At the beginning of the fall semester, the students and faculty of Thomas More College gather together to mark the formal opening of the academic year. This event is called Convocation, which as any second-year student of Latin can tell you, comes from the word “cum-vocare,” to call together. As the official beginning of another year of study, work, and collegiate life, Convocation provides an opportunity for the College to reflect upon its dedication to academic excellence in the pursuit of truth. More than that, it is also a time at which the Fellows of the College reaffirm its fundamental identity as a Catholic institution faithful to the teaching office of the Church, the Magisterium.
To start off the 2013 academic year on the right note, Convocation opened last Friday with a solemn Mass of the Holy Spirit, offered by His Excellency Peter Libasci, Bishop of the Diocese of Manchester. Mass was offered in the College’s chapel, which, as Bishop Libasci commented, “reminds me of the Holy House in Loreto.” Like the famous Italian shrine, too, there was standing room only in the chapel.
In his homily, His Excellency reminded those present of the critical role of Catholic education in the world today. As a specific form of the Christian vocation to witness to the truth, the intellectual and personal formation offered as Thomas More College is able to act as a leaven in the world, so long as those involved in the College—both faculty and students alike—recognize the greatness of the charge given to them. Taking these words to heart, President Fahey led the Fellows of the College in their annual Profession of Faith and testimony of fidelity to the expectations of a Catholic academic institution outlined in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae. The College’s choir, led by Mr. David Clayton, sang the Latin Propers of the Mass, including the Veni Sancte Spiritus, William Byrd’s Ave Verum Corpus, and the Hymn to Saint Michael the Archangel, the last of which is sung at the end of every Mass offered at Thomas More College.
Following Mass, attention was turned from the sacred to the sumptuous as the faculty, their families, and the students descended to the cafeteria, where they enjoyed a delicious banquet prepared by Chef Patricia. In amongst the buzz and laughter of conversation, Dr. Patrick Powers stepped forward to the podium and delivered the academic year’s inaugural address. “Students pursuing a liberal education,” he said, “are an endangered species.” Contrasting the state of Catholic higher education today with his own days as an undergraduate, Dr. Powers stressed to those gathered the imperative need to recognize the value the education offered at Thomas More College. “Sound judgment and the art of communication,” he said. “These are two things that are gained through an engagement with the best that philosophy, literature, political science, and the study of classical languages have to offer. God bless you, students, and God help you.”
At the end of his speech, the student body rose en masse to sing the College’s anthem for Convocation, composed by current senior Jonathan Wanner and approved last year by President Fahey. Although the festivities went late into the evening, the official events of Convocation for the 2013 academic year came to a conclusion when, after the anthem, Bishop Libasci imparted to the College his episcopal and Apostolic blessing.
The opening of a new school year always brings with it new expectations and challenges. For returning students, it means coming back to a community of they have come to know, and in many cases, to love. For freshmen just embarking on their studies, it means beginning a new stage in life: new faces, new hopes, new tasks and opportunities for intellectual, spiritual, and personal excellence. Whatever shape the ensuing academic year does take, Convocation offers a vantage point from which students may view the overarching goal of their four years at Thomas More College: to joyfully embark on the pursuit of truth, come what may.