October 21, 2004 • Volume 13 Number 4

Faculty and students celebrate Mass at St. Joseph's Chapel on Upper Campus, one of 77 Catholic liturgies that take place in an average week at Boston College. (File photo by Mike Mergen)

10? 25? 32? No, the Answer Is: 77

Study of worship at BC shows high number of Masses held on campus

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

Boston College Chronicle asked members of the University community the following question: How many Catholic Masses are held on average each week on the BC campus?

One sophomore dining at Corcoran Commons last week put the number at 10.

A faculty member from the College of Arts and Sciences thought it was "about 25."

A senior administrator guessed 32.

An alumnus priest came the closest, with an estimate of 45.

But none of those persons asked by Chronicle even approached the actual number of Masses per week celebrated at BC: 77.

That revealing statistic comes from a study recently commissioned by the Office of the Vice President for University Mission and Ministry as part of its efforts to examine student formation at BC.

The report, titled "Catholic Liturgies at Boston College," reveals that the University and St. Ignatius Church, which is part of the Archdiocese of Boston, together celebrate 70 Masses for the BC community each week. When combined with Masses celebrated on holy days and special events such as Laetare Sunday, student orientation and the Mass of the Holy Spirit, that number rises to an average of 77 per week.

I think it's a number that will surprise a lot of people," said Rev. James, Fleming, SJ, assistant for program evaluation in University Mission and Ministry, in a recent interview. "Most of the people I talked to guessed that our number was about half of that.

"It can be dangerous to play with statistics as they can be manipulated to create false impressions," acknowledged Fr. Fleming, who compiled the study with graduate students from the Lynch School of Education in conjunction with Campus Ministry and Residential Life. "But I think in this case the statistics reveal something important about Boston College."

Fr. Fleming was appointed this summer as assistant to Vice President for University Mission and Ministry Joseph Appleyard, SJ, whose office promotes Boston College's distinctive mission as a Catholic and Jesuit university.

The breakdown for the 77 Masses celebrated on average per week at Boston College, according to the Office of the Vice President for University Mission and Ministry:

St. Mary's Chapel-28

St. Ignatius Church-18

Trinity Chapel (Newton Campus)-7

Residence halls-8

Cushing Chapel-4

St. Joseph's Chapel-2

Heights Room, Corcoran Commons-2

Walsh Hall-2

Athletic Association-1

Also included in the total are the number of Masses celebrated for the five holy days recognized throughout the academic year, for on-campus retreats such as Halftime and Kairos, and for alumni events, orientation and special celebrations.

His first major project with Mission and Ministry is a survey of the Class of 2005 about the extent of their learning experiences and activities at BC, whether in a classroom or residence hall, at a spiritual retreat or service trip, or in everyday interactions with fellow students.

The report on Catholic Masses was a precursor to that survey, he says, because it was important to have some knowledge of the formal opportunities Catholic students have to worship on campus.

"It surprised me to learn that we really had never taken a look at this," said Fr. Fleming. "It's nice that we now have a number we can point to when people ask.

"What we're trying to do is assess under what conditions students best grow as people of faith and grow in their ability to handle complex intellectual and ethical decisions. Worship and prayer are certainly a part of that - a big part, I believe - but still, there are other aspects of the undergraduate experience at Boston College that will help us understand what forms of spiritual and intellectual engagement best nurture that discerning heart about which Jesuits speak."

While Fr. Fleming said BC appears to offer "many more" Masses per week compared to other Catholic colleges and universities, he stressed that the purpose of the study is not to "rank" BC with other institutions.

"What we're trying to do is assess BC on its own terms, and come to a better understanding of our efforts at student formation. Nonetheless, that's an impressive number."

The report did not cover worship opportunities for non-Catholic students, who make up about 30 percent of the undergraduate population, but Fr. Fleming says the forthcoming survey results will include information on worship habits of all students at Boston College.

"What we could not actually show in this report is the number of Masses held in private or those that are not formally scheduled, but only those we could verify," explained Fr. Fleming. "The other Masses would certainly bolster the number if they were included."

One Jesuit priest approached by Chronicle declined to guess the number of Masses as he had already heard of the report, but offered this bit of insight: "What it means is that no student has an excuse for not going to Mass if he or she really wants to."

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