Academic Year Commences with Mass of the Holy Spirit

by Stephanie Johnson


On Thursday, September 11, 2014 the Boston College community gathered to celebrate the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit in O’Neill Plaza. The Mass also served as a Memorial Mass for Rev. William Neenan, SJ, the Boston College Jesuit and administrator who passed away June 25, 2014 at the age of 85. Rev. William Leahy, SJ was the principal celebrant of the Mass of the Holy Spirit, but was accompanied at the altar by the majority of Boston College’s Jesuit community for the blessing of the gifts.

The Mass began with a procession of the academic departments to music performed by the Boston College Liturgy Arts Group and the Triton Brass Quintet. Rev. Tony Penna then took a moment to welcome all in attendance and dedicate the Mass to Fr. Neenan. He reflected on Fr. Neenan’s loving spirit and example of true friendship, mentioned Fr. Neenan’s devotion to God and his extreme love for BC, and discussed an appreciation for the effect he had on a large number of students. Fr. Leahy then blessed the fire, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which remained lit all day in front of Gasson Hall for the Class of 2018’s convocation ceremony.


Fr. Kenneth Himes, OFM gave the homily at the Mass, which focused largely on new life. He referenced the first reading from Ezekiel 37:1-14 which tells the story of Ezekiel’s vision of God bringing dead bones to new life. “The gift of life came from the Spirit of God”, he said, “it was a saving act—one that became His divine gift.” Fr. Himes then sought to paint a picture of what new life looks like today, both globally and on a college campus such as Boston College’s.


He turned to the second reading, 1 Corinthians 13:3-7 and 12-13, to provide an example of the role diversity plays within the Church. Fr. Himes noted, “The diversity of gifts should enrich the unity of the Church. The new life of the Spirit ought to be visible in the way people live together in community.”


“New life looks like the capacity to forgive and restore harmony and peace when we make a mess of things,” Fr. Himes continued. He advised students to find new life in the new academic year, “In this new academic year, we will find the need to help ourselves and others find new life amidst the dry bones of apathy. The graveyard of uncertainty is the one our personal futures’ may hold in store.”


“There is new life when our failures to be a community are overcome with forgiveness and renewed resolve to be men and women for others,” he stated.


He concluded his homily by reminding students to seek purpose in new life. “A risk for a college such as BC is that those of us who have come here believe that we are here as a matter of right, that we deserve what is ours here, that somehow we’ve earned it. The great risk is that we can think that Boston College is here simply for us and that we are here for no greater purpose than to advance our already privileged situation. The great Jesuit and Catholic tradition that shapes Boston College must continually remind us that we are here for the sake of those who are not here,” he said.


“The new life that you and I experience here at BC must enlarge the scope of our vision and the depth of our compassion, or it really will not be new life, for it will have failed the great purpose of higher education: to improve the lot of humanity and to establish a world where none are denied God’s dignity.”


Fr. Himes told the audience to look to the Spirit when seeking new life by noting, “May the Spirit of God teach us and guide us all into new life.”


The Mass proceeded, and once again Fr. Neenan was honored during the invitation to prayer when everyone prayed together, “we pray that we may learn to follow his example of friendship.”


At the conclusion of the Mass, Dr. Quigley entrusted the fire to Gasson.



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