99th Opening Liturgy of the Holy Spirit

Sep 04, 2013

It is my pleasure to welcome you to this Opening Liturgy of the 2013-2014 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? Today, we especially wish to remember in our prayers the Jewish members of our community who are entering into Rosh Hashanah this evening.

The Opening Liturgy is one of the oldest traditions we have at Marywood—today’s liturgy marks the 99th time that this annual celebration has taken place. It’s a tradition that dates back to September 8, 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.

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 24 new faculty members have become part of the Marywood community. For Fall 2013, current figures show that 550 new undergraduate students have arrived, with 329 as residents and 221 commuters; in addition, 380 new graduate students began graduate school this academic year, with 265 beginning Fall 2013 and 115 beginning in Summer 2013. At this point in time, we have an overall fall enrollment of 3,182 students, consisting of 2,182 undergraduate students and 1000 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 Thursday, September 19, at 11 a.m., at the Sette LaVerghetta Center. We will welcome Col. Lorraine Rupp Breen, a Marywood alumna of the Class of 1978, who also currently serves on our Board of Trustees, as our keynote speaker. We will award an honorary doctorate to Col. Breen in recognition of the many great accomplishments she has made in service to our country and in living the mission of Marywood University.

At this year’s convocation—and, indeed, in events throughout the year—we will also focus on our core value of RESPECT. Since its founding, Marywood has been thoroughly committed to honoring the uniqueness and dignity of each human person; to demonstrating ethical and just interactions; and to caring for the earth and all creation through a commitment to sustainability.

The value of respect magnifies the power of relationship. Respect encompasses not just what we do, but how we do it. As we begin a new academic year, I want to return for a moment to the wonderful commencement address given by Archbishop Joseph Tobin last May, because it spoke volumes, not just about “the what,” but about “the how”—how we live Marywood’s core values in our own lives.

Archbishop Tobin is a Redemptorist and he has a deep awareness of the vision, mission, and values that are at the very heart of all we are and do at Marywood University. What I especially liked in his address to our graduates was the profound reminder that he gave them and all of us, “that the journey of your life will look very different, depending on how you choose to travel. It seems to me,” he said, “that you are faced with a choice between going through life as a tourist or as a pilgrim.”….

“Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure, or business purposes…” It is an exchange relationship in a sociological sense; tourists spend something and get something in return. Tourism and pilgrimage are very different. “Pilgrimage,” he noted, “is a sacred journey...Pilgrimage is a sense of being connected: linked in a fundamental manner with our final destination and whoever awaits us there, but, also connected with our fellow travelers in a sort of mutuality that tourists never quite achieve.”

Archbishop Tobin made the distinction between tourism and pilgrimage in the context of what constitutes a life of meaning and purpose. I would like to apply the distinction to the opportunity we have as a University community to journey together as pilgrims to our Centennial and beyond. Tourists visit; pilgrims fully commit themselves to the journey. 

Here at Marywood, boldness is in our spiritual genes—from the founders of the IHM Congregation, to those who began Marywood nearly 100 years ago, and continuing through each generation, with bold-hearted leaders who built Marywood into the institution it is today.

At this moment in time, our Centennial year of 2015 is on the horizon, and, so too are historic plans for this University. We have many outstanding initiatives—some in motion, some about to be realized—and I invite you to be an integral part of the progress we make.

In particular, we invite you to the Groundbreaking of the Learning Commons, which is set for Friday, October 18, at 11 a.m. However, it is not just the groundbreakings, constructions, or renovations that make this a worthy effort; it is the building of minds and hearts—the transformation of our students’ lives and ultimately of the world—that is central to the educational process here at Marywood.  As we prepare for the Centennial, I invite and encourage each of you to engage in our shared journey as a pilgrim.

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 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.