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ND opens year with Mass, picnic

Aaron Steiner | Wednesday, August 27, 2008

University president Fr. John Jenkins told the Notre Dame community to pray they are “afflicted with hope” when facing problems – especially emphasizing global environmental and sustainability issues – during his homily at Notre Dame’s Opening Mass Tuesday evening.

Students, faculty, staff and their families were invited to participate in the annual Mass in the Joyce Center, and enjoy the traditional University picnic dinner afterwards on the Hesburgh Library Quad.

The Mass, led by Jenkins, included words of welcome from University provost Thomas Burishand and was centered on Psalm 104, which asks God to “send forth [His] spirit and renew the face of the earth.” Both tied in part to issues of sustainability, a theme throughout the evening.

Jenkins’ message made note of the Notre Dame Forum on Sustainable Energy on Sept. 24.

The challenges of sustainability go beyond high prices at the gas pump, Jenkins said. The complex issues include depletion of fossil fuels, higher energy prices, increased food prices associated with increased malnutrition in certain areas, and increased competition in the search for resources, particularly oil.

In response, Jenkins said his “fervent prayer… is that you will be afflicted by hope.”

Jenkins asked those in attendance to consider the distinction between hope and optimism. He compared the viewpoint of the optimist and pessimist to clarify what he considers hope.

“No matter how bad the situation, the optimist believes there’s a solution,” Jenkins said. “The pessimist believes the problem is not only grave but insolvable.”

Jenkins called optimism and pessimism “excuses” for analysis, and stated that the person “afflicted with hope,” however, is required to analyze the situation as it is.

Hope isn’t an excuse, Jenkins said. Hope demands that one see the world as it is, analyze, and then act.

With that hope in mind, Jenkins prayed that God afflict the Notre Dame community with hope and that they might “face problems with perspicacious honesty, respond with courage… to act, and inspire others to act.”

Following the Mass, the Notre Dame community enjoyed the picnic lunch that also emphasized sustainability.

“A major event at the beginning of the academic year is the perfect time to educate the Notre Dame community on the University’s recycling and procurement initiatives, as well as about how to make individual decisions that are earth-friendly,” said Rachel Novick, a coordinator in the University’s recently established Office of Sustainability, in a press release.

The picnic used locally grown produce, 100 per cent recycled paper plates, and recycling bins.

Tuesday’s Mass and picnic were the first of several University events to focus on sustainability. After the Notre Dame Forum, Notre Dame’s second annual Energy Week begins Sept. 17 and a Forum Film Festival begins Sept. 19.