Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass in Wilson Auditorium on Feb. 26. The Catholic Campus Ministry hosts the event for students, faculty, and all members of the university community each year.
President Leahy gave opening remarks before the Mass, “This is my first Ash Wednesday Mass in Monmouth County, and I am deeply honored that Bishop O’Connell has decided join us in this liturgy. Even though we are a non-sectarian institution it does not mean religious expression is not considered important to us. We want our university to be place where people of all faiths can express their beliefs.”
Ash Wednesday is an observance that commences the Christian season of Lent. The season lasts forty days and consists of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and penance before Christians remember the last days of Jesus’ ministry.
The Bishop preached in his homily, “We all have sinned, we all have failed, and we all are in need of the mercy of God.”
“In more recent years, the emphasis [of Lent] has been on ‘doing something’ rather than doing without,” said the Bishop, as quoted in The Monitor, the news ministry for the Diocese of Trenton. “We should give something up to create emptiness for God to fill. We should also do something positive that shows we belong to Christ.”
The event reeled in much positive reception. Mirta Barrea-Marlys Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair of the World Languages and Culture Department, commented, “It was a very spiritual and almost surreal experience to have Bishop O’Connell in Wilson Hall. I am especially grateful to President Leahy, Cristina D’Averso and Father Mark for providing a blessed and unique Ash Wednesday service to the Monmouth University Community. Most impressive was how many members of the community attended, especially the number of students.”
David Fasolino, a sophomore history and education student, said, “It was amazing to see a great student turnout. I hope it can translate to our mass numbers at the Catholic Center. I also thought the Bishop’s homily was great; when he spoke, he really connected with our generation.”
Bishop O’Connell has spoken at Monmouth University prior to this event. He was a guest speaker at an academic conference concerning Pope Francis in 2014. He has previously worked in higher education during his time as a priest. From 1998-2010, he served as the 14th President of the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington D.C. On June 4, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as Bishop for the Diocese of Trenton, which covers Monmouth, Ocean, Mercer and Burlington Counties.
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University