Jennifer Barton
Assistant Publications Manager
September 9, 2022 // Bishop

Transforming Lives, Transforming the Campus at Saint Francis’ Opening Mass

Jennifer Barton
Assistant Publications Manager

A new school year provides a new opportunity to expand one’s horizons intellectually, physically, and spiritually. At the Founder’s Day Mass at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne on Aug. 31, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades focused on this idea of spiritual growth. Concelebrating Mass were University of Saint Francis President Father Eric Zimmer and the university’s new chaplain, Father Dermot Gahan.

Bishop Rhoades addresses students in their educational experience, exhorting them to grow in faith and through the Holy Spirit. — Photos by Jennifer Barton

For the occasion of the beginning of the school year, Bishop Rhoades chose to celebrate a Mass of the Holy Spirit, which is a special Mass that can be done anytime through the year. It is often traditional to hold a Mass of the Holy Spirit at the opening of an academic year. At the Mass, Bishop Rhoades spoke about the third person of the Trinity as the Advocate for the people of God. “The Father gives us the Holy Spirit as our Advocate, our Helper and Guide, our Comforter when He makes us His adopted sons and daughters and unites us to His Son Jesus in Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith,” he said in his homily.

Growth, however, was the main focus of the homily and the Mass. “I hope and pray that here at the University of Saint Francis you will grow in this divine life, that, in other words, you will grow spiritually. I know you will grow intellectually since USF is an excellent academic institution. It is also a Catholic institution where you have an opportunity to grow in your spiritual life.”

He beseeched the students and staff members present that day to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to aid in developing a life of holiness. He then said that a person can know that they are following this path by displaying the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, particularly love, joy, and peace. 

Staff and students at the University of Saint Francis celebrate the beginning of a new school year with Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Aug. 31. University President Father Eric Zimmer spoke of the future of the campus.

“You will know whether you have grown spiritually if you see the growth of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your life: if you have more peace and less anxiety and stress; more joy in your hearts; and, most important, love. That’s my prayer for all of you. May you live by the Spirit and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may your lives be filled with the love, joy, and peace that God desires for you!”

At the close of the Mass, Father Zimmer gave the convocation address. In it, he reiterated Bishop Rhoades’ theme of growth and transformation. Now in his second year as president, he shared some of his plans to enhance campus life. The growing business school has been moved from its former downtown location back to the heart of the campus. By purchasing a former credit union across from the campus, the school will able to move offices to that location to better utilize spaces in the main buildings for programs like business. 

Father Eric Zimmer spoke of the future of the campus.

One of the main future goals for the university is to deepen its Catholic nature. More scholarships will be offered for Catholic students. The advent of the Assisi Scholars Program, and expansion of campus ministry are all part of this plan. As Father Zimmer put it, the university intends to “invest in the things that make us unique.”

“It’s a great day to be a Cougar,” he stated, noting how the school will continue to “invest in our people … and their lives.”

After the ceremony, Father Zimmer took a few moments to expand on his plans for the university’s future. “We have to grow. We talked about that transformational process, but there’s three pillars.” Those three pillars are as follows: increasing the student population, improving finances, and bettering the campus experience for the students. Much of those changes revolve around evaluating practices and spaces at the university to ensure the best transformative experience possible for current and future students.

“I have a desire to always have a crane in the air, figuratively. So we say we’re doing these things and it’s for these reasons. … We want to offer a transformational experience for our students.”

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