The only complaint I have ever had about Mercyhurst is its weak Catholic identity. Mercyhurst has such a rich Catholic history, so I often wonder why this is not utilized to its fullest potential.
Before I give my criticisms, I must praise what our school does right. Students have regular access to Mass, along with worship opportunities for multiple religions. We also have various Fellowship Nights, retreats, prayer services and Campus Ministry activities to invigorate our faith. I am confident, along with Campus Ministry Director Greg Baker, that with our new president we will experience a renewal of our Catholic emphasis.
However, there is a lot that needs to be improved on campus in order to foster our heritage. First of all, Mercyhurst needs to be much more careful about what it engages in. Mercyhurst has decided to honor the Benedictine Nun, Sister Joan Chittister, who has a history of dissenting with the Church over women’s ordinations and has exhibited a nuanced position on abortion. In addition, the school has allowed its students to organize a pro-LGBT club, even though the Magisterium of the Catholic Church considers homosexual behavior as “gravely disordered.”
Another way Mercyhurst can engage our identity is by engaging different “flavors” of Catholicism. Every Sunday Mass on campus is nearly the same: terrible Oregon Catholic Press music on piano, guitar and drums, no altar servers and, of course, the Communion rush where most people simply run up and swipe the host from the priest.
Since the advent of Summorum Pontificum, the Tridentine Mass has flourished all over the world. Research has shown that these Latin Masses attract many more young people than the modern Novus Ordo Mass. There is nothing wrong with the current Mass, but some have manipulated it to consist of sappy music and morally relativistic homilies in order to “appeal to the young ones.” Young adults do not want cheap guitar Masses—they want the classic “bells and smells,” beautiful classic hymns on organ, reverence for the Eucharist and homilies that teach concrete truth! Mercyhurst would greatly benefit from introducing weekly Latin Masses. It would also greatly benefit us to engage the Eastern rite, as there is a Byzantine church right next to the new Gamble Civic Center.
In a short interview I conducted with Baker, he pointed out a very profound idea: perhaps it should be more up to the students to engage our faith. Is it that Mercyhurst is not doing enough for our identity, or is it us not doing enough? Both he and I agree that it is a little bit of both. Mercyhurst can (and should) engage our heritage by adhering to orthodox standards and offering more for our students, but in the end, it is up to us to keep up our Catholic identity.