All things new! Newman. New academic year. New normal. New adjustments. New ways of living following the hit and heat of the pandemic. New energies and expectations as the doors of McGill University's Newman Centre were opened again to old and new members and, very joyfully, to a new chaplain, who happens also to be the writer of this piece.

Written by Fr. Chukwuemeka Anthony Atansi, PhD, S.T.D., Chaplain, Newman Centre of McGill University

We were all excited but, at the same time, not entirely sure of what the new realities, moments, and persons have in store for us all at the Newman Centre. So we turn to the One who makes all things both new and reassuring – the Holy Spirit; and we make it our heart‘s desire to pray for His outpouring upon and within us at the start of the new academic and formation year. 

The Archbishop, His Grace Christian Lépine was generous, as usual, to accept the invitation to lead us in the Eucharistic celebration during which we pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit. This year, just like in the past, the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit was celebrated on a Sunday, September 5, 2021, at 5pm, in the Main Hall of the Newman Centre. Everything looked set. The ushers, the Newman choir, the lectors, the acolytes, and not least, the coordinators of the whole event. They were all at their best, warming the space and the hearts of all who had gathered to celebrate the new beginning. It’s always a special moment for all the members and friends of the Newman community, which is the Catholic Chaplaincy at McGill University. It looked like a mini Pentecost. Indeed, it was. 


Credit: Newman Centre

We all felt renewed at every moment of the Mass leading up to the climactic moment of the missioning during which the Archbishop prayed for the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the leaders and students of the Newman Centre, and on all who had joined in the celebration, not forgetting the members of the University community. For all need the help that comes from the Holy Spirit for the many intellectual, social and spiritual tasks ahead – the three-fold turns of the life and mission at the Newman Centre . 

Earlier in his homily, Mgr. Lépine, drew on insight from the Gospel of the day (Mark 7:31-37, at 34). He referred to the Holy Spirit as the “sigh of the Father.” This “sigh,” the breath of God, according to him, opens our eyes, our ears, our faculties, and members to new possibilities needed for renewing our world that has been ravaged by disease, sickness, pain, unimaginable suffering and deaths.     

In the same light, for us at Newman, we believe that the vision and mission of forming our minds and hearts as we work and study at McGill can be effectively and fully pursued with the help of the Holy Spirit. That is why, as we set out anew in the work of enlightening our minds with truth and wisdom, through the lectures, conferences, seminars, and talks, we also seek to nourish our hearts in grace with the Word and the Sacraments, and in loving encounter with every human being, beginning with those who live and visit us at the Newman Centre.

And in doing so we hope to experience an integral formation and profound transformation of our whole person. As John Henry Newman reminds us, it is in the development of the whole person – mind, heart, body and soul – that “the face of the earth is renewed.”