By Dorothy K. LaMantia | Correspondent
On Oct. 23, Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., joined with alumni, supporters and administrators of The Catholic University of America, Washington, where they worshiped together and celebrated their affiliation with the country’s only Catholic university that was founded by the U.S. Catholic bishops.
To see photo gallery from this event, click here.
"What a great joy it is for me to welcome you as Bishop of Trenton in this beautiful church," said Bishop O'Connell to the gathering of those with university ties who reside in New Jersey family.
As he began the Mass which was celebrated in St. Catharine Church, Spring Lake, Bishop O’Connell spoke of his connection with CUA saying it was the institution where he obtained both his master’s and doctoral degrees in canon law then served as the university president for 12 years.
“It’s funny when I am talking to priests and CUA comes up, or if young people ask me about college, I find myself saying, ‘We are this, we do this.’ I talk like I have never left,” he said.
Preaching on the parable of Pharisee and tax collector from the day’s Gospel as a lesson about the need for humility, the Bishop reminded his well-educated listeners that ”Humility is the cornerstone of virtue, and virtue is the building block of Catholic education. The take-away is to realize that we’re all children of God, who is the giver of talents, [which] are not to keep to ourselves, but to share generously to make a difference in the lives of others.
“Whether we are doctor or patient, professor or laborer, leader or follower, we must seek to follow Christ who came to serve.”
Bishop O’Connell acknowledged other alumni who participated in the Mass, including concelebrating priest, Father Mark Kreder, pastor of St. Justin the Martyr Parish, Toms River, who received a law degree then studied theology at CUA. Jared Taffaro, director of sacred music in St. Catharine Parish, who also studied in CUA, conducted the parish choir.
Following the Mass, the celebration moved to the Breakers on the Ocean, where guests socialized at a reception and then heard John Garvey, the university’s current president and Bishop O’Connell’s successor, report on current projects and achievements on campus.
“Diocese of Trenton, you’re the best,” Garvey said, noting that “270 undergraduates are from the Trenton Diocese, the most from any one diocese in the country.”
Garvey praised his predecessor for setting the university on the path which “transformed the place.” Emphasizing there was nothing inconsistent about being a great research institution and also a Catholic university, Garvey noted how “the new dean of arts and sciences promotes new research programs including the construction of a cyclotron particle accelerator in the physics department,” he said. “In April students will present projects of every discipline on Research Day. This week an article in the Washington Post stated that CUA has the best arts school in D.C.”
A slideshow highlighted current building projects and improvements at the 176-acre campus, including an expansion of Maloney Hall, which will add 66,000 square-feet of new classrooms and a new student center.
“Cardinal Hall was renovated and in 2013, rededicated in honor of Bishop O’Connell. “NBC News broadcast from O’Connell Hall during Pope Francis’ visit last year, which attracted world attention to the university and still does. There has also been an increase in philanthropic commitments.”
These commitments have risen from $16 million in 2013 to $56 million in 2016, according to Scott Rembold, vice president of university advancement.
Guests offered reflections on their experience at CUA.
Michelle Cappuccio of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson, and an alumna of the bachelor of arts and law programs, said, “The campus is a green spot in the middle of D.C. Coming out of my dorm and seeing the basilica [Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception] was breathtaking. Bishop O’Connell is right, you never leave it, it’s part of your heart. The lessons learned there ring true, and the friends remain.”
Parent Steve Padula, parishioner of St. Catharine Parish, praised CUA as he spoke of his daughter’s college experience there. “Our daughter walked on the campus and said, ‘This is me.’ She saw her peers had religious values, were honest and had integrity. She felt instantly accepted. When kids have problems, kids help each other get through. I was delighted when she decided to attend the school.”
Parents Robert and Susan De Nooyer of St. Aloysius, Parish Jackson, said,” Being in D.C. is great for our son’s future and with only 3,600 students, there’s a comfort factor. A good testament is that he’s recruiting a younger brother of a friend to attend. He is in his element. It’s his place.”