It is my pleasure to welcome you to this Opening Liturgy of the 2010-2011 academic year. What better way to begin than to unite in prayer to ask God's blessing on the academic year and on the many urgent needs of our world.
The Opening Liturgy is one of the oldest traditions we have at Marywood. It dates back to 1915 (96 years ago) when Marywood's first students and faculty assembled on this very date-September 8-for the Mass of the Holy Spirit. Year after year, we gather as a community to celebrate God's presence in our lives, to recommit to the mission of Marywood, and to welcome our new students, faculty, staff, and administrators. It is wonderful to share in the continuity of this rich tradition, and it also reminds us of the Scriptural truth that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)
This year, we welcome a total of 24 new faculty members and three new administrators who have become part of the Marywood community since July 1st. I am delighted to say that we also welcome our largest incoming class ever, 1,083 students, which includes 654 undergraduate and 429 graduate students. At this point in time, we have an overall fall enrollment of 3,468 students, consisting of 2,264 undergraduate students and 1,204 graduate students. Currently, nearly half of our undergraduates, 46% or 1031 students, reside on campus.
As you know, we opened the doors to the Woodland Residence Facilities II this fall to accommodate the growing numbers in our resident student population. Construction of the new Aquatics Center is right on target to open in the spring. We already have in place two new varsity teams, Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving, bringing our varsity sports offerings to 16. Much has taken place and much more is yet to come.
We are blessed in the fact that Marywood is a place for realizing potential and possibility. Today we celebrate with deep gratitude all of the new life on our vibrant campus. As a committed and enthusiastic academic community, we welcome each of you along with your dreams and aspirations-all that you are and all that you are still becoming. May your journey here at Marywood this year be one of growth and blessing!
We will have another opportunity to come together as a learning community next week for our Opening Convocation, the formal academic gathering that marks the start of our new year. The Convocation is set for next Thursday, September 16, at 11 a.m., at the Sette LaVerghetta Center.
We will recognize Dalton Conley, author of the book Honky, which was required reading for University 100 classes last year and also is required reading this year.
Dalton is a Professor of the Social Sciences and Chair of Sociology at New York University. He also holds appointments at NYU's Wagner School of Public Service, as an Adjunct Professor of Community Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and as a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). His research focuses on the determinants of economic opportunity within and across generations.
He studies sibling differences in socioeconomic success; racial inequalities; the salience of physical appearance to economic status; the measurement of class; and how health and biology affect (and are affected by) social position.
His book is a study of both race and class, but it is also a memoir about family and about growing up. If you have not read it, I encourage you to do so. It is an engaging, quick read, but, at the same time, extremely insightful. I know that Dalton Conley's visit to campus will be just as engaging and insightful. Your attendance at the Opening Convocation is strongly encouraged.
Opening Convocation will be just one of many events that will take place at Marywood this semester, this year, and in the years leading to our Centennial celebration in 2015. Not a week goes by without some cultural, social, or athletic event scheduled-many times, there are several options from which to choose. I assure you that with our approaching Centennial, more events will be tied to our institutional heritage, each one reflecting our enduring mission and core values. Enrich your Marywood experience by attending events that interest, challenge, and inspire you. Keep checking our web site; read The Wood Word, our student newspaper; and look for flyers and posters around campus. Take advantage of opportunities to connect with the University community.
As we move now to this sacred liturgy, may we open our hearts to approach life this year with expectancy, readiness and a willingness to do what God calls us to do, even if it takes us out of our comfort zones! As today's readings note: "all things work together for the good of those who love God and who are called according to God's purpose." (Romans 8:28-30 13:8)
Today's Gospel in its longer form (Matthew 1:1-16;18-23) presents the genealogy of Jesus and tells the story of his birth. I have to confess that every time I hear the longer version of this passage, I find myself thanking God for all of the unnamed women who gave birth to all the men mentioned in the genealogy!
Today the Church celebrates the birthday of Mary the Mother of Jesus. Sometime today reflect on the quiet courage of Mary whose entire life was a living "Yes" to God's call. Take time, too, to consider the trust and fidelity of Joseph in the face of fear and uncertainty. Ponder, as well, the gifts that God has given you and how God may be calling you to use those gifts.
In the book Bread for the Journey, priest and author Henri Nouwen wrote, "We seldom realize fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks. We act as if we were simply dropped down in creation and have to decide to entertain ourselves until we die. But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was. Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do."
As we gather today, I pray that in the wondrous journey of life each of us will, indeed, use our gifts according to God's purpose.
Now, let us ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with inspiration and to bless our celebration and our entire world as we lift up our hearts in praise and thanksgiving.