This is the "Year of the Gael," with Saint Mary's College officially kicking off its 150th anniversary celebration this weekend with Sesquicentennial Mass this Saturday to honor Saint Mary's Catholic mission and Bay Area history.

Throughout the 2012-2013 academic year, the college will host a variety of free public events, forums and performances to honor the Sesquicentennial.

A free public festival and open house takes place Oct. 6, and will include a campus carnival featuring rides and attractions, including a seven-story Ferris wheel, campus tours, interactive programs from a variety of academic departments, performances from the college's music, theater and dance departments, live bands, athletic demonstrations and, of course, great food.

The college's mission all along, Brother Ronald Gallagher said, has been to provide a good education, spiritual direction and foster a sense of service for the common good within its students.

"That continues today in our schools of business, education, liberal arts and science and it is the reason why our students are making a difference across the state and our nation," said Gallagher, Saint Mary's 28th president.

Additional anniversary events over the course of the school year will include public lectures, performances and a series of symposiums that underscore the College's tradition of "Great Conversations" in its signature academic program, the Collegiate Seminar -- where students and faculty explore together the texts of the world's greatest thinkers and timeless issues facing society.

Held in Fall 2012 and Spring 2013, these public forums will examine contemporary concerns, such as wealth disparities and justice in American society and the importance of a liberal arts education to our democracy.

On Nov. 3 will be the Jewel of the Bay gala, held on San Francisco's Treasure Island; this will be the Saint Mary's black-tie event of the Sesquicentennial year. Proceeds from the gala will benefit Saint Mary's student aid.

The college has launched a new website, Year of the Gael (yearofthegael.com), and will roll out new interactive features throughout the Sesquicentennial year.

The public can also sign up for weekly updates to get the latest on new events, programs and performances.

Saint Mary's College Sesquicentennial Mass
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday, September 15, 2012
WHO: The Most Rev. John S. Cummins, presiding
WHERE: Saint Mary's College of California Chapel, 1928 St. Mary's Road, Moraga. A reception follows on the Chapel lawn
RSVP online: www.yearofthegael.com/sesquicentennial-mass.html