Image Courtesy of The Catholic University of America
By Zachary Lichter
On Thursday, September 1, 2022, the Catholic University of America celebrated Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Classes were canceled this year between 11:50 a.m. and 2:10 p.m. across campus. Prior to the Mass, Catholic University President Dr. Peter Kilpatrick sent an email reminder about the Mass and the “Cardinal Cookout,” where students had the opportunity to meet Kilpatrick and his wife, Nancy.
Mass began at 12:10 p.m. in the upper church of the Basilica. The Mass was also live-streamed on the Catholic TV Network (Catholic TV) and the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN). Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia was the celebrant. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington and Chancellor of Catholic University, was in Rome for a formal meeting of the College of Cardinals called by the Pope, called a Consistory.
At the mass, forty-eight priests attended, including three Byzantine priests; Catholic University Chaplain Father Aquinas Guilbeau, the Dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies Father Mark Morozowich, the Dean of the School of Canon Law Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, and the Rector of the Theological College Father Dominic Ciriaco. Bishop Burbidge was assisted by a transitional deacon from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Deacon Jacob Gruber, and a transitional deacon from the Diocese of Syracuse, Deacon James Buttner.
Mass began with Bishop Burbidge giving the Introductory Rites. He then introduced himself and gave Archbishop Gregory’s regards. Kilpatrick then welcomed the Bishop and everyone in attendance, the first time he addressed the CUA community as a whole. Instead of the First and Second Readings, there was only the Epistle Reading. Deacon Gruber then read the Gospel. Bishop Burbidge then gave a homily about how joyful it is for the CUA community to come together in the Basilica and to ask for the Holy Spirit to come down upon them. He talked about the meaning of joy and how all should resolve and remain with the Lord each and every day.
After the mass, sophomore theology and philosophy major Micheal Ellison gave his comments.
“Mass of the Holy Spirit is distinctive because it starts the academic year in a spiritual sense,” said Ellison. “Because of this, almost all of the university community is present, and there is a sense of a new beginning and a fresh start. I think these unique offers make this Mass special.”
Catholic colleges usually celebrate Mass of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the year, when the students, faculty, the Board of Trustees, and the college president ask for God’s grace for a good school year. This Mass also includes two or more members from the Schools of Philosophy, Canon Law, and Theology and Religious Studies, who receive approval from the school’s chancellor to teach at the school. The candidates must meet the requirements from the Apostolic Constitution, which is the largest collection of ecclesiastical law surviving from early Christianity. Once the candidates receive their document of authorization from the school chancellor, or in this case Bishop Burbidge, the candidates take an oath that includes professing their faith while holding their document of authorization and bibles.
This year’s candidates included Father Vincent Strand from the School of Theology and Religious Studies, along with Dr. Marshall Bierson, Dr. Nathaniel Taylor, and Sister Anna Wray from the School of Philosophy. One by one, CUA Provost Dr. Aaron Dominguez announced their names and all five received a document of authorization from Bishop Burbidge. Then they professed their faith by reciting the Nicene Creed alongside everyone in the audience. They were dismissed before Deacon Gruber recited the Prayer of the Faithful. Mass ended with a farewell address from Kilpatrick and a final blessing from Bishop Burbidge.
“I enjoyed seeing so many members of the Catholic University community come together to worship God and sing His praises.” Ellison said. “Although the university is entering a new chapter, I believe this is a perfect sign of the faculty, the staff, and the students’ commitment to always asking God to be with us and guide all of us this upcoming year. I hope that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be stronger and more unified than ever on campus.”