Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

1404 East 9th Street | Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Michael Johnson installed as John Carroll University president

Rain started falling as Edward Peck, vice president of mission and ministry for John Carroll University, welcomed an overflow crowd to JCU’s annual Mass of the Holy Spirit at 9 a.m. on Sept. 6 at the Church of the Gesu in University Heights, across the street from campus. The Mass is a tradition at the start of each academic year at Jesuit high schools, colleges and universities.

This year’s Mass was special because it preceded the installation of Michael Johnson as the 25th president of John Carroll and its first non-Jesuit president.

Celebrant for the liturgy was Father Brian Paulson, SJ, provincial, Midwest Province. Homilist was Father Thomas Pipp, SJ, rector of the Jesuits at Schell House and in Cleveland. There were nearly 20 concelebrants, including Father Raymond Guiao, SJ, president of St. Ignatius High School; Father Karl Kiser, SJ, Gesu pastor; Father Mark Latcovich, president-rector, Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology; Father Michael Sheeran, SJ, president, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities; and members of the Jesuit community and the JCU community.

Cleveland Bishop Nelson Perez, Bishop emeritus Anthony Pilla and Bishop Neil Buckon, auxiliary bishop, Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA and vicar for the Western half of the US Vicariate, were in attendance.

“I have it on good authority that the rain will end by 11,” Peck said, indicating the installation ceremony for Johnson, would take place after Mass outdoors on campus, as planned.

The entrance procession included members of JCU student organizations, club sports, varsity sports, faculty, staff and other representatives, fraternities and sororities. The students processed in holding large red votive candles and lined the walls of the church as the clergy entered.

President Johnson’s family, including his wife, Jill, and three adult sons, Alexander, Andrew, and Thomas, sat in a front pew.

Music was provided by the university choir with Cynthia Caporella, director of liturgical music and musical arts, and an instrumental ensemble.

Father Pipp began his homily by mentioning the recent news about clergy sex abuse and how this and actions by some Church leaders have hurt many people. He apologized to those who were hurt and quoted a statement from Bishop Perez that said how he was “deeply disturbed, saddened and angered” by what happened. Father Pipp said he feels the same way and noted that the actions of the risen Lord are alive in the world.

“We depend on the mercy of God,” Father Pipp said, adding that the Lord will protect those who depend on us.

He said this is an exciting time at John Carroll, a time of joy as a new president is installed. Father Pipp noted that the Jesuits on the West Coast decided to have their summer priestly ordination at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in San Ysidro, California, a town about a mile from the border of Mexico. Four men were ordained in the church where border patrol officers, police and people from both sides of the border are among the congregants.

“The church is a place of encounter and welcome for all,” Father Pipp said. “There are no barriers in the proclamation of the Gospel.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, became intensely dedicated to education, something which continues today through the Jesuit schools. Father Pipp said his vision lives on with the focus of helping souls for the greater glory of God and striving for the greater good.

At John Carroll, Father Pipp said there are many opportunities to serve. He told the students they are the future leaders “and your servant leadership is needed.”

The Universal Prayer was recited in English and languages of members of the JCU campus community – Hebrew, Spanish, Arabic, Tagalog and Italian.

Johnson and his family brought the offertory gifts to Father Paulson.

After Mass, Bishop Perez made a few welcoming remarks to Johnson, telling him he was in the same situation last year when he was new to Cleveland.

The bishop also said he has been asked if he has hope despite all that is going on in the world. After theologizing and studying things, he said that “We as a Christian community hold with great conviction that a dead man rose from the dead. So yes, I have hope. And these young people give me great hope. They chose to come here to a Catholic institution.”

Bishop Perez said what distinguishes the learning community at John Carroll from that of others is that it nourishes not only the mind, “but it also nourishes the soul. At the beginning of the school year, where does all learning start?” he asked, pointing to the altar.

He also offered Johnson some advice, sharing a few things he said he learned during his first year in Cleveland.

“They drive too slowly. I came from New York,” the bishop quipped. “And you have to wait to cross the street. But you’ll learn that people here are extremely welcoming and warm. They’ll welcome you as they welcomed me. And there are a lot of great restaurants here, so enjoy them,” he said, offering congratulations to Johnson. “I find such a wonderful spirit of joy and justice when I visit here,” the bishop said of JCU.

Peck thanked all who assisted with the Mass and said, as promised, “The rain has stopped and we have colleagues across the street wiping off the chairs in preparation for the installation ceremony.”

Once Mass ended, the congregation headed to Hamlin Quad where the installation took place at 11 a.m.

The ceremony began with a formal procession led by a color guard of U.S. Army cadets from the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Mace bearer was Denise Ben-Porath, psychology professor and 2018 Distinguished Faculty Award winner. University marshals, student representatives, faculty members in full academic garb, staff, alumni representatives from every graduating class from 1944 to 2018, delegates, representatives of other Jesuit colleges and universities, members of the JCU board of directors, university officers and delegates from other colleges, universities and learned societies also participated in the procession.

Johnson received a medal of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which was blessed by Pope Francis, from Father Sheeran, and the symbols of office, after which he delivered his inaugural address.

Johnson was elected as president on Dec. 6, 2017 by the university’s board of directors. He became president on June 1 and also joined the Boler College of Business as a professor in the department of Management, Marketing and Supply Chain.

A social scientist by training, Johnson most recently served as provost of Babson College where he was professor of marketing.

Johnson was born in Bottineau, North Dakota and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his Master’s in Business Administration and doctorate from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.

JCU was founded in 1886. It is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the United States and has nearly 3,000 undergraduates and 700 graduate students. John Carroll has been listed in U.S. News & World Report magazine’s top 10 rankings of Midwest regional universities for more than 20 consecutive years. Degree programs through the College of Arts and Sciences and the Boler College of Business are offered in nearly 60 major fields in the arts, social sciences, natural sciences, and business at the undergraduate level, and in select areas at the master’s level.

For more information on Johnson’s inauguration, visit

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