The Catholic University of America

Media Advisory


CUA's Opening Mass of the School Year Expected to Draw Thousands

WHEN: 12:10 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 3

WHERE: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Great Upper Church
400 Michigan Ave., N.E.
Washington, D.C.


The Catholic University of America will celebrate its annual Mass of the Holy Spirit to open the academic year. Most. Rev. Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and chancellor of the university, will be the main celebrant. Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., university president, will deliver the homily.

The opening Mass is a very popular tradition at Catholic University. Classes are cancelled so that the entire university community has the opportunity to attend. Attired in academic robes, faculty participate in an academic procession and priests who are members of the CUA community or who live in neighboring religious houses of study and religious communities are invited to concelebrate. Student participation is also very strong and last year more than 2,000 people gathered for the Mass.

At the Mass, Archbishop Wuerl will present the canonical mission - the obligation to teach in the name of the Church - to four new faculty members following the homily.

Following is an explanation by Father O'Connell of the canonical mission and venia docendi :

"As a pontifical university with ecclesiastical faculties, the university has a special relationship to the Church, one that is different from her peer institutions. The schools of philosophy, theology and religious studies, and canon law, because they play a significant role within the Church by providing instruction in what used to be called the 'sacred sciences,' have an obligation not only to be in full communion with the Church - an obligation expressed by the mandatum of canon 812 and Ex Corde Ecclesiae for Catholic colleges and universities - but also, at CUA, to 'teach in the name of the Church,' an obligation expressed by the 'canonical mission' of canon 818 and Sapientia Christiana for pontifical universities and ecclesiastical faculties. Unlike the mandatum, which is the obligation of the professor to obtain, the 'canonical mission' is the obligation of the institution to obtain for the professor before his/her appointment. Professors on ecclesiastical faculties who are non Catholic receive a venia docendi, or permission to teach in the name of the Church."

The faculty who will receive the canonical mission or venia docendi at the Sept. 3 university Mass include:

Christina Ionescu, assistant professor of philosophy, Venia Docendi

Christopher J. Ruddy, associate professor, theology and religions studies, Canonical Mission.

Joseph White, associate professor, theology and religious studies, Canonical Mission.

Rev. Sean O. Sheridan, T.O.R., assistant professor of canon law, Canonical Mission.

MEDIA: Reporters who would like to cover the Mass should call Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.