September 06, 2022
Bishop Michael Burbidge celebrates the Mass with a rare pre-Reformation chalice

Hundreds of faculty, students, and staff filled the pews of the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 1 to pray for guidance and wisdom at the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit that traditionally marks the beginning of the academic year. University President Dr. Peter Kilpatrick addressed the campus community for the first time.

“I’m so pleased to attend my first Mass of the Holy Spirit at The Catholic University of America, and to give a warm welcome back to campus to all of you. What a great blessing to begin each year with a tradition like this one, to come together and reflect as a community before God on the journey that lies ahead,” Dr. Kilpatrick told the crowd.

The Mass of the Holy Spirit is a tradition for many Catholic educational institutions that dates back to the 16th century. A procession of faculty in academic attire, led by University Marshal and Law Professor Regina Jefferson, to the Great Upper Church started at noonand the Mass of the Holy Spirit began at 12:10 p.m. The Mass was broadcast live via Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and CatholicTV. It was also live streamed via the University’s Facebook and YouTube accounts. Classes began on Monday, August 29, but were canceled during the Mass so that all faculty and students could attend. 

A recently rediscovered silver-gilt chalice from Ireland (c. 1480) that is a rare survivor of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation was used to celebrate the Mass for one of the first times in centuries.The lead celebrant and homilist was Most Reverend Michael Burbidge, Bishop of Arlington, who is a member of the University’s Board of Trustees. Reverend Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P., concelebrated the Mass for the first time as University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry. Dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies Very Reverend Mark Morozowich, S.E.O.D., and Dean of the School of Canon Law Monsignor Ronny Jenkins were among the 30 concelebrants. 

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, University chancellor and archbishop of Washington, was unable to attend due to a meeting of the College of Cardinals at the Vatican. Bishop Burbidge said he was honored to have been asked by Cardinal Gregory to celebrate the Mass, whom he said joined in spirit.

During his homily, Bishop Burbidge reflected on the theme of joy in the Gospel from John, especially as Catholic University celebrates the arrival of new and returning members. Most importantly, he reminded the crowd the joyful purpose the Mass serves. 

“Today is joyful because, at this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we encounter Christ Jesus, our Lord, whose Spirit enkindles in us the fire of true joy,” preached Bishop Burbidge. “This year, then, may we resolve to pray every day…so that the Spirit may enkindle in us the fire of true joy and our joy may be complete,” he said, quoting the Gospel.

Bishop Burbidge then asked members of the Catholic University community to “pledge anew to be dedicated and faithful in pursuing truth, beauty, and goodness, which come from God alone. Teach well, work diligently, study hard, persevere, and say daily: ‘Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful; enkindle within us the fire of your love, and keep us truly wise!’” 

After the homily, Bishop Burbidge conferred the canonical authorization to new members of Catholic University’s ecclesiastical faculties, which allows them to teach in the name of the Church. Catholic University is the only university founded by the U.S. bishops and the Schools of Canon Law; Theology and Religious Studies; and Philosophy are accredited by the Holy See. 

After the Mass ended, Dr. Kilpatrick shared his hope that each in attendance will allow the Holy Spirit to “bless and nourish your heart and illuminate and strengthen your mind.”

“I wish you every success in the year to come and look forward to getting to know each of you in the days ahead. May God bless us all with a fruitful and joyful year,” he told the students. 

Immediately following the Mass, the entire community was invited to a cookout on the University Mall. Dr. Kilpatrick greeted students, faculty, and staff as they shared a meal together to celebrate the beginning of the academic year.