September 5, 2023 // Bishop

USF Opens Academic Year with Mass of the Holy Spirit

Behind the encouragement of Bishop Rhoades and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, nearly 2,000 students have embarked on a new academic year at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.

Bishop Rhoades helped the university kick off its 2023-24 school year by celebrating a Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Saint Francis North Campus Auditorium in Fort Wayne on Wednesday, August 30. This Votive Mass continues a Jesuit tradition dating back 475 years to Sicily, one that has since spread to all Jesuit universities and beyond. Father Brian Isenbarger, Father Thomas Zehr, and Deacon Daniel Avila assisted with the Mass.

University of Saint Francis students, staff, faculty, and guests attend the Mass of the Holy Spirit to open the acedemic year on Wednesday, August 30.

“It is a joy for me to celebrate this Mass of the Holy Spirit with you during this first week of the new academic year here at the University of Saint Francis,” Bishop Rhoades told the students, administrators, and guests in attendance. “We call upon the Holy Spirit to watch over and guide this university community during this year, and we ask the Holy Spirit to guide and to bless with His gifts all the individual members of this community – the administration, staff, faculty, and, of course, our students.”

It was these students whom Bishop Rhoades addressed in his homily. He referenced the Gospel passage, Jesus’ parable of the talents, in which a master entrusted great wealth to his servants. While some servants doubled their talents before the master’s return, one servant buried his talent in the ground, afraid to lose his master’s money. Bishop counseled the students against being paralyzed by such fear, refusing to take initiative, and becoming “passive recipients of His grace.”

“We’ve received so much from the Lord, and we, too, have a special responsibility to make good use of His gifts,” explained Bishop Rhoades. “The Lord expects us to appreciate His gifts, the talents He has given, and to use them, not bury them. Use them for what? Use them to increase goodness in the world.”

Photos by Eric Peat
Bishop Rhoades speaks to USF students, staff, faculty, and guests during his homily.

Bishop then invited the students to reflect on how they will manage and spend their time and talents in the coming school year. He advised them to work conscientiously in their studies, but to also strike a balance and not become slaves to their work.

“Be grateful for the gifts God has given you and use those gifts well for His glory and in service to others, especially those in need,” exhorted Bishop Rhoades. “Then, we can expect to hear the Master say to us when He returns: ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come, share your Master’s joy.’”

At the conclusion of the Mass, Saint Francis Interim President Lance Richey delivered a convocation address to those gathered before releasing them for a complimentary lunch. Richey began by thanking Bishop Rhoades, the board of trustees, administrators, alumni, and benefactors for their support. He also thanked the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration who were in attendance, as their order has sponsored the university since its founding in 1890. After welcoming the students to campus, Richey announced the arrival of more than 650 new students to the university this fall. Including those enrolled at USF Crown Point and at the St. Elizabeth School of Nursing in Lafayette, Saint Francis now serves more than 1,900 students.

“God has given us the opportunity to spread the good news of our faith and learning that will transform the lives to a large number of students,” Richey said. “It’s going to be an exciting year on campus.”

Saint Francis Interim President Lance Richey delivers his convocation address to students, staff, faculty, and guests.

Richey then highlighted many of the recent additions to the university, such as a new music technology concentration in hip-hop and R&B, new accredited degrees in respiratory therapy, and the new class of the Assisi Program for Discipleship and Leadership. He also mentioned the renovations to the Doermer Family Center for Health Science Education, improvements to the south end zone of Bishop D’Arcy Stadium, and the upcoming plans to renovate Trinity Hall.

However, Richey was also quick to remind students of the sacred time that occurs on campus every day from 11-11:30 a.m. All are welcome to attend Mass in the chapel, as no classes are held across the university during this time. “It’s a great way to take a moment out of a very busy day of studies and classes and sports to remember the higher purpose to which we’re all called,” noted Richey.

“As we start the 134th year of the University of Saint Francis, the university is strong and the future is bright,” he concluded. “I want to thank you all for being a part of that future. We’re delighted to have you all as part of our family, and I pray – and we all pray – that God will bless everyone at USF.”

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades blesses attendees before the recessional at the Mass of the Holy Spirit on Wednesday, August 30.

This close-knit family feel is what has drawn many of these students to the university, regardless of their field of study or religious affiliation.

“Everybody’s been super nice, and it’s been really easy to transition into it,” said freshman Mikenna Thorn. “It’s made it a lot easier.”

“You don’t have to be Catholic to prosper here,” said freshman Aidan Kill. “Everyone is super accepting. No matter what faith you are, it’s easy to get along.”

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