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Opening mass begins new year

Jennifer Metz | Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Faculty members, staff and students filled the Joyce Center yesterday for the celebration of Notre Dame’s traditional Opening Mass, led by University President Father John Jenkins.

Though groups from each residence hall sat in separate sections of the JACC, they listened together to the words of homilist Jenkins and University Provost Thomas Burish.

The three readings, from Acts 1, 1 Corinthians and the Gospel of Luke, spoke of the Holy Spirit as a bringer of truth and unity. This idea was the theme of both Jenkins’ homily and the welcome speech Burish delivered after communion. Both stressed the idea of Notre Dame as a place that brings many different people together as one whole, with the mission of giving love to others with the help of the Spirit.

Jenkins began by advising the students to “reflect on different kinds of spirits,” those that draw students, faculty and members of the human race as a whole to different things – he emphasized particularly the diversity of the University’s community. These differences appear manifold and disconnected from each other, he said, but are in fact connected by a spirit that is “part of our nature as human beings.”

However, Jenkins differentiated between two different spirits, one with a lower case “s” and one with a capital “S,” the latter being the Holy Spirit that guides us but is “not from us.” This Spirit can be distinguished from others because it only leads to the truth and guides to a “profound and generous love,” Jenkins said.

This love, Jenkins said, should be expressed to neighbors, and in the spirit of this love for humanity, students should reflect upon those in developing nations whose daily lives are a struggle.

He continued, citing various examples of such that globalization has brought to the spotlight, such as genocide in Sudan and the conditions in Haiti, Peru and Bangladesh. Jenkins mentioned the upcoming academic forum entitled “The Global Health Crisis: Forging Solutions, Effecting Change,” on Sept. 14 as a place where students can get involved in a discussion about these issues.

Burish’s address cited the University as a place of conversation, where different people join as one to engage each other. He advised first year students that they “only have one beginning … and this is it.”

He urged all students to formulate goals for themselves and their time here, splitting these goals into four distinct categories – family, friends, school and faith. Burish asked the crowd of thousands to consider how they would like members of each of those categories to remember them four years from now.

The Mass closed with the singing of the Alma Mater, a tradition that inspired members of the incoming class.

“It was a very moving first experience to see the student body swaying and singing all together,” freshman Laura Burdick said.

A picnic on DeBartolo quad followed the celebration, featuring live music from Emerson Hart, lead singer of the band Tonic, as well as other forms of entertainment.