By EDDIE MIKUS
Friday, Nov. 1 was a holy day of obligation for members of the Roman Catholic Church. As such, Catholics throughout the world were required to attend Mass.
Fordham University conducted Masses on the Rose Hill Campus at 8:30 a.m. in Keating Blue Chapel, 12:05 p.m. in the University Church and 5:30 p.m. in the St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel in Spellman Hall. Masses at other campuses occurred at 8:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. in Lincoln Center’s Blessed Rupert Mayer, S.J. Chapel and at 12:45 p.m. in Westchester’s Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. Chapel.
Father Philip Florio S.J., assistant vice president of Campus Ministry, said that Fordham offers more opportunities to attend Mass on a holy day than other Catholic parishes do.
“We have six Masses to offer to the university,” Florio said. “That’s more than most places offer. Most universities offer one Mass at noon to accommodate faculty, staff and students. We also have two local parishes in the area, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady of Mercy, all within walking distance, that offer Masses every hour on the hour on the holy day.”
However, Florio also stated that the number of priests available at Fordham limited the number of Masses that the University could conduct.
“We have to find priests that are available,” Florio said. “We have roughly about 22 priests available at Fordham for three campuses. Lincoln Center has two Masses that day, one in the morning and one at noon in addition to Westchester. I have to accommodate three campuses with a growing shortage of priests.”
As a result of such limitations, the university takes into account several factors in determining Masses schedules.
Florio’s assistant, Gilda Severiano, explained that the day of the week on which a holy day falls is a significant factor in determining the Mass times for that day. Because All Saints’ Day fell on a Friday this year, the Mass schedule differed from those of other years.
“[The problem] this year is it fell on a Friday, and we have to be realistic that the majority of our student body, on a Friday evening, and the majority of our staff, on a Friday evening, are leaving early, going off for the weekend, and would not be attending,” Severiano said. “And so, this particular year, we looked at it realistically and said, ‘What is the likelihood of students coming, of sizable amount, enough to make it work, and also, can we get student liturgical ministers on a Friday night at 9:15?’ And, honestly, the answer was no.”
Campus Ministry also considers the times at which most students and staff are able and willing to attend Mass.
“The largest number we get is at noon, because that’s when most people are free,” Florio said.
Florio said that 52 percent of Fordham students identify themselves as Catholic, and of that group, only 12 percent practice. He further stated that the latter statistic was close to a national average of practicing Catholics.
“We do well,” Florio said in describing Mass attendance. “We see a full church, but if everybody who’s Catholic participated in Holy Days and Sundays, we’d have to have 10 Masses to accommodate.”
Florio also spoke about the university promoting the need for Catholics to attend Mass on All Saints’ Day.
“I think we’re very bold in that,” Florio said. “We did a full e-blast, it’s called. Every member of the Fordham community, all faculty, staf, and students, were notified by email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LCD screens all over campus and a banner in the lobby of McGinley.”
Despite Campus Ministry’s best efforts, however, not all people were able to attend Mass at the times offered by the University.
In fact, Severiano said developing a Mass schedule that accommodated the greatest number of students was one of Florio’s main priorities. As an example of this, she cited a survey conducted last year that led to the switching of a regularly-scheduled Sunday Mass from 9 p.m. to 8p.m.
“You have to realize that the person who wants students to go to Mass here the most is Father Florio,” Severiano said. “Every liturgy meeting, every single week, is all about trying to figure out what is the best time, how can we do the Mass better, how can we up participation.”
Severiano herself also spoke about the importance of student accommodation to Campus Ministry.
“Our purpose is to serve our students and community, and this is what we strive to do in every meeting, with every program that we do,” Severiano said. “And we do listen to our students. We put out surveys. When students come in here and say they have a special need or desire, we do review it and we do try to accommodate.”