Welcome everyone to the inauguaral mass of the new academic year, the Mass of the Holy Spirit
This is a time of beginnings but it must strike us all that it feels more like a time of endings—no onsite classes, limited interaction at gatherings, a legion of bubbles that continues to contract, communion by virtual existence, health care protocols that call us as a community to a newer, deeper and urgent sense of social well being, restrictions on movement, a collapse of our social life, a narrowing of life’s offerings. These are closings.
But that is only part of the picture. Human resilience, creative imagination, intellectual generativity, strategies of connection, rich moments of human bonding, the cultivation of layers of compassion and empathy we didn’t even know we had, all these too are part of our current reality. And out of this plentiful mixture comes opportunity for growth—for the new beginnings.
Because in the end a university is about precisely that—new beginnings, the expansion and not foreclosure of experience, the creation of new vistas of inquiry, the invitation to intellectually and spiritually probe, prod, provoke and penetrate. To be human is to be a quester, life itself is a perigrinatio, or going forth into strange lands, seeing things for the first time, tasting wonder and awe when happening upon an insight that broadens your horizon, relishing the sharing of an idea that explodes in you, awakening a keen eagerness to explore the utterly unfamiliar.
These are the components that make up a university education, whether you are a first year student at Corpus Christi or a graduate student at St. Mark’s.
It is true that all isn’t as it should be, or as we would want it. We live under the pall of plague. We have to adapt; we have to acclimate to something outside our regular experience. But we do. And we dream, yearn, and plan for the recovery of what we know but in the full knowledge that we have also crossed a threshold and will now think differently than before about the many things we did in the past: how we structured ourselves in a planet we are called to share not exploit, what are the consequences of real social justice for us as a community of citizens, what are the implications of a life of authentic faith.
And it is not put on hold during a time of absence from the campus. Because when we engage both individually and collectively in the act of genuine intellectual searching—which we do online now-- we help to create anew, think anew, and such as this is a source of joy.
The faculty, staff and board of directors of Corpus and St. Mark’s welcome you back, or welcome you for the first time to a life of the mind, the spirit and the heart, a bit modified in delivery perhaps, but fertile with possibility, open to engagement, a pathway to fresh seeing, for we are an academic enclave, a place of sanctuary in a whirligig of conflicting priorities and pressures, and we are a home for you.
—Dr. Michael W. Higgins
President, Corpus Christi College and St. Mark's College at UBC