The Catholic University of America

Sept. 1, 2011

President Garvey Urges CUA to Transform Service into Charity


Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and chancellor of Catholic University, was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass of the Holy Spirit on Sept 1.

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At a Mass invoking the Holy Spirit, The Catholic University of America launched a new academic year and a service campaign for its 125th anniversary with President John Garvey challenging students, faculty, and staff to “transform” acts of service into Christian charity.

“We urge you to do something more than service…we urge you to serve virtuously,” he said in an address after Communion at the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit celebrated Sept. 1 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which adjoins the University’s campus.

“If you go to Jesus first, he will transform your service into acts of charity,” Garvey said.

Charity, he observed, is “a different thing from the praiseworthy service admired by social revolutionaries and given tax-exempt status in the Internal Revenue Code.”

In his homily, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and chancellor of Catholic University, said that the Christian mission can be “hard to understand” but it is possible “only with an opening of our minds and hearts to the impulse of the Holy Spirit.”

The Mass of the Holy Spirit is the official start of the academic year at Catholic University, a practice that goes back to the universities of medieval Europe.

Cardinal Wuerl was the main celebrant at the liturgy, and more than 70 priests from the University and surrounding community concelebrated. Some were vested in white and others in red, the color signifying the Holy Spirit.

About 2,000 people attended the Mass, mostly Catholic University students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of nearby religious congregations.

Again this year, the Mass was televised live by Eternal Word Television Network. And for the first time, the National Catholic Educational Association encouraged elementary and high school classes in its 7,000 member schools around the country to view the Mass via TV and web streaming.

After Communion, President John Garvey addresses the congregation.  Watch video  

“We recognize that Catholic education in all of its forms has as its primary task the communication of the person and message of Jesus,” explained Cardinal Wuerl.

This year, the Mass also opened a campus-wide service campaign to mark the University’s 125th anniversary. In the Cardinal Service Commitment, members of the University community are striving to perform 125,000 hours of charitable service by April 10, 2012 – on that day in 1887, Catholic University was founded by papal decree.

In his comments, Garvey explained that expressing the virtue of charity is a “uniquely Christian” way of celebrating the University’s anniversary.

“The virtues aren’t just accessories to the intellectual life. They are integral to it,” he observed.

“We lay the groundwork for becoming doctors and lawyers, physicists and authors,” Garvey said, adding that those pursuits “are a search for the Truth — an effort to come closer to God.”

Garvey concluded his remarks recalling those Pope Benedict XVI delivered during his visit to the University in 2008:

“‘Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God's creation? Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold.’”

  Cardinal Wuerl and area priests celebrate the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

By demonstrating Christian charity, Garvey said the 125th anniversary is “an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to being a Catholic university.”

During the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl conferred canonical authorization to three new faculty members to teach theology and religious studies at Catholic University in the name of the Catholic Church. They are Rev. Nicholas Lombardo, O.P., Michael Root, and Wilhelmus Valkenberg.

Also, there were prayers for the University community, an increase in vocations to the religious life, and to mark the forthcoming anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Following the Mass, CUA hosted its annual University picnic on the University mall, where this year, students, faculty, and staff registered for charitable service projects around the Washington, D.C. area.


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