Bishop McElroy's Encouragement Boosts Virtual Mass of Holy Spirit

Bishop McElroy's Encouragement Boosts Virtual Mass of Holy Spirit

The Mass of the Holy Spirit is a tradition that dates back some 500 years to the founding of great European universities in the Middle Ages. To maintain the respect of that tradition, the University of San Diego has consistently held its own Mass of the Holy Spirit as a means to celebrate the opening of the academic year each fall.

On Thursday, despite continuing the adjustment to life with the COVID-19 pandemic in it, USD’s early semester showcase Mass was held in the very large, but mostly empty Immaculata Church. Social distance protocols, mask-wearing and minimal officials being present on the altar was all in force.

The Mass was streamed live on the University Ministry website for the campus community to join with head officiant San Diego Catholic Diocese Bishop Robert McElroy, along with USD’s Vice President of Mission and Ministry, Monsignor Daniel J. Dillabough, and new San Diego Diocese Auxiliary Bishop Ramon Bejarano.

Bishop McElroy delivered throughout the Mass with his uplifting, compassionate thoughts and prayers.

“We pray together, celebrate together and commit to the new year of renewal in God’s grace of learning in the heart and the soul and the spirit and the mind,” Bishop McElroy said. “Most of the education, at this point of the academic year, is from afar. Luckily, God’s grace reaches everywhere. And the Holy Spirit comes and descends and walks with us everywhere.”

The readings were a Letter from St. Paul to the Colossians and from the Gospel according to Mark. Bishop McElroy then delivery a stirring homily.

“The Mass of the Holy Spirit signals three profound realities for a university community. First, it points to the enduring Catholic identity of USD. Secondly, the Mass signals the beginning of a new academic year with a sense of renewal and expectations that accompany every season of new beginnings in a community dedicated to intellectual, spiritual and community growth. Finally, the Mass of the Holy Spirit focuses our attention upon the world and the culture that surround us, beckoning us to focus with intensity on elements of Catholic faith that are particularly salient to the mission of the Catholic university at this particular moment in time.”

Referencing the current state of the world, Bishop McElroy met it head-on through his messaging.

“There is a deep sadness running through our society in these days. People are suffering profoundly. People from all classes, races, political parties and religions. This sadness weighs upon the hold of our society and weighs upon this university community, particularly in the limitations upon the normal academic and community of life. It is so painful, I know.

“It is this sadness and the losses that underline them which call us today in a resistible way to confront, forthrightly, the one theme, which we as Americans and as human beings in the post-modern age do not like to face — the reality of suffering.”

He posed three questions for self-awareness: What is true security in my life? What values animate my heart? What virtues guide my soul?

“If this university community helps its members reflect deeply upon these realities in the coming months, then the real intangible hardships which surround us at this moment will be outweighed by a spiritual and moral progress that can leave an enduring imprint upon us all,” he said. “The manner in which the USD community overcomes the challenges of this time, there can lie both testimony to the greatness of this university and a witness to the meaning of human suffering that is as valuable as any lesson this university has ever taught.”

One Mass of the Holy Spirit tradition at USD is to recognize and offer prayers and support for the leadership of undergraduate, graduate and law students. While few were present due to USD’s all-remote learning, Donald Godwin, assistant vice president and dean of students, extended his and the community’s best wishes to those who are serving in the Associated Students Government, various graduate school student associations and the law student bar association.

Bishop McElroy then closed Mass with encouragement for all at USD.

“Each of you represents part of the community, which in a very powerful way, this year, is USD — tangible, real, going on with its life, and with its spirit, distanced and yet close. There is a unity that comes from a common endeavor of seeking God’s grace in your life, seeking to understand the world around us, seeking to understand your talents, what they can offer to others and how we as a people, and we as a world, can make this and every moment a time of solidarity, progress, even with these hardships and obstacles. I pray for all of you in the community of USD that during this year you find many beautiful, joyful moments of discovery, success, and attainment, and that the great gifts that God puts in our lives may befall you, be discovered by you in every passing day of this year.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

San Diego Catholic Diocese Bishop Robert McElroy speaks during USD traditional Mass of the Holy Spirit at The Immaculata. Mass was live-streamed.San Diego Catholic Diocese Bishop Robert McElroy speaks during USD traditional Mass of the Holy Spirit at The Immaculata. Mass was live-streamed.

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