Bishop O'Connell had the rapt attention of the Georgian Court students as he preached his homily, encouraging them to keep the faith.
Bishop O'Connell had the rapt attention of the Georgian Court students as he preached his homily, encouraging them to keep the faith.
Some 280 students, faculty and staff filled Dorothy Marron University Community Chapel at Georgian Court University, Lakewood, Feb. 11 for the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit.

There, they listened intently, some taking notes, as Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., urged students to keep the faith as they chart the course for future.

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell, who was principal celebrant of the Mass, drew from the day’s Gospel (Mark 7: 1-13) in which Jesus describes the Pharisees as hypocrites who give lip service to God with their practices but not their hearts.

Photo Gallery: Bishop at GCU

“Religious practices ought to help bring us closer to God, into an enhanced relationship with God. … We are challenged to focus on our union with God,” knowing, the Bishop said, that “he is with you, he is for you.”

But, he noted sadly, "We live in a time when people 18 to 30 are walking away from the Church.

“You never see the meaning [of faith] unless you are looking for it. … You’ve got to look for the meaning with sincere hearts,” searching for the difference it makes in life, he said.

Using his own faith journey as an example, on this World Day of the Sick, Bishop O’Connell said he “wondered what would have happened” if he had walked away from God at age 18. He reflected on how important that faith was on Christmas Eve six years ago, when he was told that he was ravaged with infection in his leg and was given a grim prognosis.

His response was to pray, pray mightily, taking his Rosary in his hand and focusing on the Cross. “When I woke up in the morning, the Rosary was in my hand, and I knew I was going to make it,” he said.

“Walking out the door doesn’t do anything. You have to have God. God gives us grace. Seek it out,” he urged the young people. “Someday never comes. Do it now.”

Shared Faith

In his welcoming remarks, Dr. Joseph Marbach, university president, recounted how he had not been present for last year’s Mass of the Holy Spirit because he was recovering from surgery. Like Bishop O’Connell, he said he drew on the power of faith in his own experience.

Inundated with cards, letters of support and most of all, prayers from the GCU community, Dr. Marbach said he drew “strength from the power of the Lord’s love and the power of prayer.”

Sophomore and business major Marissa Trezza said she was moved by the words of Bishop O’Connell and Dr. Marbach and that she felt compelled to take notes during the homily.

“My church always says note-takers are history makers,” said Trezza, a member of Hope Worship Center, Holmdel. A member of the university women’s baseball team, Trezza said her own faith had been tested when she broke her hand during a recent practice game.

“I’ll be out for six weeks,” she said. “Listening to [the Bishop] and hearing about how much of a test he had been through humbled me.”

Sophomores Emily Salisbury, a nursing major, and Emily Humphries, a chemistry major, said they took comfort from Bishop O’Connell’s homily, which they felt was directed to their age group.

“I felt a sense of comfort that the Bishop was speaking to us, giving us hope,” Humphries said.

“It was great that he addressed how important it was not to lose faith,” Salisbury added.