I think it is an appropriate way to present the new caregiver with a gift that might even promote some relaxation and refreshment in the off hours of a stressful job.


This post discusses a candle ceremony that honors nursing school juniors. It is my mission to enlighten visitors to the pleasures and delights of candle light. I believe this ceremony is a lovely way to celebrate someone’s decision to minister to the sick and serve God and humanity at the same time.

When I learned that this ritual tradition was dying out, I decided to investigate why. It is clear to anyone of some age that the health care profession is not one that is lightly entered into. One must feel the compulsion to do God’s work and try to heal suffering to enter this field.

This work demands a love of humanity and God. It is not an easy job and people that choose to enter this field deserve all the best wishes and backing any one of us can give to them. Theirs is a special, trying, although quite rewarding career. They should be treated with the amount of caring they give to others on a daily basis. If you know a nursing school graduate, honor them with a candle.

This website is constantly under construction. Please check back regularly to check our collection of articles and advice on the enjoyment of candle light. We love to communicate. Do you agree with my choice of gift for nursing school graduates? Do you disagree? I would love to hear your comments, pro and con – it’s just a discussion and I love hearing from readers. What would you like help with? Do you use candles? Feel free to leave some comments and I will reply within 24 hours.

Thank you for reading!


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