Fr. Boyle discusses ministry with gangs at Mass, lecture

Samantha Weber, Managing Editor

On Thursday, Sept. 23, Mercyhurst University held its annual Mass of the Holy Spirit.

The Mass of the Holy Spirit dates back to 1548 when Jesuit academic institutions wanted to gather and thank God for all that he does for everyone. It invites the Holy Spirit to watch over the students during the academic year.

The tradition here at Mercyhurst dates back to the early 1990s when Joe Gower, Academic Dean at the time, thought it would be a nice tradition to kick off the new school year.

“My favorite part of the mass is twofold: First the attendance of the Mercyhurst community is probably the largest of any liturgy during the academic year. Secondly, we have had some remarkable presiders over the years,” said Father Jim Piszker, Chaplain at Mercyhurst.

Mass was held at 12:15 p.m. and classes that interfere with the mass were automatically canceled to allow all students the opportunity to attend the mass if they so desired.

The Mass occurs once in the fall semester and acts as a kickoff to the school year. At Mercyhurst, there is always a guest priest who comes and says the special mass. This year’s guest was Fr. Gregory Boyle, SJ. Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California.

Homeboy Industries is the largest gang intervention and rehabilitation program. Boyle even stayed to speak at the William C. Sennett Institute for Mercy and Catholic Studies Fall Lecture later in the evening. At the lecture, Boyle talked more about what Homeboy Industries does and how important it is to remember that everyone is human.

In addition to Boyle’s lecture, he brought with him two former gang members all the way from Homeboy Industries headquarters in Los Angeles. The two men, Isaiah and Derek, shared stories about their lives and how they ended up with Boyle and Homeboy Industries.

“I hope that all students who attended, regardless of their personal faith background, were able to hear what Fr. Boyle had to say about radical compassion and kinship, and that they are able to extend that practice of radical compassion to all those that they encounter in our university community,” said Michelle Scully, Mercyhurst Campus Minister.

Mercyhurst has been very fortunate to have had so many great guests who have come to campus to celebrate Mass over the years such as Fr. Dan Horan, OFM; theologian and author Fr. Andrew Greeley; sociologist and author, Fr. John Foley, SJ, founder of the Cristo Rey schools; and probably most notably Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras who is now a major advisor to Pope Francis.

With a beautiful ceremony, the event has a great turn out. Christ the King Chapel was expected to be so overflowing with people that they opened up the chapel into the lobby of Old Main prior to the mass. This year there were approximately 500 people in attendance.

Last year the mass was held virtually, so with this year’s being held in person, lots of people on campus wanted to go back and physically attend the mass. People from all areas of campus attended from several different athletic teams to professors and faculty along with everyone else from campus.

Students and faculty alike are already looking forward to the next Mass of the Holy Spirit and the Sennet Institute lecture.