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Opening Academic Year Mass, Carlow College St Patricks

Bishop Denis celebrated the Opening Mass in Carlow College, St Patricks today (Wednesday 18th October), during his introduction Bishop Denis commented “It is great today to join you for the opening of the 224th Academic Year here in the life of the College, founded by the great visionary predecessor of mine Bishop James Keeffe. His vision has led to what you now know and enjoy as St. Patrick’s or ‘Carlow College’. I am very conscious as we gather of the late Fr. Fintan Morris who would always join me at this Mass. I think of his parents and family today and all of you who have lost loved ones, since last year’s Mass.

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Luke. Luke worked closely with St. Paul, an evangelizer, a writer of one of the more accessible gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. St. Luke is patron of butchers, bookbinders, doctors, surgeons, artists and glassworkers. There is no mention of students or college life anywhere in the life or legacy of Luke!

And yet a college student needs to eat, to be aware of meat cuts and healthy diets; a college student needs to read books, wikipedia doesn’t get us across the line, we need to dig deep into books, bury ourselves into journals and browse through periodicals. A college student can sometimes feel unwell, a doctor, a counsellor, a friend is always close at hand, no one needs to suffer alone. An important message in this the month of Carlow’s Mensana Fest ‘Mental Health Festival’. Finally, artists and glassworkers, a college student has the opportunity to develop his/her creative side during their student years. Creativity that will stand you for life. So, I think St. Luke has in fact a lot to say to students and faculty alike as a new academic year commences.

As we gather to officially start a new year, with ex hurricane Orphelia now firmly passed, we take a moment to recollect ourselves … maybe we are a first year, maybe we have returned to college after years, maybe we are in second or third year, perhaps a post grad, a staff member, academic and administration, whatever brings us here, all of you are most welcome…”.


Yesterday the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton was honoured by being conferred with an honorary doctorate at DCU. In his acceptance address he said: “how we think will determine how we do in every other challenge facing us, it is the most important thing”, Carlow College, St. Patrick’s has very close links with the United States through strategic partnerships with Carlow University, Pittsburgh; St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa and the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programmes.

I welcome the American students who are spending the fall here at Carlow College, St. Patrick’s. Returning to former President Bill Clinton’s acceptance address, whatever a college or university does it must help us to be people who think, who reflect, who take time to tease out ramifications and consequences. I speak to both staff and students, a college is only as good as the creative space it builds in the mind of the student, in the heart of a faculty or department. If we only stick to prescriptive text books we are simply going through the motions, a college must do much more.

While St. Luke’s feastday falls today and we very much associate him with the areas of health and well-being. I think of my visit last evening to St. Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny to visit a patient in the ICU there who is receiving 24-hour care as she struggles to come out of a coma. What I met there in the nursing staff was excellence, St. Luke would have been most proud of their care and attention to all patients in that unit. I popped into their little chapel, called St. Luke’s Oratory before leaving. There were prayer cards available for patients and visitors alike. A quiet space, a safe space, an uncluttered space. The sanctuary candle flickered, the Lord was present and I felt His presence.

We need to feel His presence in College, we need to see our College as a safe place to be ourselves and develop our personalities as the opportunity arises. With our Mass today we have a blessing with oil, oil to strengthen you, to heal you, to help you on your academic journey. Earlier you carried up a stone, taking that moment to reflect on a fear, a worry, a concern, a frustration, an illness you currently are going through. Stones weigh us down, even the smallest pebble in our shoe can lead to a blister. We are better off casting aside what is weighing us down. Of course, it mightn’t be anything physical, it could be in here, a negativity we are carrying, an attitude that is self- destructing and causing others pain.

The seventy-two are sent out in Luke’s gospel. They have a clear mandate, agenda, mission statement. They are as much told what not to bring, what not to do as they are instructed on what their mission is. Is it about a harvest having few enough workers? Is it about a message of peace to this and every household? Is it about going out in pairs? Each of us will take his / her own meaning from it. The important point for me is that St. Luke the patron of butchers, bookbinders, doctors, surgeons, artists and glassworkers is speaking to every single one of us, including myself. The disciples were being sent to the places He himself expected he would one day visit. They were preparing the ground, tilling the earth, sowing the seed, another one will reap the harvest. Maybe in our life we too must realise another one will reap the harvest, but it’s up to us to sow the seed. We do that in a college community by being positive, affirmative, encouraging and most of all being present. The lovely roll-call that sounds like a litany from Primary Days: Donnocha Mac an Ultaigh – Anseo! Gearoíd Ó’Dailigh – Anseo! Máire Ní Bhuiteach – Anseo! In Carlow College, St. Patrick’s are we Anseo or are we As Láthair?