By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
From the moment the over-capacity crowd of Georgian Court University, Lakewood, students, faculty and staff started gathering in Dorothy Marron University Community Chapel for the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., it was clear that observances and obligations would unfold with reverence and enthusiasm.
The Mass was the centerpiece of this year’s “Week of Love,” an annual university tradition held around Valentine’s Day each year which features programs illuminating the love of God and creation, family, community and country as well as romantic love.
As an academic tradition, the Mass dates to 1548 in Jesuit academic institutions where the community gathers to thank God for the gifts of creation and salvation and to seek the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in the coming year. The Mass has been a mainstay of the new calendar year at Georgian Court for two decades.
Welcoming Bishop O’Connell to Georgian Court in his opening remarks, Dr. Joseph R. Marbach, university president, noted that “we come together to seek wisdom, understanding, guidance, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord – the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.” He called on the Holy Spirit to help the university and “God to be present with us thorough out the year.”
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell, who was principal celebrant of the Mass, drew from the day’s Gospel (Mark 8:14-21) in which the apostles have forgotten the leftovers from which Jesus miraculously fed the 5,000 and express fears they will go hungry. Jesus asks them to understand that in him, they have the Bread of Life.
The Bishop urged everyone to focus on the fact that as for the apostles, “God is present, Jesus is present with us all the time. That realization is the beginning of our life of prayer. … As Christians, as followers of the Lord Jesus, let us build up our faith and resolve every day. That’s the wisdom we pray for at this Mass and every day.”
He expanded on those sentiments in his concluding remarks, urging everyone to anchor the next six weeks with real consideration and prayer. “Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday,” he said, offering three suggestions on how to make the most of the season.
“Make a pledge,” he said, “to pray more, to give something up” and to take something on.”
Georgian Court sophomore Danny Ginchereau, who is majoring in history and education and is a member of the Mercy Collegiate Society, Ginchereau said the Mass “set the tone for the year. It’s a day on campus I look forward to. A day just to breathe and move forward.”
“I take the Bishop’s advice seriously,” regarding Lent, said Ginchereau, who said he will take on something “for someone that will really help them. I also want to spend more time with my family and give something up. I am thinking of cutting my phone at night and centering on God.”
As a first time Mass of the Holy Spirit participant, freshman Gemma Mochi, 18, who is studying exercise science and is also a Mercy Collegiate Society member, said she found the experience to be very meaningful.
Having the privilege to serve as a reader for the Mass, Mochi said, “I thought while I was reading that this is a wonderful way to approach Ash Wednesday. Lent is a big part of faith and I am going to follow the Bishop’s advice and pray more. I am going to try to pray the Rosary every other night and give up sweets which is very hard for me to do.”