Opening Liturgy of the Holy Spirit

Sep 05, 2012

The Opening Liturgy is one of the oldest traditions at Marywood—this year's liturgy marked the 98th time it has been celebrated.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to this Opening Liturgy of the 2012-2013 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—today’s liturgy marks the 98th time it has been celebrated. It’s a tradition that dates back to 1915 when Marywood’s first students and faculty assembled for the Mass of the Holy Spirit. Year after year, we gather as a community to celebrate God’s presence in our lives, to recommit to the mission of Marywood, and to 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.

As I was reflecting on this opening liturgy, I thought about how each new year is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings.  Each of us has an opportunity to make this 2012-2013 academic year a time of growth, grace, and transformation. Indeed, this celebration is an invitation to grace for all of us. And so, as we begin, I would like to share a powerful poem by Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. It is called, “Ever Deeper Roots in Love,” and it can be our prayer today:

You, from whom we come,

And to whom we go,

Unchanging love,

You give us time for change and growth

In this time of great change in (our lives),

please give (us) the courage to change and grow

and cheerfulness amidst growing-pain.

Let (us) take ever deeper roots in love.

Make (us) faithful without clinging

And let (us) remain faithful in letting go.

Into your hands (we) lay (our lives)

And the lives of all whom (we) love. Amen.


In that spirit of love and hospitality, we wish to welcome our new and returning students, staff, and faculty members.

Since July 1st, Dr. Frances Zauhar, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Father Joseph Elston, our chaplin, and a total of 24 new faculty members have become part of the Marywood community. For Fall 2012, current figures show that 628 new undergraduate students have arrived, with 355 as residents and 273 commuters; in addition, 454 new graduate students began graduate school this academic year, with 309 beginning Fall 2012 and 145 beginning in Summer 2012. At this point in time, we have an overall fall enrollment of 3,276 students, consisting of 2,240 undergraduate students and 1,036 graduate students. Over 1,000 of our students reside on campus. Welcome to all!

Marywood is a place for realizing potential and possibility. 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!

We will have another opportunity to come together as a learning community for our Fall Convocation, the formal academic gathering that marks the start of our new year. The Convocation is set for Friday, October 19, at 11 a.m., at the Sette LaVerghetta Center. We will welcome Dr. Bernadette Gray-Little, a Marywood alumna of the Class of 1966, as our keynote speaker, and we will recognize her with a Presidential Medal that weekend.

A highly regarded scholar, teacher, and university leader, Dr. Gray-Little began her career as a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, where she rose to the post of UNC’s chief academic officer after successive administrative appointments. While at UNC, she earned a reputation as a champion for the highest quality educational experience for students and a strong advocate for faculty and for research.

With her appointment as Chancellor at the University of Kansas three years ago, she became the first woman, as well as the first African American, to lead the university.

She is indeed a dynamic figure, whose leadership qualities and remarkable spirit were fostered and developed on this campus.

Dr. Gray-Little is an outstanding example of what you can do and how far you can go with a Marywood education and the confidence to realize your dreams.

Seeking and working to realize your full potential is not a new concept at Marywood—it is an essential part of our strong mission and core values. At this year’s convocation—and, indeed, in events throughout the year—we will also focus on our core value of empowerment. Since its founding, Marywood has been thoroughly committed to enabling access to education—encouraging all, especially the underserved, to take a full role in the life of the broader society.

I mentioned that we will be bestowing Dr. Gray-Little with a Presidential Medal, for her many accomplishments on a national scale to educate, empower, and serve others. In addition, we will honor two other individuals who have, at local and international levels, embraced and reflected our mission and core values. Bishop James C. Timlin will be awarded the local medal, for his lifetime of dedicated service to our region. Mr. Ken Hackett, recently retired President of Catholic Relief Services, will receive our internationally-focused medal, for his meaningful work to expand the reach of Catholic Relief Services throughout the world.

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta—a saint for our times—who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1997.  Today, September 5, marks the date of her death, but on this day we remember her most remarkable life, which was a testament of unshakable faith, invincible hope, and extraordinary charity.

During a 1989 interview with TIME magazine, she described herself as “a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” She quickly added, “We are all pencils in the hand of God.”

As we move now to this sacred liturgy, may we open our hearts to approach life this year with similar expectancy, readiness, and a willingness to do what God calls us to do, even if it takes us out of our comfort zones! May we also hear the cry of the poor and respond as Jesus would and as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta certainly did.

Today’s 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 fill us with inspiration and to bless our celebration and our entire world as we lift up our hearts in praise and thanksgiving.