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January 2021

Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O'Brien

Santa Clara University President Presides at Inaugural Mass

SCU President Kevin O'Brien, S.J., celebrated a pre-inauguration Mass for President-elect Biden and invited guests.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Jan. 20, 2021—This morning, Santa Clara University President Kevin O’Brien, S.J., celebrated a Roman Catholic Mass for President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, their extended families, and Congressional leadership before Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President of the United States.

The Mass was held at The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, with over 100 family members and invited attendees including Democratic and Republican leaders (see below). Violinist Patricia Treacy, soprano Renée Fleming and the St. Augustine Gospel Choir performed during the Mass.

Presidents have long held pre-inaugural religious services before their swearing-in ceremonies, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. This Mass takes place 60 years after John F. Kennedy, the nation’s first and only Catholic president before President-elect Biden, attended Mass before his own inauguration.

Fr. O’Brien, a Jesuit priest who has led Santa Clara University since July 2019, has been friends with the Biden family for nearly 15 years, dating back to when O’Brien was serving at Georgetown University. Before becoming president of Santa Clara University, Fr. O’Brien was dean of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. 

Fr. O’Brien accepted the invitation to celebrate Mass from President-elect Biden, as he did before in Biden's previous inaugurations. Fr. O'Brien's homily at the inaugural Mass can be seen online

During his visit, Fr. O’Brien undertook numerous measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission, according to strict guidelines from the presidential transition team including wearing masks, social distancing, and other measures recommended by public health experts. He will quarantine for 10 days upon his return, following county guidelines.

The Cathedral church and parish was established in 1840 and is named for Saint Matthew the Apostle, the patron saint of civil servants. The church is the seat or cathedra of the Archbishop of Washington.

Partial Attendee List: 

  • Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Joe Biden
  • Doug Emhoff, husband of Kamala Harris
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
  • Rev. Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, rector of St. Matthew’s


About Santa Clara University
Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Ranked among the top 15 percent of national universities by U.S. News & World Report, SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education. For more information see

Media Contacts
Deepa Arora | Sr. Director, SCU Communications and Media Relations | | 408-554-5125
Deborah Lohse | Assoc. Director, SCU Media Communications | | 408-554-5121


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Santa Clara University President Kevin O'Brien, S.J., on campus.