The Ave Maria University 2023-2024 Academic Year opened with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Aug. 21, 2023.
Prior to the opening hymn, students carrying banners, representing different houses (themed resident halls) of the university, came forward, and they were followed by faculty, dressed in their doctoral robes and seated up front while the students sat behind. Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop Dewane were priests who serve the spiritual needs of the students on campus and in Ave Maria Parish.
The Bishop and priests wore red vestments, to mark the celebration of a Mass of the Holy Spirit, whereupon the community gathers to thank God for the gifts of creation and salvation and to seek the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in the coming year.
Bishop Dewane welcomed new and returning students for the start of a new Academic Year and noted that they have each been provided with a great opportunity to be at Ave Maria University and said he was praying that they find success in their studies. The Bishop encouraged the students to be open to hear the call of the Lord in their lives and to live that answer each day.
The Bishop called upon the Lord to bless the works of the faculty and staff of the university as they are dedicated to the task of building up the students on all levels, but most importantly in their spiritual formation.
Reflecting upon the Gospel reading of the day (Mt 19:16-22), wherein a young man approached Jesus and said “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life,” Bishop Dewane said the lesson taught by Jesus is an important one for all to learn, but perhaps most importantly for the university students to understand.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells the young man to keep the Commandments, but when he says he has done all of that, he questioned again about what he lacks, the young man is prompted to go further and sell what he had and give to the poor and he will have treasure in heaven, “Then come, follow Me.” The young man heard this and went away sad, for he had many possessions.
“The life we all live is often marred by sin, contrary to the way we set out as we are all searching for something,” Bishop Dewane explained. “The lesson we must learn is not to focus our lives on our earthly possessions, but it is to conform to the request of Jesus Christ in our lives. We do this through prayers and intercessions, because we have to ask what the Lord seeks of us.”
As students, they come to Ave Maria University with goals and dreams to enter into a profession or career, but the Bishop remarked how that is secondary to what their commitment to attending a Catholic university is all about.
“Your commitment must be about listening to the Lord and responding,” Bishop Dewane continued. “The Light of Christ must be in your ministry and in your lives. Here at Ave Maria University, you must be willing to be a part of Christian culture. Like Christ, live your life for others. You are the Light; called to evidence those beliefs with a certain moral strength.”
“As we begin this year, let us invoke the Light of the Holy Spirit within our lives. May it guide your relationship with the Lord as you strive to live and become always more the men or women of God we are called to be,” Bishop Dewane concluded.
Following closing prayer, the Bishop presided over a commissioning ceremony for five new doctoral students in theology who received the mandatum. As part of the doctoral program, they will be engaged as instructors and teaching assistants for courses in Catholic theology at the University. As such, they are required to obtain the mandatum from the local Bishop. As part of this, before Bishop Dewane and the entire school community, each made a Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity, vowing to remain faithful to the Teachings of the Church.
After the Mass the Bishop greeted the students who thanked him for his presence and inspiring homily.