I was honored to have served this year’s Mass of the Holy Spirit as the only altar server to our guest celebrant, Father Dan Horan, OFM. Horan was a great breath of fresh air to begin our year on campus, though, since he celebrated this annual Mass two years ago, I feel the school should have searched for a priest whom current students would not have encountered yet at Mercyhurst.
Every year, we begin with this Mass to call upon the Holy Spirit to bless this school year. This tradition, borrowed by various Jesuit institutions, according to our chaplain Father Jim Piszker, is typically celebrated by a guest priest to give students a different perspective on things. I was curious about how the guest celebrant is chosen, so I interviewed Piszker to explain the criteria for a guest celebrant. He stated that guest celebrants are usually chosen based on current church events, academic themes, who is getting attention and who is available for the day.
According to Piszker, it also takes time to find someone and our yearly tradition is planned far in advance.
I also asked why Horan was chosen this year and two years ago. According to Horan, he was chosen two years ago due to his rising popularity in the American Church, his scholarly work and his young age as a way to appeal to students. He was chosen because this year has been declared the Year of Consecrated Life by Pope Francis. As Horan is a Franciscan Friar, I understand why this choice was made.
However, I feel that in the future the school should avoid having the same celebrant multiple times in a four-year period for the sake of variety. To avoid another repeat next year, I must suggest other rather popular priests that I feel the students would benefit from.
One priest I would recommend would be Father Paul Nicholson of Ontario, a missionary priest known for his joyful adherence to orthodoxy and evangelization, as shown on his video homilies.
Father John Zuhlsdorf, famous for his well-known blog, “What Does the Prayer Really Say?” would also be a great choice for us, relating to our increasing use of technology. Since the Mercy tradition calls for social justice, who would be better to invite as a guest priest than Father Frank Pavone, the director of the pro-life organization Priests for Life? After all, social justice begins in the womb, right? We don’t even have to look far for other potential guest celebrants as we have our own local Father Larry Richards, a gifted orator who can radiate the Holy Spirit’s presence in a way we can relate to.
Horan was a great choice for this year’s Mass of the Holy Spirit and I was honored to serve the altar for him. However, next year, I feel the school should try to find another guest celebrant so we don’t have our bishop celebrate again.