The Gifts of the Holy Spirit 

This September morning, Father Dorian Llywelyn S.J. stands before the entire student body in their formal uniforms, alongside the Mayfield faculty and staff all sitting attentively inside the Sister Mary Wilfrid Gymnasium for the first liturgical celebration of the 2022-23 school year—the Mass of the Holy Spirit. This is not Fr. Dorian’s first time on campus, nor his first time presiding over a liturgy at Mayfield, but he recently joined the Mayfield Board of Trustees, as well. He is not a guest speaker, offering general bromides to our community at arms-length, he is offering insight as a deeply committed member of this community. 

Adjusting his wire-rim spectacles, Fr. Dorian begins his homily with a bit of context, “For over 500 years, Catholic schools and colleges have begun the school year with the Mass of the Holy Spirit. So today we are taking part in a long tradition, which unites us with people in Lima, Malawi, Philippines, in Sweden, and all over the world.” He adjusts his glasses and gently asks, “Why do this?” He then answers his own question with a warm smile. “Well, one of the struggles when you get a bunch of smart people together…students, faculty, staff, parents and trustees…one of the problems is that everybody has their own opinion and their own ways of doing things and the way that things should be. And we can easily fragment a community. Like a marriage or a family—or indeed a school—a community is hard work, and we need help to be united.”
Being united doesn’t mean being uniform though. One of the readings in this Mass dealt with the biblical account of Pentecost—detailing an event which included the disciples and apostles all gathered together in Jerusalem—and although the people were from many parts of the world and spoke a multitude of languages, they were able to hear each other as if in their own native tongue. Mysteries of faith, moments of uncanny experiences, sparks of inspiration—for Catholics—these are the moments in which the Holy Spirit is present. Fr. Dorian talks about the “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Some of these gifts are also “having good judgment; making good decisions; being a person of strength, resilience, and courage; seeing people as God sees them; looking at life with wonder and awe.” He also reminds everyone gathered together that we have a type of responsibility to each other because “when we spend time with people, they shape us and we shape them.” 

It was a thoughtful way of reminding everyone the vibrance and interdependence of our diverse community. Like all celebrations on campus, many students and members of the faculty and staff in attendance at the Mass come from a wide variety of faith traditions. For Christians, the description of Pentecost has a religious significance, the Holy Spirit at work. But it’s a strong metaphor that extends outside religious groups as well. People coming from different backgrounds, working towards a common goal, and finding moments of understanding with each other—it is the very essence of “community.” Even when people speak many languages, they can still come to understand each other.

Sissy Page ’25 felt the first liturgy of the 2022-23 year was a moving one. “The Mass helped me reflect on my relationships with others and set goals for the school year,” she says. “I think it helped me re-center on the new school year and find the presence of the Holy Spirit around me.” 

“The Holy Spirit is different for everybody and that is what makes it so special,” explains Alaia Phillips ’25. Alaia was actually a direct participant in the day’s liturgy as well. “I am a part of Campus Ministry and that means that during the Mass of the Holy Spirit I stood up in front of the school, recited a prayer and received a pin…I could not help but feel like this was something that I was meant to be doing.”

The Mass put Theology teacher Ron Castelo in a reflective mood, as he was reminded of the never-ending process of community-building, and how self-examination and overall kinship need to be nurtured to thrive in tandem. Every year, in the second semester of his Freshmen Theology course, Mr. Castelo gives assignments on the Holy Spirit. Regardless of their faith background, Mr. Castelo asks students to explore moments in which they feel especially connected to the wider world. Whether it be through prayer and contemplation, or in more group-oriented activities, students are asked to be receptive to what people of faith might call “signs.” Discerning those moments, and investigating those impressions, his students use words like ”peace,” “calm,” “love,” “beauty” or “inspiration” to describe their experiences. And Mr. Castelo sees this emotional awareness as incredibly valuable for all students, even for those who have no faith tradition at all. Mr. Castelo himself finds his language of discernment from scriptures. “We have to collaborate with the Holy Spirit,” he says. “If God is love, then we have to show love. If God is kind, then we have to show kindness.”

Whether Mr. Castelo’s students experience the Holy Spirit either in a religious sense or a more figurative one, the positive impressions of those encounters are by all accounts “real.” In the second semester, Mr. Castelo teaches on the Acts of the Apostles, and at this point, he asks students to go around the campus to interview faculty and fellow students about these moments of meaning and purpose, and what those people feel about the Holy Spirit specifically.

Sissy Page—who took Mr. Castelo’s course a year ago—recalls this Holy Spirit project “vividly.” “I remember walking around campus and trying to find people who were willing to let us interview them,” she says. “Many of them spoke about how the Holy Spirit had guided them in their lives when they felt lost and struggling and offered them hope in dark times.” Loise Wardhana ’25 fondly recalls this assignment as well, saying, “It was very special listening to people of all kinds of backgrounds, interests, and life experiences share a common bond...they all saw some of their happiest moments, people, or pets in their lives as a sign of the Holy Spirit.”

This is something Ron Castelo tries to foster. “Everyone is welcome,” he says. Everyone can relate to elevating moments of connection, and whether or not they identify that as the Holy Spirit, it is “a universal experience.”

Sissy Page feels that Mayfield has been a helpful part of cultivating this kind of awareness for her. “I feel especially connected…when I see the joy that I can bring to others or when I see the love and kindness in the actions of those around me,” says Sissy. “Mayfield really helps strengthen this connection by inspiring in students a desire to look out for and care for one another.”

In his homily, Fr. Dorian asserts that “The Holy Spirit acts to bring people together…to bring out the best in each other.” But maintaining a “generous and supportive community,” requires an attentiveness that extends long after the Mass of the Holy Spirit concludes. And Fr. Dorian’s words feel part invitation, part call-to-action, as he says: “The more we accept what God offers us—those gifts—the more we'll be able to fill the world with kindness and joy.” And this is a call that the Mayfield community is uniquely prepared to answer.
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 28 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.