The Catholic University of America

Sept. 3, 2009

University's Opening Mass Fills Shrine's Great Upper Church

CUA students, faculty and staff fill the Great Upper Church.

More than 3,000 people overflowed the pews in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception today at noontime for the very popular traditional opening Mass of the academic year for The Catholic University of America (to watch the Mass click here).

Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, was the celebrant. Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., university president, delivered the homily (for full text of the homily, click here).

The Mass drew thousands of students as well as approximately 120 faculty members attired in academic robes who processed into the Basilica and filled the front pews. More than 65 priests who are members of the CUA community or who live in neighboring religious communities concelebrated.

Speaking in response to Luke's Gospel (Luke 5:1-11) where Jesus tells Simon and others to put their nets into the deep water for a better catch, Father O'Connell said, "for those who really seek to follow him, life cannot be a superficial experience where we simply dwell on the surface of things. … Today, we, too, stand on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, looking out into the deep waters before us."


Archbishop Wuerl presents the canonical mission to Christopher J. Ruddy, a new theology and religious studies professor.

At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Wuerl noted that "In his very beautiful and encouraging homily, our president reminded us we are all part of a family."

A visible sign of this family is one reason that sophomore Kenny White, an electrical engineering major from Lothian, Md., returned to the opening Mass this year. At the fourth annual University Picnic following the Mass, White said he was impressed to "see the entire school come together as one - as a community with our leaders, the archbishop and the president, there."

Architecture and sustainable design graduate student Kathleen McCaig from Baldwin, Md., was inspired by Father O'Connell's homily because "he was very enthusiastic and it was very relevant to what we're all probably thinking. It was very relatable."

Following the homily, Archbishop Wuerl presented the canonical mission or the venia docendi - the obligation to teach in the name of the Church to four new professors - Christina Ionescu, assistant professor of philosophy; Christopher J. Ruddy, associate professor, theology and religious studies; Joseph White, associate professor, theology and religious studies; and Rev. Sean O. Sheridan, T.O.R., assistant professor of canon law.


Sophomore Kenny White enjoys the fourth annunal Universty Picnic following Mass.

"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," says Father O'Connell.

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