100th Opening Liturgy

Sep 03, 2014

It is my pleasure to welcome you to this Opening Liturgy of the 2014-2015 academic year. What better way to begin than to unite in prayer to ask God’s blessing on the academic year and on the many urgent needs of our world?

The Opening Liturgy is one of the oldest traditions we have at Marywood—and today’s liturgy is a particularly special one. It marks the 100th time that this annual celebration has taken place! This is indeed our Centennial Opening Liturgy. It is a tradition that dates back to September 8, 1915, when Marywood’s first students and faculty assembled for the Mass of the Holy Spirit. We share such a special bond with them and with the many generations of Marywood students, faculty, and staff who have gathered together as a community, year after year, to celebrate God’s presence in our lives. Each year, we recommit to the mission of Marywood and welcome our new students, faculty, staff, and administrators. While we come here from different places and diverse backgrounds, we are able to joyfully share in the continuity of this rich spiritual tradition.

Recognizing this deep tradition, and in the spirit of love and hospitality, we wish to welcome our new and returning students, staff, and faculty members.

Since July 1st, a total of 19 new faculty members have become part of the Marywood community. For Fall 2014, current figures show that 521 new undergraduate students have arrived, with 287 as residents and 234 as commuters; in addition, 434 new graduate students began graduate school this academic year, with 330 beginning Fall 2014 and 104 beginning in Summer 2014. At this point in time, we have an overall fall enrollment of 3,069 students, consisting of 2,037 undergraduate students and 1,032 graduate students. 850 of our students reside on campus. Welcome to all!

Today, we celebrate with deep gratitude all of the new life on our vibrant campus. As a committed and enthusiastic academic community, we welcome each of you, along with your dreams and aspirations—all that you are and all that you are still becoming. May your journey at Marywood be one of growth and blessing!

At this moment in time, our Centennial year—2015—is mere months away. Exactly one year and five days from now, we will hold our Centennial Celebration and dedicate the Learning Commons. In fact, today, we invite you to sign the top beam of the Learning Commons, which will be available during the Community Picnic.

You may wonder…if the Centennial year begins on January 1st, and our culminating celebration is a year away, why the excitement today? Now is the time to get ready; now is the time to set the bar for all that is ahead of us. This year, TODAY—we begin our focus on the core value of SERVICE.

Since its founding, Marywood has been thoroughly committed to service. By promoting social responsibility, which fosters community engagement to meet real needs, we demonstrate the fullness of love in action. Our first reading today from the prophet Isaiah foretells what God sent Jesus to do—to bring good news to the afflicted, to soothe the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, give release to those in prison, to comfort those who mourn. (Isaiah 61:1-3) However, this is an enduring call to serve to which we can all respond.

I want you, our students and our on-campus community, to lead the way by making a difference through volunteer service and celebrating all that Marywood is. We must open our minds and hearts to see the real needs that surround us—locally, nationally, and internationally—and then act to meet them. There are so many ways to serve; I invite you to identify those causes that speak to your heart or those issues which cry out for justice…then act.

When I travel to alumni events throughout the country, these groups are always eager to know what’s happening at their alma mater. I want to tell them that we’ve prepared to celebrate our Centennial milestone in the best way—the Marywood Way—by serving others and giving thanks for 100 years of innumerable blessings…100 years of empowering others through education…100 years of making a difference in the lives of generations of people in this region, in this nation, in this world.

Service is at the heart of the Marywood Community. We’ve been named to the President’s Community Service Honor Roll—a national recognition—for five consecutive years. Last year, academic service learning (service done as part of an academic program) totaled about 127,000 hours. We are strong and continue to grow in this area. Members of the Marywood community also recorded volunteer service (service done outside of an academic requirement) of approximately 20,000 hours.That is incredible and deserves a round of applause.

I’m inspired by this. I know that we as a community can do even more on the volunteer service front and make an even greater impact. Today, I issue to all of you a Centennial Service Challenge. I am setting a volunteer service goal of 100,000 hours. I know that, together, we can meet or surpass this goal.

This challenge is for all in the Marywood University community—students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees—anyone working on behalf of Marywood or in celebration of our Centennial.

The key to all of this is letting us know what youre doing. We can’t record the hours unless we know about them. Ann O’Brien and the Office of Service Learning and Community Service will coordinate this effort, and they are here to support anyone involved—whether you want to participate in existing service opportunities, have new ideas for service, or have questions about logging your hours.

Marywood uses a social networking site called Givegab.com to advertise service opportunities. Through Givegab, users also have the ability to sign up for service activities and a central place to log service hours. So, if you’re not already a member of this social network, you can sign up for free. Get started today! This way, we can see the depth of the impact we are all making together.

I am beginning this service initiative with all of you in our campus community because I have great faith that you will lead the way, demonstrating to all that we don’t just list our values, we live them.

So many of you are already doing service for your churches and in the community, for a variety of causes; you’re serving locally, nationally and internationally. Whatever you do—awareness walks, food drives, blood donations, supporting animal shelters, booster clubs or coaching for kids’ sports teams, music ministry at church, national or international service trips or relief efforts—you name it, ALL of it counts for this challenge. If you’re volunteering, you’re serving; if you’re serving, we want to know about it.

We want you to serve, share, and support the Centennial Service Challenge. Our core values flow from our spiritual patron, St. Alphonsus; from the founders of the IHM Congregation, Sister Theresa Maxis and Father Louis Gillet; from the IHM Sisters who established Marywood; these cherished values have been carried forward through each generation. That transformative spirit of service continues through you…through each and every one of you.

Let’s show everyone that the Bold Heart of Marywood beats with joyful, loving service.

Today’s second reading notes: There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit; there are many different ways of serving, but it is always the same Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:4-5)

As we gather today, I pray that in the wondrous journey of life, each of us will, indeed, use our many different gifts and our many differing ways of serving one another according to God’s purpose.

Now, let us ask the Holy Spirit to be with us as we embrace this sacred journey and to strengthen our connections as members of a vibrant university community. May the Spirit fill us with inspiration and bless our celebration and our entire world, as we lift up our hearts in praise and thanksgiving.