From the candle lighting ceremony on Eddie’s during orientation to attending Midnight Breakfast to participating in Spring Weekend, taking part in Gaudete Sunday has become a staple at Fordham University. Celebrated on the third week of Advent, Gaudete or “rejoice” Sunday gives students a chance to take a break from the stress of finals and celebrate the upcoming Christmas holiday.
As Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, mentioned at Mass the celebration would not have been possible without Rev. Philip Florio, S.J, director of Campus Ministry. According to McShane, when Florio arrived at Fordham, he transformed the Gaudete Sunday celebration into “Fr. Phil’s Christmas”, as it is the last time the community gathers together to celebrate before winter break.
“Gaudete Sunday has been a beautiful tradition since my freshman year,” Ann Pierret, FCRH’14, said. “I’m so glad I have the opportunity to be a part of a Christmas Mass with the Fordham community.”
The celebrations began at the 8 p.m. mass, led by McShane.
“Today is your feast day,” McShane said.
According to him, the University was founded on June 24, John the Baptist’s birthday since he was the patron saint of Fordham’s founder, Archbishop John Hughes. Because of this, the University celebrates John the Baptist’s feast day as its own.
The readings, as McShane discussed in his homily, emphasized the hope many have in finding someone to believe in. He cited this as a main reason students turn out to the Gaudete Mass – to find something or someone to hope in.
McShane mentioned that this past week, two significant events happened in relation to this need to believe in someone. He said many turned their attention to honoring the death of Nelson Mandela, a role model for numerous people as the acclaimed leader of South Africa. McShane also reminded everyone that Pope Francis was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.
“Did I mention he’s a Jesuit?” McShane joked at Mass. He also discussed some of the Pope’s recent work, including changing the discourse surrounding the Catholic Church.
This was cause for celebration at Fordham.
“Pope Francis, in a very short period of time, has captured the imagination and heart of the world,” Msgr. Joseph Quinn, vice president for Mission and Ministry, said, in an email. “His focus on compassion and his call for all of us to exercise our conscience is both desired and needed. May God continue to use of him as the compelling instrument of peace and channel of God’s love that he truly is for all peoples.”
Florio seconded Quinn’s joy, discussing many of the Pope’s contributions.
“He has quickly proven himself a humble servant of the people and on behalf of his great service to the Church, God’s people, he deserves this honor,” Florio said. “But his care is not limited to just Catholics, he has already proven a voice for many of the poor and oppressed on the global front. He has personally reached out to refugees, the imprisoned, the sick, the elderly and the young of all religions.”
He added that this honor gives him great joy looking forward to the future, for those who look up to Pope Francis.
“His being honored and named person of the year, gives me hope, the hope we seek at this sacred time of year,” Florio said. “Ironically, he joins the ranks of another great Jesuit who made the cover of Time Magazine in April of 1973 , Fr Pedro Arrupe former Jesuit General Superior who led the Society’s efforts for the promotion and service of faith and justice in a turbulent time in the life of the world and the Church. As a Jesuit that makes me very proud and even more hopeful.”
“It’s just all the more reason for added JOY this…Gaudete Sunday!” Quinn said.
Many at Mass felt the same, as the church joined together in a candle lighting ceremony at the end of Mass, before processing out to watch the tree lighting take place on the lawn.
“The Christmas spirit was alive among the large turnout of students,” Pierret said. “I really appreciated the study break.”
McShane blessed the tree and the choir sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem” before the group continued to McGinley for a reception afterwards.