August 29, 2019

Students, faculty, and staff members at The Catholic University of America joined together in prayer during this year’s Mass of the Holy Spirit, which took place in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Aug. 29. 

The Mass, which is held annually at the opening of the school year, was celebrated by Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory, chancellor of the University, who was installed into his position in May. Among the concelebrants was Bishop Fidelis Fernando of Mannar, Sri Lanka. Bishop Fernando is a Catholic University alumnus, having earned his doctorate in moral theology in 1987. 

During his homily, the archbishop called students, professors, and staff members to reflect on their work within the University, and how they can use what they have learned to “renew the face of the Earth.” 

“All of us who are dedicated to and directly engaged in higher education are called to use the wisdom that we seek to discover within this community of learning and to share with all who are our neighbors and colleagues are also summoned to improve the face of the earth that we also share,” Archbishop Gregory said. “That undertaking will be as revolutionary as the religious and moral vision proposed by the Beatitudes that we just heard proclaimed.” 

It is the role of a Catholic university, the archbishop said, to serve as “a vehicle to allow authentic scholarship to enter into dialogue with the heritage and faith of Catholicism.” 

“In spite of the great talents that exist within this body of teachers and learners, we all need the Holy Spirit to realize both our gifts and potential,” he said. “Therefore, we begin this new academic year on our knees imploring God’s own Holy Spirit to complete his work of regeneration within us and then using us as he wills for the renewal of our world.” 

In his remarks at the end of Mass, University President John Garvey quoted the soon-to-be canonized John Henry Newman, who said the role of a university education “is to help students see the world clearly and exercise good judgement.” 

“Good judgement is more than books, lectures, papers, and tests,” Garvey said. “A good education gets us outside ourselves. It counteracts the tendency to stick with our settled ways of thinking.” 

One important aspect of education, Garvey noted, are the lessons we learn from our close friends. 

“A good education opens us up to new ideas and teaches us how to think and choose well as we navigate the world,” he said. “Friendship helps us get beyond our natural circle of self-interest, so we can live and do well for one another. Friends also help form us, and it’s important to surround ourselves with good ones.” 

Katie Bahr, Assistant Director of Communications and Media Relations. Bahr can be reached at