The annual Mass of the Holy Spirit marks the opening of the academic school year, with students, faculty and the community coming together to worship in the presence of one another. Last Sunday marked the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, and it was preceded Thursday by the Mass of the Holy Spirit in Christ the King Chapel. The service is followed each year by an outdoor picnic and celebration of Mercy Day.
The focus for the celebration is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and how it sustains life in our institution.
The Rev. Jim Piszker, campus chaplain, has a major role in organizing the Mass, and has been involved since his arrival at Mercyhurst in 1998.
“I think that the Holy Spirit and the Mercy tradition do intersect in that it is the Spirit that provides charisms to the church, and the Sisters of Mercy are a living example of that,” Piszker said.
The Mass typically has a different guest celebrant every year but retains the same theme. This year, Mass was celebrated by Jesuit priest the Rev. David McCallum, vice president for Mission Integration and Development at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. He focused on how the Holy Spirit unites us across race, culture and faith tradition, to bring us to be people of mercy and vision, with compassion for those around us. He also spoke about the legacy of Catherine McAuley, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in her life.
The format has become somewhat of a tradition since it first began in 1996, and has not changed much throughout the years. Nevertheless, each guest brings a unique message to the congregation. Previous guest celebrants included the bishops of Erie; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga; and the Rev. Andrew Greeley, author and sociologist.
Greg Baker, director of Campus Ministry, said that the timing of the Mass, as close to Mercy Day as possible, draws a great number of students.
“It is a rich time for us to celebrate and recommit to this university’s foundation as Catholic and in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy,” Baker said.
Many student athletes attend with their sports teams, and in recent years the Mass has been well attended by students, alumni and employees from various backgrounds.
A particular highlight of the service is the Pentecost sequence, which is the tradition involving students and faculty praying the same prayer in diverse tongues. This use of different languages is always a powerful moment in the liturgy.
Nathan Brand, freshman Intelligence Studies major, described it as “a very uplifting experience.” Many students also commented on the beauty of the choir and the liturgical dance ensemble.
The Mass was followed by a picnic on the lawn giving the staff and student body a chance to dine and reflect on the role of Mercy and the Holy Spirit in our lives.