As students, faculty, staff, clergy, and community members filled the small gymnasium at University of Saint Francis Crown Point Thursday morning, a sense of serenity and purpose filled the room.
They gathered together to celebrate the Opening Mass ceremony, an annual tradition at the school held at the start of each new academic year.
Holding Opening Mass is all about setting intention for upcoming endeavors, explained Sandie Phalen, Director of Enrollment, Marketing, and Development for University of Saint Francis Crown Point.
"This is the big kickoff to the start of the school year,” Phalen said. "It's very spiritual."
University of Saint Francis Crown Point Dean and Associate Professor Dr. Marsha King echoed her colleague’s sentiment, explaining that the Mass is part of the school’s holistic approach to student care.
"We look at our students not only academically, but spiritually and psychologically as well. So this is a great way for them to get in the mindset of asking God for help, guidance, and support during the academic year,” King said.
Julianne Verbish, a nursing student at University of Saint Francis Crown Point, said she appreciated the opportunity to unite with other students and staff to reflect on their shared purpose.
"It represents our community and our spirituality coming together as a school with God and with the Church," Verbish said. "It's a blessing to be able to be here today. It's a blessing to be here everyday."
Fellow classmate and attendee Angel Tenzera was deeply grateful for the opportunity to pursue her vocation through the nursing program.
"It's a humbling experience to be able to be a part of this amazing university,” Tenzera said. "I have a passion and a heart for people, and I figured this is the best place for me, and this is where God called me to."
For members of the school’s founding order, the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration, the ceremony doubled as an observance of Founder’s Day. In honor of their predecessors, several sisters traveled from as far away as Fort Wayne and Mishawaka to share fellowship.
"The Mass is a time to ask for blessings on the new academic year, so that's exactly what we're here for," said Sister Elise Kriss, University of Saint Francis President. "We celebrate as the founders and sponsors of the University of Saint Francis."
Sister Elise addressed those present after the Mass services were complete. She applauded the many successes the university, and especially the Crown Point campus, has had in recent months, including increased enrollment and the addition of a new lab building.
The Mass itself was presided over by Father Tony Janik, who encouraged those gathered to share their passion, intelligence, and skills to better the lives of everyone they touch.
Interpreting the day’s gospel passage, he reminded the University of Saint Francis Crown Point community of the inspiration and strength with which they have been imbued.
“We are the salt and we are the light,” Father Janik said.
More information about University of Saint Francis programs and enrollment can be found on their website: https://www.sf.edu/.