Merrimack Students Start School Year in Search of Knowledge and Wisdom

Merrimack College started the 2019-2020 school year with its traditional Academic Convocation and Mass of the Holy Spirit, encouraging students to recognize the many opportunities for personal, academic and spiritual growth available to them; and to work in union with the supportive community willing to help them make the world a better place, while becoming better versions of themselves.

Merrimack welcomed more than 1,200 freshmen and transfer students for the 2019-2020 school year from 31 states and 34 countries, said President Christopher E. Hopey. The Class of 2023 joined with the Class of 2020 and faculty in Hammel Court for the convocation Thursday Sept. 5.

“You have brought your energy, enthusiasm, passion and intellect to this wonderful community,” Hopey said. “We are grateful for your arrival — and for the promise of the great things you will do here at Merrimack, and eventually in the world, as graduates.”

The seniors have experienced enormous changes on campus, from the construction of new dorms to joining the NCAA Division 1 in athletics but none more important than their personal growth, Hopey said. He urged them to exert their leadership and wisdom earned by their time on campus.

“I charge you to be models of the spirit of our community for these young men and women who will carry on after you have graduated,” he said. “Show them every day —  in the classroom, on the field, in the dining halls, and the hallways — what Merrimack means to all of us.”

As a school of higher education, Merrimack offers rich opportunities to learn new ways of understanding, appreciating and questioning the world; and as a school in the Augustinian tradition, students strive not only for knowledge but for wisdom as well, said Provost Allan T. Weatherwax.

“While we trust that your college experience will help you gain satisfaction in your abilities and skills, we hope that your time here will stoke your curiosity and help you maintain a degree of humility as you recognize the incredible complexity of what it means to be human,” Weatherwax said.

Convocation guest speaker Hallie Hobson urged students to pursue passions and push beyond their comfort zones to fulfill dreams. Passions may change over the course of life so be ready to adapt your life. Hobson shared her own impressive resumé as a poet, playwright and defender of the arts who oversaw a $175 million capital campaign for the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York but then said she quit it all six months ago to reinvigorate herself.

“It’s OK to lean into uncertainty,” Hobson said.

During the Mass of the Holy Spirit on Tuesday Sept. 3, the Rev. Ray Dlugos, O.S.A., used the Gospel of John to show that Merrimack is stronger when everybody is united in a cause, whether class, work or athletic games.

“We can do so much more together than separately,” Fr. Ray said.

It is an academic tradition dating to the earliest European universities run by religious orders, to hold a Mass at the start of the school year invoking the aid of the Holy Spirit, Fr. Ray said before Mass.

“Our Catholic faith tells us the Spirit is the giver of wisdom and knowledge,” he said. “And so we can pray to the Spirit that will give us those gifts as we study and learn.”

In John 17:20-21 Jesus says he and the Father are one and prays that believers may be one with each other and with the Father and Son. Fr. Ray then pointed out the legend on the backs of T-shirts worn by school athletics teams declaring “We Are One,” which is a double entendre referring to unity among teammates and Merrimack College joining the NCAA Division 1 ranks.

By giving of ourselves in humility and generosity and then accepting the offerings of others, we are in union with each other, Fr. Ray said. When that happens, nobody loses and there is an abundance.

The Rev. Steven Curry, O.S.A., offered a prayer for benefactor Frank Girard, for whom the Girard School of Business is named, who died Monday, Sept. 2.


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