"Convocation Commences Academic Year, Remembers Victims of Tuesday's Attacks"
They overflowed the pews, spilling into the vestibule and out on to Main Street.
More than 800 people gathered Sunday morning at St. Joseph's University Church to worship as UB's Newman Center held its annual Convocation and Liturgy of the Holy Spirit, a Catholic mass celebrating the start of the academic year.
"For the last 25 years we have had a convocation to open up the school year. It came about in the medieval times when the church ran things," said Reverend Monsignor Patrick Keleher - better known to most as simply Father Pat - director of the Newman Center Catholic Campus Ministry.
The ceremony commenced with a processional that included faculty cloaked in academic robes, clergy members, administrators and an American flag-bearer. A full choir and organ music filled the sanctuary with hymns of hope, comfort and praise including "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," "Be Thou my Vision," and "The Cry of the Poor."
The second reading, from Ephesians, which urges people to "get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind" and to "be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving," was read in multiple languages representing UB's cultural diversity.
The mass was also a memorial service for those affected by last Tuesday's terrorist attacks, which Keleher called the result of "oneness of thought." He urged parishioners to leave their usual places on the UB campus this week in the hopes of expanding their minds as well as their hearts in the wake of the attacks.
"I hope to see people in the most unexpected places this week. I hope the libraries are filled, where books of wisdom have never been touched. I hope some department meets another. Physicists meet philosophers, medical students meet music. We are not just citizens of America, we are citizens of the world," Keleher said.
Keleher quoted from William Butler Yates, reminding his parishioners of the strength of the UB community and the importance of knowledge in times of uncertainty.
"'When anarchy is loose upon the world, gather for time and space to recreate the world and spare the horrors.'
"We need to bring comfort from confusion. In a university we gather for wisdom. We must remind ourselves that UB is a family. Our mission now is to realize I am not me without you and we are only full when we realize we are each other," said Keleher.
Following hymns, readings and Holy Communion, the mass ended with the presentation of the center's eighth annual Newman Award to UB's Vice President for Student Affairs Dennis Black.
The award is bestowed upon "some person [Newman Center members] feel embodies the relationship between the gospel and the university," said Keleher. Last year's recipient was UB Senior Vice President Robert J. Wagner.
"We awarded Dennis Black this award because he is totally committed to the university and students. He lives and breathes it. He gives 150 percent of energy to all he does. He is a great man," said Keleher.
William Barba, clinical associate professor for educational leadership and policy, presented Black with the award, praising him for his quick response to Tuesday's attacks.
"The events of Tuesday sent the University at Buffalo into chaos. Dennis understood the tragedy and immediately took action. He set up phone banks for students to call their families; Wednesday and Thursday he had a memorial service for staff and students," said Barba.
"This week he truly demonstrated all he does. Today we recognize a person of humility and good character, for our students this is a great role modal to emulate."
In his acceptance speech, Black thanked the Newman Center for "recognizing the light" and for the award.
"In the university community there are so many people doing so much every day. It's a wonderful feeling to be awarded this. I guess this is what life is about," said Black.
The mass concluded with "America the Beautiful," and was followed by an open reception.