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Boston College 150th Moments

The Sesquicentennial Celebration in words and pictures


By Office of News & Public Affairs |

Published: Dec. 12, 2013

Boston College will formally close out its 15-month Sesquicentennial commemoration this afternoon, when University President William P. Leahy, SJ, celebrates a Mass that will coincide with the annual baccalaureate ceremony for seniors who have completed their undergraduate requirements. All members of the University community are invited to the Mass, which takes take place at 4 p.m. in St. Ignatius Church.

Ninety-four new U.S. citizens took the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony held at Robsham Theater. The federal proceeding was hosted by the University and the Graduate School of Social Work. (Photo by Justin Knight)

The Sesquicentennial was an occasion for BC to celebrate 150 years of tradition, legacy and growth, but also an opportunity to consider the University’s mission and role as a distinctive Jesuit, Catholic institution of higher learning in the larger world. Sesquicentennial events included the Mass of the Holy Spirit at Fenway Park, a special concert at Symphony Hall, a Founders Day celebration, a convocation that featured Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust as keynote speaker, and a program of symposia on a number of societal concerns.

Chronicle invited members of the Boston College community to share their favorite moments from the Sesquicentennial.

“The naturalization ceremony held in Robsham Theater in March was a tremendous moment, a very moving event: Boston College, founded 150 years ago to educate the sons of immigrant parents, welcomed men and women of many lands and cultures who were received as new American citizens. This was a moment of community, for the stories of each of those new citizens truly blessed this ground we call BC.”  — University Secretary and Vice President Terrence Devino, SJ

“One of the most memorable experiences at the Fenway Park Mass was when I was queuing up to get the hosts for Communion. I remember walking onto the field and looking behind me to see all of the people in the stands. It was absolutely breathtaking. It was overwhelming to see the amount of people who share that love for and devotion to Boston College and the Boston College mission gathered together. That is a moment that I will never forget.

If there is one lesson I’ve taken away from Boston College, and specifically [Theology Professor] Fr. Michael Himes’ homily during the Fenway Park Mass, it’s that if you hold on to your education, you will lose it, but if you give it away it becomes everlasting. That is what the Fenway Park Mass epitomized for me: giving back to the community and home that has shaped and supported me throughout my collegiate career. It is hard for me to put into words the special part of my heart that Boston College holds, but it can be seen in the overwhelming community that came together in a historic city, at a historic ballpark to support our institution and share in the monumental moment for Boston College. I knew that I didn’t want to simply hold on to the love I had for BC, but that I wanted to share and experience it with the rest of the Boston College community by taking advantage of the opportunity to volunteer at the Mass.” — Graduate student Lauren Riley

Sesquicentennial concert at Boston Symphony Hall featuring BC musical groups BC Symphony Orchestra with the BC Chorale led by John Finney; BC bOp! led by Seb Bonaiuto, and BC Woodwind Orchestra led by Seb Bonaiuto. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

Performing in the Boston College Sesquicentennial Concert at Symphony Hall was a dream come true and one of the most cherished memories of my BC career. As a little boy, I grew up playing the viola in a family full of musicians. I saw Doc Severinsen conduct and perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra when I was 12 years old. I saw Joshua Bell bring a crowd to its feet playing his violin when I was in high school. After these performances, I posted their autographs in my room hoping one day that I would be able to follow in their footsteps to the stage at Symphony Hall.

“I was so blessed for the opportunity to perform in one of the greatest music halls in the world as the principal violist of the Boston College Symphony Orchestra. This performance was unlike any of the hundreds I had done before. When we arrived for our dress rehearsal the night before, I remember rushing out onto the stage and being so captivated by the space. I played a note and let it resonate for so long into the beautiful ceiling as I looked up to see Beethoven’s name engraved above me in the gold stage frame. It was pure happiness.  

“As I took the stage for the performance I looked up to the second balcony to see my family looking down at me with tears of joy in their eyes. As the performance began, I immediately was lost in the music. It was as if the notes were flying off the sheet in front of me from pure emotion. The soothing voices of the chorale echoed behind the vibration of my strings in perfect harmony as I felt God’s presence with every stroke of my bow. I met actor Chris O’Donnell, whom I had idolized when I was young. He eloquently voiced the great narrative of Abraham Lincoln during our performance of ‘Lincoln Portrait.’

Inaugural lecture in the Sesquicentennial Speaker Series Drew Gilpin Faust, the President of Harvard University. She also received the Sesquicentennial Medal in recognition of her excellence as a scholar and leader in the academy. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

“This performance was not just a dream come true for me; it was beyond my imagination of what that dream could have ever been. I was performing at Symphony Hall where so much history has been made but I also had the privilege of representing something so much larger than myself, Boston College. Paying tribute to BC in such a profound way was an incredible experience and I will never forget that day as long as I live.” — Kenny Ierardi, Class of 2013

“It was quite a year, but of the many events the one that stands out for me was the academic convocation featuring Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University. The historical significance of this was sharply drawn.  As many people know, Boston College had a famous and very public dispute with Harvard in the 1890s over the quality of our curriculum.  Harvard announced that it would no longer admit graduates of BC (and the other Jesuit schools) to its law school, on the grounds that a Boston College degree was of inferior quality — in a sense, not a "real" undergraduate degree.  The curriculum prescribed at the time by the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum was a seven-year program, consisting mostly of what we would today consider secondary education, with perhaps one or two years of college-level work tacked on.  Jesuits staunchly defended their system against this perceived insult, but at the same time they also recognized that Harvard may well have been right; our curriculum subsequently changed to adhere to the more substantial and familiar four-year undergraduate program.  

“Though the two institutions had had happier relations since then, President Faust's appearance marked an important closing of one historical chapter as well as the opening of another one.” — Clough Professor of History James O’Toole

Sept. 15, 2012: Sesquicentennial Mass at Fenway Park (Photo by Gary Gilbert)

“The Sesquicentennial Mass at Fenway Park, more than any other event that I have experienced in my time at Boston College, made me see the University as a family. In the months leading up to the Mass, I spoke to many people who were so excited and honored to be able to be there and be a part of history. People who couldn’t be there were saddened that they were going to be missing out. All of the people at BC who I worked with in any capacity regarding the Mass were thrilled to be a part of it; even the moving company employees who were hired to get everything over to Fenway could not stop talking about it. A staggering number of clergy came to concelebrate, not to mention the number of people who assembled in the stands.

“The excitement in Fenway Park before the Mass was palpable. All I saw were smiles, people laughing and waving to each other, and more pictures being taken than anyone could count. Those of us in Campus Ministry had the added excitement of being on the field and, best of all for some of us, the privilege of sitting in the dugout.

“One of my fondest memories of the day was checking in with the concelebrants who were gathered under the grandstands for the procession right before Mass. They were happy and chatting with each other, and quite taken with the idea of processing into Fenway. Some were giddier than others, and I had to urge two of our Jesuits back into line as they kept sneaking off to take pictures of the field. The atmosphere after the Mass was equally festive. People stayed long after the recessional, calling out to each other, taking group pictures and reuniting with friends they hadn’t seen in ages.

Sept. 15, 2012: Sesquicentennial Mass at Fenway Park (Photo by Gary Gilbert)

“I thought the liturgy itself was spectacular. Fr. Arthur Madigan’s commentary on the academic and liturgical procession brought everyone into the spirit and started things off on a wonderful note. Fr. Michael Himes’ homily hit exactly the right tone, stressing the value of a Jesuit education, both to those who receive the education and to those who benefit by the work and lives of Boston College alumni. The music, a testament to the skill and passion of current and past Boston College and Boston College High students, enhanced the liturgy in many ways. By far, in my mind, the most astonishing feat of the day was the prayerful and exuberant distribution of communion to approximately 20,000 people in a very short period of time.

“Going into the liturgy, my main concern was not the Mass itself, as Campus Ministry has ample experience with large liturgies in non-liturgical settings. My worry was that while the Mass would be a fun and exciting experience for people, the fun and excitement might overtake the reason for us being there and it would become a great event for which the Mass was simply a backdrop.

“I was extremely happy that the opposite happened. This Mass was a spiritual experience for all in attendance. All there came to worship God through the liturgy and with each other. There’s a reason we use the term ‘celebrating’ the liturgy and the Sesquicentennial Mass at Fenway Park was a shining example of what this celebration can look like.” — Campus Minister Ellen Modica