The University of San Diego’s academic calendar says the first classes of the fall semester took place last week, but for many who filled The Immaculata on Thursday, a truer sense of a new year’s arrival was visible.
“This is when it feels like I’m part of the USD community,” says Maria Ruvalcaba Gomez, a senior political science and ethnic studies double major and Latin American Studies minor. “You see students, members from organizations like Associated Students and Greek Life, grad students, faculty, staff and administrators who come together for the mass.”
It’s a tradition at USD to start the fall semester with the Mass of the Holy Spirit. Inspired by a practice first done more than 450 years by European universities in the Middle Ages, in a modern-day setting, the impact at USD is the same.
“During the liturgy we ask for the inspiration, guidance, and presence of God’s Spirit on all of our campus activities,” states USD’s University Ministry description. “This festive mass gathers the entire university community together to rededicate ourselves to USD’s mission, renew friendships and welcome new members.”
Indeed, members of the Class of 2017 and incoming transfer students likely attend their first mass in The Immaculata (daily and most special USD masses are held in nearby Founders Chapel), but for Gomez, eyeing her college graduation in May, Thursday was a fitting launch to her final year as an undergraduate.
“It brings a sense of purpose in body, mind and spirit and allows me to gather my thoughts,” she said.
The mass was a beginning for many reasons. Presiding over this mass for the first time was The Most Reverend Cirilo B. Flores (pictured below, left), Coadjutor Bishop of San Diego, who was welcomed warmly by USD President Mary E. Lyons, PhD, and the campus community. He’s soon to be the fifth Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of San Diego upon Bishop Robert Brom’s impending retirement. Also new were the roles for first-year College of Arts and Sciences Dean Noelle Norton, PhD, who provided the first reading (Acts 19:1-8), and Chell Roberts, PhD, inaugural dean of the new Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, who gave the second reading (Romans 5:1-2, 5-8).
The mass introduced the Catholic Social Thought theme for the fall semester — Option for the Poor — and was touched upon in Monsignor Daniel Dillabough’s homily. He spoke of the power of hope and the need for people to look into the eyes of others, find the light and not to let darkness linger. He reminded everyone of the importance of accepting all brothers and sisters and treating them with dignity and love.
Dillabough’s words were well received by Kroc School of Peace Studies student Isidore Niyongabo, a member of the current cohort of the master’s in peace and justice studies program. Amy Hart, who delivered the message to Niyongabo, deaf since age 10, first interpreted Dillabough’s words.
“I liked his analogy of night versus daylight and how it relates to peace and justice and what I’m learning,” said Niyongabo, through Hart. “All of the violence and the problems in the world show us what remains in the darkness. People need to open their eyes and hearts to find the light in others.”
The mass showcased the best of USD. A cohesive campus community effort was evidenced by the work of the University Ministry staff, performances by the Founders Chapel choir, student banner bearers, Class of 2014 students David Bittner and Christopher Ngo giving the Prayers of the Faithful, gift bearers representing the grounds maintenance, facilities management and housekeeping areas, students and staff serving as ministers of the Eucharistic and the introduction by President Lyons and Carmen Vasquez, vice president of Student Affairs, of 2013-14 undergraduate and graduate student leaders.
Said Alex Hermann, USD’s 2013-14 Associated Students president: “Mass of the Holy Spirit is one of my favorite traditions at USD because it brings the whole community together to celebrate what’s going to be a promising year. It reminds me what a great time it is to be a Torero!”
— Ryan T. Blystone
Prayer to the Holy Spirit (adapted from a prayer by St. Augustine):
“Breathe in me, Holy Spirit, so that throughout this academic year, my thoughts may be guided by your wisdom. Act in me, Holy Spirit, so that my life may further God’s Reign. Fill my heart, Holy Spirit, so that I may love with great compassion. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, so that I may defend the poor and vulnerable. Embolden me, Holy Spirit, that my life may be a witness to your truth. Preserve me, Holy Spirit, that I may always remain receptive to your energizing, transforming grace.”