By Colleen Rowan

Courtesy Photo Bishop Mark Brennan celebrates the Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Chapel of Mary and Joseph at Wheeling University Oct. 12. The Mass was also livestreamed for students, faculty, and employees around campus.

In the Chapel of Mary and Joseph at Wheeling University, Bishop Mark Brennan gathered with the school community to celebrate the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit Oct. 12. The celebration is a tradition that marks the beginning of a new academic year. Seating in the chapel was limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so Mass was also livestreamed to different locations on campus so that so students, faculty, and employees could view and participate in the celebration. Ginny Favede, president of Wheeling University, said in a recent letter to the school community that it was a blessing to have the bishop there to celebrate the Mass. “We are grateful to the bishop and the members of the Jesuit Community for celebrating such a special Mass with our community,” Favede said in her letter. “The Mass of the Holy Spirit is a Jesuit school tradition, in which the community gathers to thank God for the gifts of creation and salvation and to seek the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit during the academic year.” During his homily for the Mass, Bishop Brennan said to the students gathered in the chapel and watching from different campus locations that they all face the same challenge, “How to grow in knowledge and skills during a time when a disease has put restrictions on your modes of learning and your accustomed freedoms. I asked a few of you how you are managing things during the pandemic. Most of you said you prayed, and God gave you strength.” The bishop said that in the second reading for the Mass, St. Paul says the Holy Spirit helps all to pray in times of weakness. He also noted the prophet Joel in the first reading, when God said: “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions.” By opening up to the Holy Spirit, Bishop Brennan said, the faithful become capable of things that surpass mortal nature. “You are capable of those great things,” Bishop Brennan said to the students, “prophesying; speaking the truth, even when it’s unpopular; dreaming about your future, one in which you use your talents to do good; and seeing visions of a more just and peaceful world. You will be capable of them if you stay connected to God and let the Holy Spirit guide you and give you courage. You will be able to rejoice, even in the midst of a pandemic and in the stress, occasional, of studies.” The pandemic, Bishop Brennan said, has reinforced a basic lesson of human nature—“We need each other.” People want to relate to one another, he said, and God respects that need by forming us as a people. God strengthens everyone not only in private prayer, but in coming together in worship and mutual encouragement of living the faith. Bishop Brennan also told the university community that in praying to God, they receive the strength and reassurance to go on. “You are experiencing God keeping his word to you,” he said. “When someone challenges you with a theory that denies God or urges you to act against your faith, you will have the conviction from personal experience that God is real and helps those who trust in him. You will have the courage to stand on that truth that you have lived and that will show love for God. As Jesus said, ‘Whoever loves me, will keep my word.’ Even if it’s a hard word, it is spoken by one who loves you, and refuses to hide the truth from you, and he will give you strength to deal with whatever comes.” The bishop told those gathered that their faithfulness to God will show their love for him. “It is my prayer that this academic year, begun in unusual circumstances, may proceed safely and productively and finish triumphantly,” Bishop Brennan said. “I pray that God may pour out his Spirit upon you and lead you to all truth. So pray, stay connected to God and to your fellow believers, and never deny what God has done for you and then as St. Paul says elsewhere, ‘The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’”