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Visiting clergy celebrate inaugural Mass

Karen Langley | Monday, September 26, 2005

Before the academic procession that drew thousands of academics and alumni, before the Convocation and Inauguration ceremony that filled the Joyce Center arena, before the reception and student Inaugural Ball, the events of University President Father John Jenkins’ inauguration day began with a simple Mass.

The alumni, student representatives and academic delegates who received invitations to the Inaugural Mass Friday morning filled the Basilica of the Sacred Heart long before the opening rites began. Jenkins served as the presiding celebrant, but Congregation of Holy Cross priests and diocesan priests acted as concelebrants.

“We begin this day of inauguration, as is appropriate, with a Mass,” Jenkins said. “I ask for your prayers.”

In his homily, University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh recounted the founding of Notre Dame by Father Edward Sorin, a French priest who “was filled with zeal at the thought of coming to the new land and spreading light in what was often darkness.”

Hesburgh described Father Sorin’s determination to build a great school on the spot where Notre Dame now stands. Sorin saw a frozen lake and a broken-down cabin, and named it Université de Notre Dame du Lac.

“It didn’t matter that there were actually two lakes there,” Hesburgh said. “It didn’t matter that he had only $300 in his pocket. He had the gall, or the zeal, to call it not a school, or a college, but a university.”

After a devastating fire destroyed the Main Building in 1879, Sorin rallied the community to build an even larger building, this time with a Golden Dome topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary, Hesburgh said.

“I have to say, John,” he said, “It is a rich history you are inheriting. There are many after Sorin who have dreamed great dreams for this place.

“There’s only one way to do it,” said Hesburgh, the University’s longest-serving president. “That is to put yourself in the hands of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother. You will see heartbreaks as well as days of great joy. There will be celebration as well as days of mourning in this church. But with the Holy Spirit behind you and the Holy Mother inspiring you, these will be great years.”

Noting that the community was gathered at Mass not just to wish Jenkins well but also to bless him, Hesburgh recited a prayer borrowed from the ordination to the priesthood.

While members of Jenkins’ religious and Notre Dame communities held many secondary roles in the Mass, members of his family served as gift bearers.

Father David Tyson, Indiana Province provincial superior for the Congregation of Holy Cross, emphasized the significance of Jenkins’ profession of faith at the Mass’ conclusion.

“It is a profession he has made many times in his life and that we have all made,” he said. “But it is important today for John … For him to make this profession today separates this presidency from others, and creates the role of the president-pastor.”

As president of the University, Tyson said, Jenkins must be a teacher and preacher, an advocate and protector of the University’s mission. He must be an exemplar in his role of president, Tyson said.

“It is indeed a hallmark of this place that the life of the mind and the life of the faith are not in contradiction to each other,” Tyson said.