Boston University students pray before a statue of the Virgin Mary which had been crowned by Cardinal O’Malley at an earlier Mass marking May as the month of Mary and the bicentennial of the archdiocese. Pilot photo/ Christine Williams
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BOSTON -- Catholic students at Boston University celebrated the month of Mary and the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Boston with a Mass at Marsh Chapel on May 4. The crowd filled the 400-seat chapel.
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley celebrated the Mass and led the crowning of the BU campus ministry’s statue of Mary.
BU campus minister Sister Olga Yaqob said the crowning of Mary, Mother of the Church, by the shepherd of the archdiocese was “meaningful.”
“We are very grateful to the cardinal for being with us today,” she said. “To have him here was a special joy.”
Father Paul Helfrich, BH, also a campus minister, greeted the cardinal at the start of the Mass, saying “It is always a great blessing and an honor having you here with us.”
In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley told the students that Catholics come to Mass every Sunday to “remember God’s love.”
“Forgetting God can be very perilous,” he said. “You cannot follow Jesus at a safe distance. You can only follow up close.”
He also spoke of the archdiocese’s bicentennial celebration, saying that 200 years ago there were only two priests in Boston and the pope had been imprisoned by Napoleon.
“Two-hundred years ago there were just a handful of Catholics in this area. You probably could have fit the entire diocese in this chapel,” he said.
Cardinal O’Malley said the recent visit of the Holy Father was aimed at encouraging, challenging and calling Catholics to unity. Pope Benedict XVI also addressed comments directly to young people, urging them to be joyful witnesses to the faith, he said.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus challenges his disciples to love as he has loved them. Young people must also be Christ’s disciples and love as Christ loves, the cardinal said.
“That love is the invitation for others to follow,” he added.
BU students participated in the Mass in many ways -- reading, singing in the choir and leading the procession of the Marian statue near the end of Mass.
Following the Marian procession, the statue of Mary, her hands folded in prayer, was placed in the middle of a wreath of flowers on a table at the front of the chapel. The table was covered with a lace cloth and there was a blue candle on either side of the statue.
Cardinal O’Malley incensed and blessed the crown of purple, blue and white flowers before placing it on Mary’s head.
Then, all gathered sang “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman” and “Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above” during the recessional.
Mary Goldsmith, a senior who carried the wreath in the procession, said it was a special privilege to participate in the ceremony that honored the saint she was named after.
She added that she is glad to be a Catholic in Boston during the 200th anniversary -- a “rich time in its history.” The Mass in celebration of the bicentennial was an opportunity to rejoice along with the larger archdiocese, she said.
“College students don’t always feel like we fit into the diocesan picture,” she said.
Amanda Gaspar, a BU freshman and the younger sister of Cardinal O’Malley’s secretary Father Jonathon Gaspar, said celebrating the bicentennial was “cool.”
“I feel a lot closer to that,” she said of the archdiocesan-wide celebration. “It means a lot to me that the cardinal came.”
Gaspar said she enjoys participating in the Catholic campus ministry at BU, particularly women’s ministry.
John Burke, also a freshman, added, “We have a strong community here.”
Burke said the visit by Cardinal O’Malley was both enjoyable and encouraging.
“It’s good to have encouragement because it gives us strength to go forward,” he said.