Over 1,000 faculty, staff, and students attended the Mass of the Holy Spirit presided by Reverend Raymond Dlugos, O.S.A., Vice President of Mission and Student Affairs. Reflecting on Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, Father Ray’s homily called attention to the, “reality that there is a great abundance of wisdom, experience, and love waiting to be harvested at Merrimack this year. However, we won’t find that abundance by staying on paths that we have already walked on too many times before, staying safe with our preconceived ideas and perspectives, or by choking one another with disrespect. Rather we will find the abundant harvest waiting for us by risking new activities, relationships, and challenges and treating one another with the utmost respect, concern, care, and love.”
Following the Mass, students, faculty, and staff processed with President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D. to the Academic Convocation ceremony, which formally welcomed everyone back to campus. The president referenced the excitement and pride the College is currently experiencing by saying, “I am energized with the excitement and enthusiasm you all have for Merrimack and the year ahead. It is very clear that you are ready to take advantage of all that Merrimack has to offer you.” He mentioned many of the new investments the College has made to support its academic core and residential experience for students. Such projects include; the Residential Village, the new home of Sports Medicine and Health Sciences, Augies Pub, the expanded bookstore and fitness center, new Dunkin Donuts, and the renovated Merrimack Athletics Complex, as well as many other improvements to the campus. President Hopey reiterated to students all the choices that they have available to them while here at Merrimack and he advised them to reflect on the purpose of life in their time here saying, “Although our physical changes and programmatic growth are important to our success, what is equally important as individuals and as a community, is to take time to reflect, think and contemplate on our purpose and direction in life. True success is reached when balance between spirituality, peace, and action comes together.”
Josephine Modica-Napolitano, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, introduced the Convocation speaker. Roland Merullo, a Massachusetts native, and distinguished author delivered the Convocation address. He addressed students with humorous dialogue such as what it must be like for non-New Englander’s to experience a Boston accent for the first time, and then transitioned to a more serious tone. Merullo shared with the students some of the people in his life who have inspired him, focusing particularly on his grandmother, a woman with little education and no work experience but a beautiful soul who inspired others. He pointed out that his grandmother may be considered a “holy one in disguise,” which is a Buddhist phrase. He compared his grandmother’s legacy of love to a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Character is higher than intelligence.” Merullo noted that his grandmother was able to cultivate her interior world and found that the greatest part of life is loving someone. Merullo gave his version of a blessing to the audience, saying that his wish for the crowd is that they can love themselves as well as love, support and encourage others. He hopes they are able to share this love with either their future grandchildren or other young children in their lives.
Merullo’s address highlighted the importance of inner growth, saying that we do not all have the potential to be professional athletes or famous musicians, but we all have the ability to evolve spiritually. To engage the students, he posed the question, “Why are you here?” followed by a list of possible reasons why these students would be at Merrimack. Merullo then rephrased the question to be philosophical, “Why are you here?” He believes that students can find their answer to this question by engaging with the interior world. By doing this, Merullo said students will become more generous and selfless which can have lasting effects on others. Merullo states that to reach interior growth, people need to take time away from the distractions of technology and multitasking. For Merullo, meditation has been his way to reach the interior world, but he encouraged students to find a method that suits them. Merullo’s invaluable advice to students will help them travel their own paths on the Merrimack journey.