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University News

GCU Students Join Bishop David M. O’Connell for Mass of the Holy Spirit

Georgian Court University Mass of the Holy Spirit

Mass of the Holy Spirit offers time for reflection, opportunity to worship with Bishop David M. O’Connell

“Whom do you love most in the world?”

The short, thought-provoking question from the Most Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., J.C.D., gave pause to students, faculty and staff who attending Georgian Court’s recent Mass of the Holy Spirit.

Bishop O'Connell
Bishop O’Connell

“Think about that,” he said. “I know it’s not an easy question to answer, and probably not a fair question to ask,” said Bishop O’Connell, who leads the Diocese of Trenton. More than 100 people in GCU’s Dorothy Marron University Community Chapel listened intently as he discussed love and relationships—and especially what it means to be in relationship with God.

The Mass of the Holy Spirit, typically held at the start of the second semester, is a longstanding tradition at GCU and celebrates the community’s commitment to higher education. This year’s event came as students and residents were still digging out from a blizzard pummeled the region with at least 2 feet of snow and ice.

“We’re so blessed,” said Mia Dones, a sophomore nursing major and member of the chapel choir. “We’re safe, healthy, and here—part of a real community. You can especially feel that when we come together during services like this. It’s really what GCU represents—unity and oneness, especially with God.”

The mass was also an opportunity to reflect on the gifts of the spirit, as presented in the Old Testament.

“Today, as we do every year, we begin the spring semester by seeking guidance and inspiration from the Holy Spirit,” GCU President Joseph R. Marbach said during the program. “The prophet Isaiah speaks of the spirit of God resting on God’s anointed—it is a spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.”

These gifts alone do not lead to action, the president said. “Rather, the gifts make us receptive to the working of the Holy Spirit—God—in our minds and hears to help us act well.”

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

From the love between parents and their children to romantic love, there has to be a relationship in order for love to thrive, said Bishop O’Connell, as he reflected on readings from the gospel of St. Mark.

“ In most cases, you love someone—perhaps more than anyone else—because they love you.  That’s a good enough reason.  I mean, I doubt you would think of someone who despises you or could care less, right?” he continued.

“I can’t think of a situation where you can answer my question without concluding that a relationship is necessary for love to exist: there must be someone who loves and someone who is loved,” the bishop said.

God loves humanity—each of us, he said. “We are the people he came to save. And He loves us and makes us His very own.  We have a relationship with Him. The Lord Jesus became one of us so that we might become part of Him.  That is his gift to us.”

Georgian Court University Mass of the Holy Spirit
Members of GCU’s Mercy Collegiate Society were among the 100+ participants in Tuesday’s Mass of the Holy Spirit.

Bishop O’Connell closed the mass with a reminder about the Jubilee Year of Mercy. “In this Holy Year of Mercy, in this university community founded on the tradition of mercy, let the whole world know how much the Lord Jesus Christ means to you and why. Stir into a flame his gift, his mercy and let that fire light the world!”

Bishop O’Connell, who also joked that he and President Marbach would be making snowmen after Mass, was especially pleased to hear that 10 GCU students are RCIA candidates (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). The students, who will receive the sacraments at Easter, are part of a program led by Campus Ministry. They joined the program during the first semester and will continue through the remainder of the academic year.

Student Lisa Gravato, a senior psychology and religious studies major who completed RCIA two years ago, looks forward to the Mass of the Holy Spirit each January.

“I go to Mass all the time, but having Bishop O’Connell come to campus adds another dimension. It makes the start of the new semester a little different, and that’s not something we take for granted.”

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,200 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 14 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by Money.com and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at HazletGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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