The Mercury News

Santa Clara University president officiates Mass for Biden.

The Rev. Kevin O’Brien delivered a homily on Wednesday morning

- By Emily DeRuy ederuy@ bayareanew­sgroup.com Contact Emily DeRuy at 408-920-5077.

As Donald Trump departed the White House Wednesday, Santa Clara University President Kevin O’Brien officiated a Mass attended by Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of Congressio­nal leaders ahead of the devout Catholic’s swearing-in ceremony as the next president.

It wasn’t the first time O’Brien celebrated Mass for Biden, a friend of about 15 years. The Jesuit priest, who was tapped to lead SCU in 2019, met the Bidens when he was serving at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where Joe and Jill Biden sometimes attended Mass. O’Brien officiated a Mass for Biden and his family in both 2009 and 2013 when he was sworn in as vice president. But O’Brien was still startled when Biden himself called a little before Christmas and asked if he’d do the honors on Wednesday.

“It was a pleasant surprise,” O’Brien said in an interview Tuesday. “That’s sort of who he is. He’s very friendly and down to earth.”

In his homily at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle a few blocks north of the White House, O’Brien spoke of healing and reconcilia­tion to a congregati­on that included not only Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and their families but Republican leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfiel­d.

“After too much darkness, the dawn breaks today, this inaugural day,” O’Brien concluded. “Let us meet the dawn together, brothers and sisters, emboldened by our faith and civic conviction, full of promise and hope.”

The message of unity is one the incoming Biden administra­tion has tried to stress just weeks after a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and some Republican­s in Congress, including McCarthy, tried to challenge Biden’s legitimate electoral win.

Without divulging personal details, O’Brien, who has Irish Catholic roots like Biden, told the Bay Area News Group he’d helped the Biden family with a number of things over the years. In his homily, O’Brien mentioned “your dear Beau,” a reference to Biden’s son who died of brain cancer in 2015, a loss that left his father heartbroke­n.

O’Brien said he’d chosen readings “that spoke to the moment,” that touched on “our need to care for the poor, to help those in need and to work for justice, which is very important to the Bidens as they begin this kind of service in their lives.”

The 29th president of Santa Clara University served for several years as dean of the Jesuit School of Theology before becoming president. He was tapped to lead the university as it is attempting to expand its STEM (science, technology, engineerin­g and math) education programs and boost student and faculty diversity. And he has guided the school through the coronaviru­s pandemic, shifting to virtual learning in 2020 like colleges across the country.

Quebec-born O’Brien, formerly a practicing attorney who was ordained as a priest in 2006, said he also hoped on Wednesday to help those in the congregati­on “feel emboldened to work for justice and to always care for the most needy.”

 ?? FILE EPHOTO BY DON FERIA ?? The Rev. Kevin O’Brien, center, celebrated a Mass attended by Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of congressio­nal leaders on Wednesday before Biden’s inaugurati­on.
FILE EPHOTO BY DON FERIA The Rev. Kevin O’Brien, center, celebrated a Mass attended by Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of congressio­nal leaders on Wednesday before Biden’s inaugurati­on.

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