On Wednesday, Sept. 3, I celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit at Le Moyne College. I was pleased to continue the long tradition at Le Moyne of beginning a new academic year invoking the support and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The homily I preached on that occasion is printed below.
In many of our schools the Mass offered at the beginning of the academic year is the Mass of the Holy Spirit. I know this has been a longstanding tradition at Le Moyne. In fact, when I first arrived in Syracuse I was told that the tradition of the Bishop celebrating the Mass of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the academic year is as old as Le Moyne itself.
I am delighted once again to be at Le Moyne and continue this time-honored custom. In addition to new students and faculty members, Le Moyne welcomes its 14th President, Dr. Linda M. LeMura. May Dr. LeMura and all who comprise the Le Moyne community have a blessed and successful year.
In our first reading today, Isaiah spoke about hope and a future servant who would transform the world and make an everlasting covenant with the people. Jesus, in the Gospel, tells us that He is the one of whom Isaiah spoke. He brings good news to the poor, proclaims liberty, restores sight and frees the oppressed. The Church continues Jesus’ mission to announce the good news.
Education is a noble task. It is a fundamental aspect of the Church’s mission. Our Catholic schools, beginning at the elementary level and continuing to the college and university levels, are vital agents of evangelization. They are an indispensible means by which the message of the Gospel engages the culture of our time. This dialogue between the message of Jesus and culture is crucial if the dignity of the human person is to be respected and society is to be ever more peaceful, just and compassionate.
Pope Francis, speaking to participants at a meeting of the Congregation of Education noted, “Catholic education is one of the most important challenges for the Church, engaged as she is today in implementing the new evangelization in a historical and cultural context which is in constant flux” (Address to the Third Plenary Session of the Congregation for Catholic Education, February 13, 2014). In this address, Pope Francis drew attention to aspects of Catholic education that I believe are pertinent as you embark on a new academic year. He spoke about the importance of dialogue in education, the witness of teachers and knowledge about the world and culture.
Le Moyne, as is the case with colleges and universities across our country, includes many students who do not share our faith; some are non-Christians; others may be non-believers. Le Moyne must offer all students an education aimed at the integral development of the whole person and access to the knowledge, understanding and skills that are necessary for the attainment of their full potential. But, at the same time, and this is the unique character of Catholic education, Le Moyne must offer all students the Christian message — respecting fully the freedom of all and the proper methods of each specific scholastic environment — namely that Jesus Christ is the meaning of life, of the cosmos and of history.
Educators in a Catholic college hand on knowledge not only by what they teach, not only by their expertise in a particular discipline, not only by their competence and academic qualifications, as important and necessary as these are, but also by their personal witness. Students are in need of quality teaching but they also need human and spiritual values that are communicated by living witnesses. In this regard, I recall the words of Paul VI: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Evangelization in the Modern World, #41).
“Catholic academic institutions cannot isolate themselves from the world, they must know how to enter bravely into the current culture and open a conversation with it, conscious that they have a gift to offer to everyone” (Address to the Third Plenary Session of the Congregation for Catholic Education, February 13, 2014). I recall hearing the advice that a retreat director gave to those making the retreat. He told them they should pray often with the daily newspaper close at hand, picking it up and reading it thoughtfully. I am not sure our Jesuits would agree with this advice but it occurs to me this could be one way of “finding God in all things,” a very Jesuit endeavor.
But, in any case, with or without the newspaper (hardcopy or more likely today on the computer) our faith must be in conversation with the world and culture in which we live. If our words are to be meaningful and effective we must know how to speak to the people of today. We must be aware of what they carry in their hearts and minds. We must know the challenges they face and the blessings they have received. We must be aware of the conflict between the powers of darkness and light. And, in this conversation, the truth, the goodness and the beauty of the Gospel must be an integral part.
In St. John’s Gospel, as Jesus is announcing His departure, He assures His disciples that he will not leave them orphans. He will send them another Paraclete, namely, someone who will stand in His place as their advocate and guide. This Paraclete, “the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will instruct you in everything and remind you of all that I told you” (Jn 14: 26).
All of us, teachers and students alike, need the assistance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will support and guide us as we teach and learn. In the realm of faith, the Spirit will help us to remember and understand all that Jesus said and did. It is fitting that we invoke His assistance today. But might I suggest that we invoke the Holy Spirit often, even daily, so that our minds and hearts can be formed into the image of Christ.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.
New appointments and assignments
From Bishop Robert J. Cunningham:
• Father Jon Werner has been appointed pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption and St. Paul’s Parish in Binghamton. The appointment is effective Oct. 1, 2014. Father Werner has served as pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Syracuse for 11 years.
• Sister Laura Bufano, CSJ, will be joining the diocesan Office of Pastoral Planning as an associate director, working with Msgr. James Lang and Brother Ed Falsey. Sister Laura recently completed six years in St. Louis, Missouri, as the congregational director of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. She has served the Diocese of Syracuse over the years as a liturgical ministry specialist for the Cortland County PCA, diocesan director of liturgy, co–director for the diocesan Office of Vocations, pastoral associate coordinating liturgical ministries at St. John the Evangelist in New Hartford and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Liverpool and as a music educator at St. Anthony of Padua in Syracuse. Sister Laura also served for eight years as a member of the Albany Province Leadership Team of the Sisters of St. Joseph. She starts Sept. 8.
From the Franciscan Friars:
• Father Brad Milunski, OFM Conv., who has been serving as pastor of Assumption Church in Syracuse, has been elected as Vicar Provincial of Our Lady of the Angels Province, moving to the Provincial House in Ellicott City, Md., effective Sept. 3.
• Father Timothy Dore, OFM Conv., who has been serving as parochial vicar at Most Holy Trinity/St. Mary Church in Brooklyn, has been appointed pastor of Assumption Parish in Syracuse, effective Sept. 3.
• Father Robert Amrhein, OFM Conv., who has been serving as administrator of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in Binghamton, has been transferred to St. Francis Friary to work at the Franciscan Place in Destiny USA in Syracuse, effective Sept. 1.
• Father Henry Madigan, OFM Conv., who had been residing at Immaculate Conception Friary in Rensselaer, has been assigned to St. Francis Friary in Syracuse. He will also assist at the Franciscan Place, effective Sept. 1.