ST. BONAVENTURE — The loss of a fellow student and cloudy skies cast a shadow over St. Bonaventure University’s opening Mass of the Holy Spirit on Sunday.

The dark day lent itself to the news Dr. Dennis DePerro, president of SBU, had to give the crowd of a fatal car accident Saturday involving two Bona students. One student was reportedly injured and one died.

The Times Herald could not verify the identities or the location of the accident by press time.

Opening the 2019-2020 academic year, cooler temperatures Sunday lent a fitting atmosphere for the upcoming days of fall. The SBU University Chapel choir entertained the crowd before and during the mass, singing favorites like “Glory to God” and “Go Out to All the World.”

Father Francis DiSpigno, executive director of university ministries, stood to the side of the stairs watching the steady flow of about 80 people into the grotto outside of University Chapel.

“We have a gorgeous campus. It’s a beautiful day,” DiSpigno said. “But it’s missing the spirit until the students are back on campus.”

DePerro told the crowd that the woman’s mother told him it was only in God that she would get through it and to pray for strength. He encouraged the crowd to demonstrate that strength in their own lives, and to “pray for our work ... to make the world a better place.”

Father Russel Murray, the new vice president for mission integration, presided over the crowd of about 50 incoming freshman; faculty and local community members.

He began by walking out on to the grotto grounds and sitting cross-legged in front of the students. He told the freshmen students in the crowd that he too was a freshman, only having been on campus for five days from his assignment in Rome.

Murray wasn’t new to SBU however, he spent 1991-92 on campus in formulation for the Franciscan order. He also spent several summers through the years at Mount Irenaeus in West Clarksville.

Murray spoke to the crowd about the integrity of life, and that “only through that can we claim dignity and encourage others to do the same.”

And then reminded them that they needed even more than most, “because after all, they were Bonnies.”

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