Mass of the Holy Spirit inspires community

Ashley Barletta, Staff writer

Each year, Mercyhurst students and staff celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit as a way to celebrate Our Lady of Mercy.

The event is intentionally held within the first few weeks of the semester so it can align with Mercy Day, Sept. 24, and start the semester off on a positive note.

“Beginning the year with the Mass of the Holy Spirit helps us to get our priorities in place,” said officer for Equity, Justice and Inclusion, Sr. Natalie Rossi. “The Holy Spirit dwells within us and brings wisdom, courage, knowledge, understanding, counsel, piety and fear of the Lord.”

Interim director of Campus Ministry and University chaplain Fr. Jim Piszker said that it plays an important role in establishing a sense of community on campus.

“I think it is important because it brings us together as a community calling on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to enlighten and enliven us in this academic year, which is particularly important this year because of COVID and other societal challenges,” said Piszker.

This year, the Mass of the Holy Spirit was held at 4 p.m. on Mercy Day, but it was celebrated in a different way than usual. Originally, the Mass was to be given by Fr. Greg Boyle but it ended up being led by a local priest, Fr. Chris Singer.

The event was held in the chapel but shown virtually over YouTube, which students could access through a link on the Hub page.

“At one level, it is very sad not to gather physically our community in Christ the King Chapel this year, which also means that communion cannot be shared physically with those who gather to watch virtually. However, this live stream format means that more people may actually participate,” said Greg Baker, vice president for Mission.

“I hope that students will appreciate what we are doing for what it is, recognize that this is not a normal situation and appreciate that we would all like to be back to “normal,” something for which we all might pray during this particular mass,” said Piszker.

Since the Mass of the Holy Spirit was held virtually, many people who typically would not be able to attend the Mass, such as alumni, Board of Trustee members and Sisters of Mercy were able to observe the Mass this year.

To continue with the sense of community the Mass is known for, various teams, clubs and groups across campus set up their own watch parties so they could enjoy each other’s company while still maintaining social distance.

“While different this year, this Mass of the Holy Spirit will also be memorable for many people,” Baker said.

Usually, the planning of the Mass is an extensive process and this year was no exception. Even though the event was held virtually, a lot of hard work went on behind the scenes by the planning committee.

“We usually take about a month to plan what we are going to do, line up ministers for the Mass itself and work on details right up to the last moment. This year has been very different in that we are livestreaming the Mass in order to protect the significant numbers of students, faculty and staff who would normally attend,” Piszker said.

Through all of these changes, Mercy prevails, and the Mercyhurst tradition continues.

“Our Mass of the Holy Spirit dates back to 1996 and it has become a part of the fabric of Mercyhurst University,” said Piszker.

Even through a pandemic, the Mercyhurst community is resilient so these traditions can live on.