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Romero rises again

11:56 AM  Mar 10th, 2016
by Margaret Knapke ’77

The sniper killed Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero as he raised the chalice during Mass on March 24, 1980. Pope Francis declared Romero a martyr for the faith; the archbishop, known to many Latin Americans as San Romero de las Américas, was beatified in May.

Romero never set out to be a hero or saint. But when he became archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, social upheaval was escalating into civil war. His transformation was swift.

“When I became archbishop, priests were being killed, accused, tortured,” he was quoted by Moises Sandoval in the September 1980 Maryknoll magazine. “I felt I had to defend the Church. Then again, I felt that the people the Church has to serve were asking me to defend them. … I felt I had to be the voice of all those people without a voice.”

In his last Sunday homily, Romero spoke directly to soldiers and police: “I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression.”

Assassins silenced him the next day. Or so they thought.

Thirty-five years later, Blessed Romero continues to inspire Salvadorans. Cleveland native Leslie Schuld ’84 counts herself among them. She has made El Salvador her home for 22 years, living out a Marianist ideal of partnering with the poor. In San Salvador, she directs the Center for Exchange and Solidarity (CIS), building international support for grass-roots movements for social and economic justice and participatory democracy.

In January 1992, peace accords ended a 12-year war in El Salvador. As Salvadorans mourned their 75,000 dead, they began rebuilding their country and resuscitating their democracy, preparing for elections in 1994.

The CIS joined that effort in 1993, and Schuld moved to El Salvador to participate. CIS programs grew to include a Spanish-English language school; vocational and economic development for disadvantaged communities, including crafts cooperatives; promoting clean water; providing scholarships; and
coordinating international delegations as well as electoral observer missions.

In 2008, Schuld met the Romero Community — 180 families seeking relocation. Some were displaced by the war, others by earthquakes, landslides and a hurricane. They resolved to find a permanent home. They chose their martyred archbishop as their spiritual patron. They were committed to nonviolence.

Officially landless, they squatted on unused government property. After evictions and arrests, they realized that to provide their children with secure homes, they needed help in acquiring the land legally.

Even with the CIS’s advocacy, they endured years of bureaucratic delay, as well as threats and violence from others wanting the land. Many families became too frightened and exhausted to continue.

Today the Romero Community comprises 75 families, whose perseverance is now bearing fruit. In May 2015, Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén transferred title for 15 acres to the community. Nine days later they celebrated again; this time the occasion was the beatification of their beloved Romero.

Construction is under way. The CIS is raising funds for 70 humble but dignified homes to replace rusted bedsprings and sheets of tin draped with plastic. In August, I visited the community and toured their model home. Since then, a well has been dug, and community members are constructing the next 20 homes. The rest will follow as resources are secured.

Archbishop Romero said: “I do not believe in death but in the resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.” He’s fulfilling that promise, in part, in the Romero Community.

For more on the Center for Exchange and Solidarity, see www.cis-elsalvador.org. Romero’s commitment to social justice also lives on at the University of Dayton, which since 2000 has given the Archbishop Óscar Romero Human Rights Award for the promotion of  “the dignity of all persons and the alleviation of the suffering of the human community.”

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State of Race at UD: Perspective from history, Catholicism

11:35 AM  Mar 10th, 2016
by Una M. Cadegan ’82

Text from a presentation by Una M. Cadegan, associate professor in the Department of History, given Jan. 26, 2016, during the Symposium on the State of Race at UD.


Good afternoon. My name is Una Cadegan. I have taught at UD, mostly in the history department, since 1987, and I am also an alumna of the university.

I am honored to be asked to speak today as part of the opening of this symposium. I will make two brief points as a historian, a cultural historian of US Catholicism, and then make a final observation more as a Christian, a Catholic Christian formed by long association with Marianist education.

First point: the history of the Catholic Church in America with regard to race is partly admirable and partly shameful. We could go a long way back, and talk, for example, about Catholic slaveholders in colonial Maryland. But even if we concentrate on the more recent past, we can see both things to admire and things to be ashamed of. In the photographs of the marches of the modern civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, we often highlight the priests and religious sisters and brothers who marched in their Roman collars and their habits, advocating for racial justice. We Catholics are proud of them, as we should be. We hold them up as examples of the best of our tradition, which is what they are.

But we also know that many of the people opposing civil rights for African Americans, especially in the cities of the north, were also Catholic. White urban ethnics—and I am very aware that I am talking in some cases about the parents and grandparents and great-grandparents of people in this very room—opposed integration in their neighborhoods, then sold their homes and moved to the suburbs, then participated in political movements and political decisions that made sure that the policies that had made their own assimilation and social mobility possible were unavailable to the new citizens of the city centers of the urban north. And many, many of these voters and their political leaders were also Catholic. This is a failure that is still affecting our society and our church today, and we have not yet really begun to grapple with it.

So that’s the first point—we have not yet truly begun to face the whole truth of the extent to which Catholicism was complicit with racism in the very recent past—a past so recent it shapes the present in direct, tangible, measurable ways.

My second point is related, but briefer. When these issues are raised among white Catholics (not only among Catholics, but that’s my focus here today), one response that often comes up is: well, Catholics were also discriminated against, and look at us now. We’re fine. If we did OK, then whatever is the problem with African Americans must be their fault, not the fault of the discrimination.

If you are tempted toward that argument (and I understand the temptation), or if you know someone who has made it (and I think we all do), let me just say very clearly—it does not work. The differences between anti-Catholicism and anti-black racism in the US, at every point where we can make the comparison, are more crucial for the present moment than the similarities. This is not a historically defensible way out of our need to face the truth about Catholicism and racism in the US, in the deep past, the recent past, and in the present.

Which brings me to my third point. Christians do not need to fear the truth. We all know the present moment is difficult, contentious, and often ugly—but I can’t avoid the feeling that is it also graced. Something is moving that is different from anything I can remember. We might, as those formed by Marianist educational purposes, call it a sign of the times. We might, as Christians, call it the Spirit. But make no mistake about it, we are being summoned to respond. Here, in this place, dedicated to knowledge and service, but for so long so, so separate from our neighbors across the river in the city whose name we took on nearly a century ago. As I’ve heard and read in several places recently—if you ever wondered what you would have done during the Civil Rights movement, now is your chance to find out. As a historian, it is my job to see clearly just how deeply racism is intertwined with the history of this country. But as a Christian, I have to believe what our president said last week in his State of the Union address, quoting Dr. King: “Unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Let’s try it and find out.

Some resources for further reading:

Bishop Edward K. Braxton (Diocese of Belleville, IL), “The Racial Divide in the United States: A Reflection for the World Day of Peace, 2015” (available at www.usccb.org).

Shawn T. Copeland, LaReine-Marie Mosely, and Albert Raboteau, Uncommon Faithfulness: The Black Catholic Experience (Orbis Books, 2009).

Bryan N. Massingale, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church (Orbis Books, 2010)

John McGreevy, Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth Century Urban North (University of Chicago, 1996).

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Research Report Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” US Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Racism (2004; available at www.usccb.org).

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Strong Start

3:59 PM  Mar 9th, 2016
by Jenny Szink '09

As one of the strongest athletes in University of Dayton history, benching 380 pounds, it’s obvious that Charles Little knows a little something about the training and work ethic required to hit a personal best. Now, Little is sharing his fitness tips with people around the world who want to reach their fitness goals.

Little, a starter on Dayton’s 2009 NCAA Tournament team, retired from a five-year basketball career in Europe and began to pursue his next athletic challenge. From his new home in Chicago, he earned his personal trainer certification. Immediately, requests for help came rolling in from friends and family across the country. This got Little thinking.

“I realized that I could reach anyone through online workout videos and recipes,” Little said. He created an online business, One5Fit.com, to share his top workout and nutrition tips — everything from how to use intimidating gym equipment to the importance of consistency.

“One of my biggest challenges as a trainer is just getting people to the gym,” Little said. “Fitness has a cumulative effect so I give people tools to get stronger and healthier one step at a time.”  

One5Fit’s customers log on from Dayton to Austria. Customers choose from one of three training programs, and Little checks in with them often to make sure they’re getting stronger and eating well (he is also studying to become a nutritionist). Little keeps busy with a training job at a Chicago gym, doing everything from training a bride-to-be to reconnecting with UD classmates.

“In hindsight, my career path actually makes sense,” Little said. He just needed to take what he learned as a student on the court and apply it to being a teacher in the gym.

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In defense of

2:41 PM  Mar 9th, 2016

Pay attention to the toys you play with as a child — they may just illuminate your career path.

For Chris Jones, it was model airplanes.

“Airplanes and aerospace were in my blood,” said Jones, who served 29 years in the military thanks to a service path laid by his father and three older brothers.

His work in the military focused on defense. At one point, his way was very focused.

“While I was in college, I worked at Aberdeen Proving Ground … and one of my jobs was to deploy semi-active landmines and then walk through the landmine field to determine what would detonate them,” he said. “That’s a very good summer intern job, but it taught me to be very humble.”

Jones told that story at the awards ceremony where he received the 2016 Black Engineer of the Year Award from U.S. Black Engineer magazine and BEYA.

He served in both the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, and while stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force based earned master’s degrees in aerospace engineering and engineering management from UD.

His civilian career path has also focused on defense.

Jones is corporate vice president for Northrop Grumman’s technology services sector. Previously, he worked as part of the team on the Hawkeye early-warning aircraft; now, part of his job includes overseeing the team developing the new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.

He said he credits student and professional engineering organizations for his successes.

“I’m a product of what’s really good about this country,” Jones said, also noting the people in his life who’ve supported and guided him.

That includes family, whom he remembers each time he steps on an airplane. He sends his mom and aunts postcards every trip he takes — almost 50 a year.

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Road Warrior

12:33 PM  Mar 9th, 2016
by Molly Blake '96

When John Malone, an associate engineering manager at Tesla Motors, sees a sleek Model S sedan whipping down Bay Area streets or the new Model X SUV, its Falcon wing-like doors yawning open, he feels a bit like a proud father.

After all, it’s Malone’s 22-person team of engineers and operators that, after receiving the painted electric vehicle body, install the guts during an exhaustive, extremely precise 9-hour process — everything from the headlights to wheels, seats and windshields.

“We put the whole thing together and make a product that people actually buy,” Malone said. “It’s a rare opportunity to be a part of a company that is so impactful.”

The opportunity to work at the innovative Silicon Valley darling presented itself in 2013 when Malone was working at Honda, a company where he had a co-op while studying mechanical engineering at UD. Malone jumped at the job offer and headed west to San Francisco where he routinely calls on co-op program experiences and classes like senior design. Together, it’s an education Malone calls “incredible.”

“Never in the real world do you get a problem that’s neatly defined,” said Malone. “I see something happening at work, and the principles I learned in class and during my co-op time

In fact, when Malone needed to hire a summer intern, he called his mentor and former professor Kevin Hallinan, who helped him recruit UD School of Engineering student Jared Page ’16. Malone called Page “an extremely high-performing

And while 80-hour work weeks are the norm at Tesla, there are perks including an opportunity to present multiple briefings to CEO Elon Musk. He also received a coveted invitation to the fall 2015 launch of the hotly anticipated SUV, the Model X, where Malone got a chance to talk to the very first owners of the $80,000 vehicle.

“I find it awesome to be a part of the electric car industry,” Malone said. “I really think it will lead to massive changes in transportation.

“Working at Tesla has always been my No. 1 career goal.”

Mission accomplished.

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Unconditional Kindness

10:45 AM  Dec 21st, 2015
by Thomas M. Columbus

My wife, Suzanne (a three-time UD grad), and I went to the rededication of UD’s Chapel of the Immaculate Conception this August. The chapel held many memories for us. A photo from the 1970s shows our first two children, Liz and Mike (both two-time grads), as very young people sitting on the floor near the altar at an overflow Father Norb Burns’ Mass. Father Jim Russell remembers our youngest child, Ben, in the 1980s, playing air guitar during hymns at Mass.

For the dedication, Suzanne and I wanted seats near the door. Some time ago she was diagnosed with heart conditions, in recent years compounded by congestive heart failure; a long ceremony could be too much. So we sat in the last row on the left, near the side door.

It was also where often I had sat alone, having left my work behind in my office and come to the chapel to contemplate whatever one contemplates after a child dies, as did Ben nearly 20 years ago. I looked over at Suzanne. Her face seemed contorted. Tears were in her eyes. I feared an episode with her heart.

“What’s the matter?” I said.

She replied, “Nothing. It’s just so beautiful. It’s just so beautiful.”

That was the only time she made it to the renovated chapel. She died Sept. 22.

Liz and Mike and their families and friends and colleagues (and owners and waitresses and bartenders at Suzanne’s and my favorite restaurants and even apparent strangers) have given me, and each other, support that a theologian might reflect tells us something of the Mystical Body. It tells me Suzanne touched a lot of people.

“She had a kind word about everyone,” someone said, “even the most difficult people.”

“But she didn’t mince words,” Liz’s husband, Tony, said.

Nobody saw a contradiction between kindness and honesty.

Mike spoke at her funeral Mass. “My mom was selfless and unconditionally kind,” he said. “She taught my sister, Liz, my brother, Ben, and me strong values and the importance of family, faith, hard work, kindness, tolerance, generosity, forgiveness and love.”

He spoke, too, of her competitiveness. On one family vacation, Mike’s wife, Jenn, thought playing beach bocce with Suzanne might be a relaxing game. Suzanne, Mike said, “body-checked Jenn, nearly knocking her to the sand, in order to line up her next roll. My mom rationally explained, ‘She was in my way, and I am here to win.’”

The congregation of friends and colleagues from UD and Kettering Medical Center (where Suzanne managed the clinical lab before retirement) thought Suzanne was a winner, too. When Mike finished, they broke into applause.

Back at work now, again doing some part-time writing and editing for this magazine, I recently edited a piece in which Brother Ray Fitz prays to be able “to ponder the mystery of God and creation.”

And, as I did years before, I again frequently leave my desk behind and walk to the chapel. I sit where I sat with Suzanne at the dedication, where I sat after Ben died. I stare at the statue of Mary. I stare at the stained-glass image of Jesus on the cross. And I listen.

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What the pope says (and why we care)

2:39 PM  Dec 10th, 2015
by Debbie Juniewicz ’90

“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

Strong words from a leader respected around the globe. And while he is neither a research scientist focused on climate change nor a politician tasked with protecting the resources of his country, Pope Francis’ words in his encyclical — Laudato Si’: Of The Holy Father Francis On Care for Our Common Home — carry weight among world leaders and practicing Catholics alike.

Pope Francis reinforced his strongly worded encyclical message during his recent trip to the United States.

“Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity,” he said in his Sept. 25 address to the U.N. General Assembly.

He went on to address the “boundless thirst for power and material prosperity,” the “misuse of available natural resources” and the impact they have on the “weak and disadvantaged.”

Francis is not the first pontiff to express his concern about the environment. In his first encyclical in 1979, Pope Saint John Paul II warned that human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption.” He went on to call for a global ecological conversion.

The tone of Francis’ encyclical, however, is one of urgency and action.

As Francis says, “It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching, can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face.”

Referring to his namesake as “the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically,” the pope implores us to follow in Saint Francis of Assisi’s footsteps.

He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace.

There are many ways to put the pope’s encyclical message into practice in our daily lives. Campus scholars weigh in on meaningful messages in the document, how to put Francis’ directives into action and why it matters.

Professor of Physics and in the Renewable and Clean Energy Program, and Director of Research, Hanley Sustainability Institute

“It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. … Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. … Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

The last sentence Pope Francis writes is especially important.

Overall the pope is asking Catholics, and indeed all of us, to think integrally about our actions. Every small action we take has an impact, and therefore we should find ways to use fewer
resources — become far more energy-efficient, for example. I will get more concrete, although it’s not directly what the pope says. We, in the United States, should be clamoring to pay more taxes to build up infrastructure suitable for the future, such as renewable energy. We should be taking care of the least fortunate in our society and providing educational opportunities at appropriate levels to all. And we should think about our international obligations to aid development of those who will be most vulnerable in a changing climate. Our parents and grandparents did their part to provide appropriate infrastructure for us, but the current generation has become selfish and said, in effect, “We don’t care about the future because it might be too
expensive to us today.”

I am not Catholic, but as someone deeply interested in sustainability, I think we need to pay more attention to promoting renewable energy, wasting less, eating less meat and more locally. But Pope Francis is talking about something much bigger and more systemic and comprehensive, much of which should resonate no matter our religious beliefs.

Scholar-in-Residence for Faith & Environment at the Hanley Sustainability Institute, and Director of Marianist Environmental Education Center

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.

Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. …

Pope Francis’ “A Prayer for Our Earth” in Laudato Si’ encapsulates the call to tenderness and empathy through transforming encounters with all our neighbors — plants, animals and every person near and far.

I had a life-changing encounter while teaching global environmental issues at Chaminade University in Honolulu. The students — most from small Pacific Islands — shared their love of the ocean and how shorelines were changing through the accumulation of imported cans and bottles and the decrease in freshwater availability with erosion. I spoke about how climate change was predicted to increase storm frequency, raise sea levels and exacerbate saltwater intrusions. One student, Iumi, exclaimed, “Are you telling me my island and culture are disappearing? What are you going to do? Move us somewhere else and ship us bottled water?” Tears welled in me, as they do in each retelling. The next day, Iumi approached me: “I spoke out because I think you can do something about it.” I replied, “We each must do what we can and work together.”

Pope Francis is calling us to dialogue and action. We must mitigate the effects of climate change — choosing solutions that conserve resources, encourage energy efficiency and renewables, and create jobs and healthier air for all. To build bridges across perspectives — such as scientists and engineers providing expertise to faith communities — by forming partnerships and not working
in silos.

Everyone needs to get involved and share their gifts, no matter where we are coming from. You could write a letter to the editor; I’ve seen people who have never even tried to write for a newspaper express in their own voice how important this is. Policymakers value constituent concerns. Get involved with a creation care team. Check with your local diocese or adjudicatory or visit the Catholic Climate Covenant (www.catholicclimatecovenant.org) to learn about opportunities to connect. Take the community spirit that you knew at UD and build a community in harmony with the environment where you are now. A Laudato Si’ online course (vlcff.udayton.edu) or a study group can support changes.

Little changes in the home, workplace and congregation can also make a big difference. Think about adjusting the thermostat and shifting to LED lights. Planting native plants will attract butterflies and birds and restore ecosystem services including air cooling and purification and preventing run-off. Visit meec.udayton.edu for educational resources.

Acting together, we are making a difference.

Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, Department of Religious Studies

Francis’ message is essentially a spiritual one — one that nonetheless has profound economic and political consequences. He is asking us whether we can open our hearts to honor and care for all of those who sustain us and with whom we share our planet. Francis asks us to open ourselves to the best scientific arguments available as a way of attending to God’s creation.

“Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”

We need to think on many levels.

First of all, the Vatican has been very explicit that this encyclical is timed to build moral pressure for governments to act with courage at the Paris climate talks in December. Pope Francis challenges President Obama, the U.S. Congress and the United Nations to act responsibly.

We need to follow his example and lobby our elected officials to negotiate and implement a strong agreement in Paris.

The United States has the highest per capita CO2 emissions rate of any major nation. We need to take serious steps as a nation and as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint. One of the most surprisingly effective ways to do this is to eliminate or seriously reduce our consumption of red meat. Eating lower on the food chain radically reduces the carbon fuel required to sustain our diet.

On the most personal level of change, we need to open ourselves to the world around us to see our interconnections with and responsibility for the rest of creation. Learn about backyard habitats. Connect with a local conservation group. Connect with an organic farm in your community.

The challenge we face is both spiritual and structural. We have to open our hearts and minds to the damage we are doing to the world around us. We need to act quickly to transform our energy system in order to leave our children and grandchildren a world that they can flourish in. Time has run out — we must change and act. The science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson once described our age as “the great dithering.” We owe our children more than that.

Director of The Institute for Pastoral Initiatives, Professor of Religious Studies, and Marianist Educational Associate

“As Christians, we are also called to accept the world as a sacrament of Communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.”

The idea of accepting the world as a sacrament of Communion shifts our perspective on how we interact with creation and all human beings. To be a “sacrament” is recognizing that it is a mirror of the creator. It calls for seeing with new or clearer eyes the beauty that embraces us every second of the day. It demands of us a renewed sense of respect and reverence, virtues which appear to be disappearing particularly in our modern Western civilization.

The words touch us where we need to be touched — in our conscience, mind, heart and lifestyles. We are called to a radical conversion in how we live and relate to the ecological and human factors of our world. This radical conversation involves, as Pope Francis constantly articulates, the reality that everything is connected. We do not live in silos, in isolation, but are by our very nature in communion with all things. In this sense of communion, we are called to be good stewards and care for all with compassion and love.

Finally, we are reminded, yes, we are pilgrims along the way. We are only passing through and we are called to care for the Earth and humanity mindful of the next generation. This idea of passing through helps us shift our lifestyle from thinking only about “me” and “my needs and wants” to what is best for the common good.

Bear in mind “not what I need and want” but how do my actions, lifestyle or way of life possibly impact the next generation? Am I over consuming? Where am I overconsuming? Whether it is food, water or energy use, how can I live more simply realizing less is more? Each day we need to awake and ask the question: How can I live more simply today? How can I raise the consciousness of others by my witness to preserve resources for the next generation? It may seem insignificant for one person, but when, as a community, we live more intentionally, it makes a huge difference. Once we begin to live more consciously with how we spend our time, use our finances and resources and realize that we are called to be stewards of creation and one another, everything can change. Most of us cannot bring about huge changes in the system, but we can change how we enter into each day and encounter and use the gifts that are offered. Everything can become a sacrament of encounter if we only have “eyes to see and ears to hear” (Deuteronomy 29:4).

I believe Pope Francis is striving to raise our consciences to the fact of integral ecology. We need to spend quality time reading, reflecting and discerning what this means for us as a community. This is a moral and ethical obligation — not simply a challenge — and each of us needs to contemplate our lifestyle and strive to work together for the common good for future generations.

Plus: Read how one student finds her place in her faith among a sea of pilgrims.


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Not your father’s library anymore

2:32 PM  Dec 10th, 2015
by Audrey Starr

In 1850, St. Mary’s School for Boys opened with 14 students, one building — and most likely, a stack of books constituting a modest library. Here’s how the University’s 165-year-old academic center has transformed itself for the 21st century. (Hint: It involves hashtags.)

In the lobby, a delivery driver — summoned by a famished student study group — balances a stack of pepperoni pizzas. In the next room, history faculty consult with local historians to put the finishing touches on an exhibit commemorating Dayton’s 1913 flood. Upstairs, staff eye their computer screens as someone in Romania — and then someone in South America, and then someone in New Zealand — downloads the latest article from the Marian Library Studies journal.

In other words, it’s a typical afternoon in the University of Dayton Roesch Library.

Once viewed as an austere collection of books and bricks serving an exclusive group of equally solemn faculty and students, today’s academic library is a vibrant knowledge hub offering information and entertainment for people on campus, in the community — and even halfway around the world.

This isn’t your grandfather’s — or even your father’s — library.

In the beginning … there were books.

One of the oldest — but hardiest — institutions in civilization, the concept of a library was invented soon after we began chipping away at clay tablets and marking on papyrus scrolls. As History Magazine wrote in 2001, “Whether private or public, the library has been founded, built, destroyed and rebuilt. The library, often championed, has been a survivor throughout its long history and serves as a testament to the thirst for knowledge.”

The first record of a library on the University’s campus came in 1866, when a circulation record was referenced in St. Mary’s School paperwork. By 1876, a Brothers’ Library is mentioned in house council minutes. A decade later, the school catalog notes students must pay a $1 fee for use of the college library (a circulating library existed in the study room of each division). Chaminade Hall housed two libraries — one each for faculty and students — and a “special library” of spiritual reading books, later called Zehler Library and housed in St. Mary’s Hall.

In meeting minutes from Jan. 17, 1897, the need for a new library was discussed. Answering that call in the early 20th century was Chicago financier and St. Mary’s alumnus Victor Emanuel ’15, who gave $200,000 to build a stand-alone university library in honor of his father, Albert Emanuel. When the building opened in 1928, the school’s total enrollment was just shy of 900.

Less than 50 years later, UD’s enrollment had soared to 10,000, and the seven-floor, 176,220-square-foot mammoth of 1960s architecture now known as Roesch Library was built. It included the Marian Library, founded in 1943, and, with the blessing of the academic council, admitted professional librarians to faculty rank.

So, how does an institution with a 5,000-year history — and more than 150 years’ worth of campus presence — stay relevant in an era of 8-second attention spans?

It offers timely resources, with a side of Bill’s Donuts. (And then tweets about it.)

“The library is one of the largest non-classroom buildings on campus, but a lot of learning still happens here,” said Kathy Webb, dean of University Libraries. “Our mission is to help facilitate the
learning in a variety of different formats.”

Like enticing students to come inside and learn more about the building’s offerings by passing out warm donuts on a fall morning, or organizing a multi-floor scavenger hunt for new student orientation — activities that, 25 years ago, were rare, said Maureen Schlangen, e-scholarship and communications manager for Roesch Library.

“More than 250 students participated in last year’s scavenger hunt, way more than we anticipated,” Schlangen said. “The prize was a free Popsicle, and we had to send someone to pick up more because we ran out. It’s unlikely a fun activity like that would have occurred to anyone, let alone happened, three decades ago. The library was a serious place for serious study and serious research.”

It still is, she noted, but the perception of what a library can do, and should do, has changed.

Said Katy Kelly, Roesch Library’s communications and outreach librarian, “The library is for everyone, and it can be serious, but it can also be a bit fun; it is what you
make of it.”

Ethan Frey ’16 has used the library all four of his UD years but is still impressed with its offerings.

“The front desk is a great resource. Not only can they tell you where to find certain books, but they can lend headphones and provide campus directory assistance,” he said. Perhaps more importantly: “It is also the only library I have been in that features a coffee shop,” he added, referring to The Blend, a student-run business in the Learning Teaching Center on Roesch Library’s ground floor.

Classmate Peter Hansen ’18 agreed, noting, “My library back home was nothing like Roesch; it was a one-room hall filled with dusty books and broken computers.”

Such shifts may be simple, but they’re important — and reflect changes happening not just at UD but in our culture at large.

“Our society has changed — we’re more casual now, and the library needs to evolve with that,” Webb said, noting that a policy update several years ago to allow bottled water first had to be put to a library staff and faculty vote. “It was a big deal. Now, students are welcome to have pizza delivered. We added a microwave on the second floor so they can heat their lunch from home. During final exams, students have been known to plug in coffee makers, set up sleeping bags and string Christmas lights.”

Taking a more active, rather than passive, approach to customer service is relatively new. Through email, website and social media, the library has regularly surveyed students on everything from carpet and paint colors (after hearing that the 1990s-era jewel tones were “too dark and gloomy”) to how late the library should stay open (the magic number: 5 a.m.). When Webb asked the University’s facilities crew to deliver three different chair styles — then set them out for students to test — it was the first time library staff had consulted students about the furniture where they routinely camp out. Two students also sit on the libraries’ advisory committee.

Said Webb, “I don’t think your father’s library listened to students. To have an opportunity to give feedback is very new. In an old-fashioned library, we wouldn’t have seen the need to provide both noisy and silent study spaces, but students asked for both, so we worked with them to identify and publicize the noise levels on each floor.”

Unlike some entities that have experienced massive transformations over the past few decades — like mass media, for instance — libraries haven’t replaced their offerings; they’ve simply added to them. It’s an either/and, not an either/or, situation.

“Our physical circulation of print books has gone down, but our downloads of e-books and e-journals is skyrocketing. We’ve had many more visits to and requests for special exhibits and lectures, and those are things we didn’t spend a lot of time doing when I first arrived at the library in 1993,” Webb said. “We were busy showing people how to use print indexes. Now, it’s easier for people to handle online keyword searches on their own, so we can devote time to new projects.”

That change isn’t unique to Roesch. Krista Veerkamp ’12, a library services assistant at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, notes that “the library has changed so much from its traditional sense of simply providing books and information; it’s now a center for learning and discovery.”

One example: Forgot your phone charger or need a flip camera and video editing software to make your class presentation stand out? Roesch Library can loan you a device for that. The library now also teaches two credit-bearing classes for the philosophy and international studies departments, offers one-on-one librarian mentoring for honors students working on theses, and assists UD’s information technology office by administering software for faculty to track their scholarship, teaching and service.

In fact, very few of the library’s exhibits don’t have a curricular tie-in, Webb said. Imprints and Impressions: Milestones in Human Progress featured highlights from the Rose Rare Book Collection hand-selected by faculty to support the University’s emphasis on liberal arts. Lectures and panel discussions on themes found in the collection — including religion, typography, science and banned books — encouraged conversation.

University Archives and Special Collections — part of University Libraries, along with Roesch Library and the Marian Library — is also preserving the University’s past in real time with eCommons, a free online repository. UD’s version features everything from current scholarly research by faculty to The University of Dayton Alumnus from 1929.

“Our alumni, even though they aren’t on campus, can read what our faculty are doing in human rights research or see the student posters presented at the Stander Symposium,” Webb said. “It’s a one-stop-shop to experience the breadth of scholarly activity happening on our campus.”

It’s not only Flyers who benefit, Schlangen added. “There’s also a perception of academic libraries as being closed to the public. Now, we have exhibits where we actively encourage people off-campus to engage with our library, not just to view the exhibit but to look at all the other resources we have.”

Library services and exhibits are available to alumni and community members, not just students. In fall 2014, for instance, 8,000 people visited the library to view highlights from the Rose Rare Book Collection; the year prior, 5,400 came to see Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible and its accompanying presentations. Each Thanksgiving, about 800 people flock to the opening day of the University’s festival of crèches.

“With our exhibits and events, the University invites the public to come and experience something that is integral to our mission as a Catholic, Marianist university, in a way that is different than attending an athletic event, arts performance or lecture series,” Webb said.

On a daily basis, Roesch Library sees approximately 1,800 students come through its doors each day — about 200 more visitors than the University’s RecPlex sees during the same time. During the 12 days of final exams each year, that library number jumps to 2,600, which is higher than the average student attendance (1,050) for basketball games in UD Arena.

“It’s a neutral space,” Webb explains. “Some of the academic buildings are limited to certain majors, or you need your student ID to access them after business hours. But everyone can get into the library.”

Like dining halls, the library is very much part of the campus experience these days, she said. “It used to be strictly functional, and a little bit stressful — it was tough going through the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, and you were doing it on your own. Now, there’s a social element and a teamwork function that reflects not just how people learn in the classroom but how they work in the professional world. It’s not just about new technology; it’s about how people are interacting differently.”

Based in part on the feedback the library solicits from students, its physical space sports several changes from when it opened in 1971. Built primarily to be storage from the second floor up, Roesch Library has now been reconfigured to make it more comfortable and user-friendly.

“We’ve been intentional about putting in moveable, comfortable furniture so students feel a sense of ownership; we want them to feel like this is a space they want to be in, where they have what they need to hang out and get their work done,” Webb said.

Kelly agreed. “We want the library to be for everyone, so everyone can find a place here,” she said. “What makes Roesch Library what it is, is the people: the people that work here and the people that use the library. The books you see on the shelf were selected by librarians. The paint colors on the study floors and the chairs you sit in were voted on by students. This makes the library unique to the UD experience, and truly a place made for people by people who care.”

The Knowledge Hub, an innovative new space on the first floor that opened in 2014 and is already averaging nearly 600 visitors per day, combined several student resources — like research assistance, peer writing support and tech-enabled team tables — into one central location. So far, the Knowledge Hub has provided 834 research consultations, 3,541 writing consultations and answered 6,057 questions.

It’s a model based on integrating, instead of simply co-locating, services that help students.

To be a librarian in ancient times was an esteemed profession, since it meant you were one of the elite few who could read. Today, those in the library field still provide valuable services, albeit with a job description that’s changed a bit.

Librarianship as a profession in the U.S. exploded after the Civil War, helped along in 1876 by the founding of the American Library Association (ALA) and the publication of the Dewey Decimal classification system. The first library school was founded by Melvil Dewey in 1887, and in 1928, the first doctorate in library science was awarded by the University of Chicago. By the 1960s, the library profession was becoming increasingly technical — what began as managing books under Dewey was quickly moving toward information science.

Today’s librarians are still the keepers of a wealth of information: where to find it, and what to do with it. In addition to the traditional roles of maintaining physical books and journals, audio and video recordings, and periodicals databases, today a librarian may also provide information services like computer instruction, coordination of community programming, literacy education, assistive technology for people with disabilities — even helping with music and video game downloads.

“Having information that is much easier to access has changed the way people look at research,” Webb said. “Before, you had to truly understand how each individual index worked to successfully find that information. Now, keywords and electronic journals make the hunt much easier. On the other hand, while it’s easier to search, you’re also introduced to a higher volume of information to sift through, which can be more difficult. It’s really changed the emphasis of the work of libraries and librarians.”

Roesch Library has hired staff to help with marketing, community relations, volunteer coordination and information technology, positions that weren’t on the radar 10 years ago. At Roesch, recent staff additions like Schlangen and Kelly represent this new frontier.

“Our profession has a reputation of actively picking new tools up and figuring out how to use them efficiently and effectively, and how to be relevant in students’ lives,” Webb said.
According to the ALA, there are more than 366,600 paid library staff in the U.S., with nearly a quarter (some 85,700) of those serving in academic libraries. What do these professionals do? Just ask a Flyer — about 200 University of Dayton alumni claim libraries — of which the ALA says there are 119,487 total in the country.

Cherie Hubbard Roeth ’85, director of the Bradford (Ohio) Public Library, describes the profession this way: “It’s a highly trained profession that encompasses skills that would boggle the minds of many. My staff are intensely creative and inspired to create activities and choose books and materials that entice the youngest to the oldest of our patrons, and we try to work closely with the community and be an integral part of our village.”

At UD, Barb Crone Feldmann ’71 helped with the library’s move from Albert Emanuel Hall to Roesch Library during winter break 1970. She has worked at the Washington-Centerville (Ohio) Library for 33 years.

“Libraries now are more than just places to get a book; they are places of all formats of materials and types of learning,” she said. “They are responding to changing community needs. They teach classes on computer literacy. They help people complete job applications, the majority of which are online now. They offer programming for children and families. They provide notary services and process passport applications.”

At Dayton (Ohio) Metro Library, where Allison Mikesell Knight ’09 serves as a children’s librarian at the Trotwood branch, patrons can sign up for crochet or self-defense classes, listen to author readings and take advantage of a free summer lunch program. “We even hatched chickens this spring — every day is different, and things are never boring,” she said.

As Linda Mares Pannuto ’69, children’s librarian at Orion Township Public Library in Rochester, Michigan, puts it, libraries aren’t “more than books;” they offer “books and more.”

Libraries may have changed over the years — no longer do scribes tote scrolls and heavy tablets — but the need for a repository of knowledge remains.

Thanks to #ClubRoesch (see above), that knowledge is now also at our fingertips.

Audrey Starr is managing editor of University of Dayton Magazine. She — and her Kindle — are looking forward to joining Roesch Library’s next faculty/staff book club.

UD Libraries: A Timeline
May 4, 1866 First mention of a circulation record.
1876 Brothers’ Library referenced in House Council Minutes.
1887 Catalog lists library usage fee at $1.
1888 Catalog references a circulating library in the study room of each division.
1901 Need for new library shelving, additional space noted.
1904 Chaminade Hall houses two libraries, one each for faculty and students.
1906 A “special library” of spiritual reading books is referenced.
1910 “Central/general library” moved from second floor to basement of Chaminade Hall; named Zehler Library after Brother Maximin Zehler, S.M.
1920 Zehler Library moved to St. Mary’s Hall, first floor. Brother Frank Ruhlman, S.M., serves as librarian.
1927 Groundbreaking for new Albert Emanuel Library, with funds given by Chicago financier and alumnus Victor Emanuel ’15 in honor of his father. Opens in 1928 and initially houses 25,000 books.
1937 Engineering library housed in Nazareth Hall adjacent to Zehler Hall.
1943 Marian Library founded in celebration of the upcoming Triple Centenary (founding of Society of Mary in America, founding of the University of Dayton and the death of founder Father Chaminade, all in 1849-50). First book was Devotion to Mary in the Twentieth Century by Father John Aloysius Elbert, S.M.; first director was Father Lawrence Moheim, S.M.
1954 Brother Walter Roesch, S.M., begins 8-year term as head librarian; Brother Ruhlman is assistant librarian.
1956 Separate libraries for physics (Grady), chemistry (Wohlleben), biology, engineering, science (Sherman) and curriculum materials (Chaminade) are found on campus.
1962 Academic Council admits professional librarians to faculty rank; Brother Raymond Nartker, S.M., begins 23-year tenure as director of University Libraries.
1964 Two wings added to Albert Emanuel Library.
1969 Groundbreaking for new University Library; cost $4.8 million to build, opens in 1971.
1979 University Library renamed Roesch Library after President Raymond A. Roesch, S.M.
1985 Edward Garten serves as director of University libraries for 18 years; will be followed by Kathleen Webb, current dean of libraries, in 2005.

UD students are eager to chat with Roesch Library staff; it just may not happen face-to-face. Since 2009, the library has met students where they are in the digital landscape, hashtags,
handles and all.

“Social media is not just another platform to share information about library resources and events,” said Katy Kelly, communications and outreach librarian. “If all you’re doing is posting
frequent updates, you’re essentially yelling at your audience, and there’s nothing social about that. You need to have a conversation.”

Student communications via Twitter have helped improve library spaces, technology and services. At UD, staff use notification tools and search functions to observe what students are saying about the library and engage with them daily. Monitoring chatter offers insight into what students are frustrated by (slow Wi-Fi or loud students on quiet floors) while also providing evidence that the library is a popular place on campus.

“The idea of the library as a club appealed to them, especially when students are in the library late at night or on the weekend,” Kelly said. “The discovery of #clubroesch was exciting because
it was not only being used often, but it was also the sole label used by student culture. Club Roesch highlights what students want their peers to see, not just what they want the library — or librarian — to see.”

The hashtag allows students to converse with each other, trade Club Roesch anecdotes and comment on their library experiences — which also paints a clearer picture for staff of how the library is used and viewed by students. Librarians are also using Twitter to respond to reference questions.

Other hashtag campaigns hosted by Kelly and her team include a #roeschselfie contest (snap a picture of yourself using the library, be entered to win a gift card) and the popular Club Roesch VIP contest, held before finals week each semester, which asks followers to retweet a @roeschlibrary post.

What prize awaits the lucky winner? A key to his or her own study room for all seven days of final exams.

Not too shabby for 140 characters.

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Still crazy after all these years: Red Scare turns 20

2:15 PM  Dec 10th, 2015
by Caroline McCormack '16

UPDATE Jan. 7, 2016:

UD students’ passion for community is apparent when Red Scare is in full throat. CBS Sports Network highlighted these fierce and ferocious fans who see their support as just another expression of the UD community spirit. The video, left, aired prior to the Flyer men’s basketball team taking on UMass Jan. 6, 2016. Flyers won the A-10 home opener, 93-63.


The UD Arena was overwhelming the cold night of March 18, 2015. Dayton was trailing Boise State, but it was as if the students knew their cheers could make a difference. They began to scream louder and stand taller. The students of Red Scare didn’t want their chants to just go around the Arena; they wanted them to go around the nation.

The student section we’ve come to know, watch and love, whether from inside the Arena or on our TV at home, was not always burning red. Twenty years ago, students wanting to recapture the glory days of men’s basketball founded Red Scare. Today, Red Scare makes fans proud to be among the Flyer Faithful and rightly wins accolades of its own.

Red Scare’s creation story started in the fall of 1995 in 111 Evanston, a skinny two-story frame home where housemates Ashley Puglia Noronha ’96 and Katie Brown Konieczny ’96 hatched a plan to develop a student group to support the University’s athletics.

The seniors, you see, felt a little cheated. Noronha came to UD expecting the fan experience that birthed epic stories told by her alumni parents, Nora McNally Puglia ’70 and Fred Puglia ’65, who taught her UD’s fight song as soon as she could talk.

“When I came to UD as a student, I was shocked that no one else knew the song,” Noronha said.

In the Puglia household, NCAA and NIT wins made for “glory-days” basketball stories from a time when the UD fight song was sung constantly.

Noronha’s parents told of UD’s trip to the NCAA Tournament final in 1967 when UD played against UCLA and its 7-foot-2 center Lew Alcindor, later known as NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“UD lost, but my parents told me many stories of the dedicated fans and the camaraderie amongst them as they crowded into the UD student union to watch the games on screens that were specially set up for the occasion,” Noronha said. “My mom remembers that a student — in honor of the UD player Glinder Torain — painted on his car, ‘Who needs Alcindor, we’ve got Glinder!’”

Noronha wanted to resurrect the deafening cheers of the Arena and the pride that once filled the community, and she knew it was going to take a lot of energy and commitment.

The women took their idea of founding a student spirit club to Patricia “Trish” Kroeger ’66, UD’s spirit and special events coordinator for athletics. And she offered them her son, Joe, as one of the club’s first members.

Joe Kroeger ’97 had grown up with UD basketball, from selling programs before games at age 8 to running the coat check at age 14. He recalled the ’80s, when giants like Roosevelt Chapman and Damon Goodwin roamed the court and the Arena was electric. And he wanted to help bring some of that electricity back.

“The timing of it is really important,” Joe Kroeger explained. “Dayton was not winning basketball, maybe four games a year, so the [student] tickets were not selling. Our motivation was to fill the student section.”

The average attendance for men’s basketball in 1995 was barely 11,000 during the 7-20 season — still great by most universities’ standards, but more than 2,000 shy of the sellout the students thought their school deserved.

First, they needed to get students excited about filling the seats. Noronha said the enthusiasm was there — it just needed to be organized.

“Up to that point, students were scattered throughout the arena, so the fan power wasn’t cohesive,” Noronha said. “By bringing students together, Red Scare gave us an opportunity to support our fellow students in their athletic pursuits, for students to grow together in friendship, and to develop an appreciation for the distinguished athletic legacy of the University.”

Next, they needed to secure the seats. Trish Kroeger helped the student organization get a block of seats at football and men’s and women’s basketball games.

Finally, they needed a name. “Red Menace” and “Oliver’s Army,” for 1994-2003 men’s head coach Oliver Purnell, were thrown around, but the organization knew it had a winner with the name “Red Scare.”

“It was clever,” Joe Kroeger said. “It had a connotation that wouldn’t be associated with a group like ours. I rallied for it.”

A phrase once associated with communism and political radicalism was an unusual choice for a private university’s athletic support group. But it was unique and intellectual and had ways of making everyone start asking, “What is Red Scare?”

The organization started off small, Noronha said, debuting at the last football home game of the season, a 55-0 win over West Virginia State. Then Red Scare started filling five to 10 rows for the men’s basketball games, wearing shirts reading “Red Scare” on the front and “Go crazy or go home” on the back, painting their faces with red and blue paint, and bellowing the words to the UD fight song.

Soon students stopped asking what Red Scare was and started asking how they could join.

“There was a new and exciting energy around the program after a very challenging stretch of years,” said Michael Joyce ’96, one of the founding members of Red Scare.

Student participation rose, and men’s basketball home attendance rose — to above 12,000 by the 2001-02 season. And everyone had something to cheer about, including a 21-11 season in 2001-02 and a 22-14 season in 2002-03.

Red Scare — the honorary sixth man on the court — has gained appreciation from men’s head coach Archie Miller himself. Miller has repeatedly thanked Red Scare for its contribution through social media.

Miller tweeted after Dayton beat Saint Joseph’s, 68-64, “@red_scare you were fantastic tonight and we thank everyone who was at the arena helping us pull through! We have the best fans in COUNTRY.”

Players add to the praise.

After the Flyers’ 56-55 win over Boise State in UD Arena in the NCAA First Four March 18, 2015, then-senior Jordan Sibert told ESPN that UD’s crowd was a component for their success. “They were electrifying. … I don’t think we would have won that game without them,” Sibert said.

Red Scare also has found success beyond core sports as its spirit model evolved.

“I think we’re unique in the sense of putting a big effort in the non-mainstream [sports],” senior Ryan Phillips said. Phillips, the current Red Scare president, puts emphasis on appreciating all UD athletic programs. The crowds, victory chants and outrageous signs can be heard and seen at women’s basketball, volleyball, and men’s and women’s soccer games.

“We give them the home-field advantage,” he said.

In Red Scare’s recent past, students received coveted men’s basketball seats as groups by accumulating points for attending other athletics events. While it helped the other sports, it hurt basketball. Red Scare could look sparse or scattered when the student group could not fill its assigned seats because of class or other commitments, Phillips said.

At the start of the 2014 season, men’s basketball tickets became first-come, first-serve. Instead of getting points at other athletics events, students cheering at these events now receive free food, T-shirts or other giveaways from Red Scare. It worked, with the student section hitting capacity during some basketball games during the 2014-15 season.

Last season, Red Scare saw continued attendance growth and support for non-basketball sports, Phillips said, and basketball hit heights that would make the Red Scare founders proud. Men’s basketball had an average attendance of 12,718 and a team record of 27-9, including advancing to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Women’s basketball ranked 50th nationally in attendance — and first in the Atlantic 10 Conference — with 2,538, and the team advanced to the Elite Eight.

Although Red Scare puts the focus on cheering for all UD athletics, it also helps bring all Flyers, past and present, together, Phillips said.

“Everyone talks about community. Sports, in my mind, is one way you can experience true community,” Phillips said. “It’s not the University of Dayton Flyers. This is my University of Dayton Flyers.”

Red Scare has changed the game for athletics and all UD Flyers, say alumni.

“Over the years, the student section turnout and cheering has varied,” said Alan Hemler ’87, a men’s basketball season ticket holder. Hemler said he has loved watching students create a “high-energy environment” that supports UD athletics.

“The past four years of Red Scare have outperformed previous seasons,” Hemler said.

And the nation has noticed. In 2012, UD earned the title “Best Under-the-Radar College Basketball Atmosphere” from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Intersport. In 2013, Red Scare was nominated for a Naismith Student Section of the Year Award. And on March 25, 2014, NBC Nightly News highlighted the blue-faced, red-haired, flag-waving Red Scare in a feature on school spirit.

“The founding fathers are proud of the group — I certainly am,” Joe Kroeger said. That pride traverses the miles as he views the student section on TV from his home on the West Coast. “Keep it up for another 20 years.”

For a school that focuses on tradition and community, Red Scare is one embodiment. So here’s to 20 more years of Red Scare. May the chants always be loud, the seats be never empty, and the Flyer spirit soar.


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My place, my faith

1:55 PM  Dec 10th, 2015
by Erin Frey '18

The poncho underneath me crumpled. I found the most comfortable sitting position possible on the Capitol Building lawn and closed my eyes. Conversations in Spanish, French and English floated through the air, but I was most impressed that people had the ability to converse at 5 in the morning. Pope Francis’ Sept. 25 address to Congress wasn’t for another four and a half hours, yet I, and a crowd of around 50,000, were already gathered to hear him.

During the pope’s visit to D.C., I was one of the youngest members of the press corps, at the invitation of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. It was, at first, a professional opportunity — I’m a public relations major, and I tweeted the events for @daymag and gathered information to write this story. As a Catholic, it also became an opportunity of faith. You see, ever since I came to college I have been questioning what I believe. And I am not alone. According to a Pew Research Center survey of Catholics, only 30 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they attend Mass once a week, compared to 49 percent of those 65 and older. For the first time, I am being exposed to different religions and people making faith decisions based on something other than how our parents raised us.

I knew that, in the crowds gathered to see the pope, there were more like me who came to hear in his message not just words but a place for us in this worldwide faith. Maybe that is why, as college students, we are so drawn to Pope Francis. He talks, and we listen to him calling and challenging millennials as members of the Church that we didn’t know was ours all along.

The previous day, Sept. 24, I attended the Canonization Mass of Junípero Serra to live tweet what I experienced and to talk to students. I wanted to learn why so many of them were willing to wait in lines starting at 5 a.m. to attend Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The first students I talked with were four broadcast journalism majors from Duquesne University who were filming a documentary about Pope Francis’ visit. Why did they think it was important for college-age students like us to report at these events?

Junior Emily Stock said that, for the first time, she feels like students have a public figure we can all look up to, one who is finally doing what millennials try to do — accept each other.

“The pope is open-minded — he is a people-person,” she said. “He reaches out to undeveloped communities and appeals to both political parties.”

This was the first of many similar responses. The editor-in-chief of Catholic University of America’s student newspaper, Antoinette Cea, was next to me in line and joined in the conversation. “We [as Catholics] are comfortable being members of the Catholic Church again,” she said.

In the U.S., there are roughly 77.7 million Catholics, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, an increase of more than 20 million from 1965. But the number of Catholic millennials is decreasing. According to the Pew Research Center, only 16 percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 identify as Catholic, compared to 20-23 percent of those older than 35. My personal conversations with young Catholics mirror some of the reasons for this national trend: the Church’s views on marriage equality, divorce, abortion and contraception.

But as I walked around the basilica among 25,000, there was little discussion of what divides us. Instead, students talked about what united them to the leader of the Catholic faith: acceptance, humbleness, modern ideals and a charismatic attitude — not to mention a fondness for Twitter [see @Pontifex].

Although this was my first encounter with a pontiff, it wasn’t America’s. Pope Paul VI was the first pope to visit the U.S. in New York City Oct. 4, 1965. Pope John Paul II made seven trips to the United States over two decades. The last time a pontiff visited America was Pope Benedict XVI, who stopped in New York and Washington in 2008 where crowds of roughly 83,000 gathered, according to The New York Times.

Pope Francis’ visit to D.C., Philadelphia and New York was monumental because his trip coincided with national and international political discussions, including on the environment and the poor. Within a week, he canonized a saint, spoke to the United Nations, ate lunch with the homeless, addressed Congress and attended the World Meeting of Families.

While I was in D.C. on the lawn, UD students were in the Kennedy Union Hangar. Among the comfy couches and bowling lanes was a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 200 watching the address to Congress on the big screen and engaging on social media.

Sophomore Alexandra Altomare, who tweets at @alibearie7, spent that morning in the Hangar playing pope bingo (she earned a space when the pope said “joy” or discussed the “economy of exclusion”). She tweeted, “Started my morning with donuts, bingo, politics, and Pope Francis. I love UD! Very proud to be a Catholic today! #UDPope #pope2congress.”

Some of those same students, days later, piled onto two buses to join the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia Sept. 26-27. Pope Saint John Paul II started the World Meeting of Families in 1994 in Rome and, every three years, it is the largest gathering of Catholic families in the world.

The UD family included 111 students, staff and faculty who traveled together to witness Pope Francis’ arrival in Philadelphia, including senior Megan McAuliffe.

“I enjoyed celebrating and worshipping as one Catholic family,” she said. “Pope Francis called everyone to serve and care for each other as freely as God loves the human family.”

Pope Francis also spoke to inmates at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia. There, he said, “We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from traveling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey. He doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’t question us about what we have done.”

Back in Dayton, Dominic Sanfilippo, Jack Schlueter, Andrew Ekrich and I discussed Pope Francis’ visit around their duct-taped kitchen table at their Marianist Student Community house on Trinity Avenue. When asked specifically about Francis’ concern for our consumerist-dominated society, Sanfilippo said, “Pope Francis is calling us to be aware of how we walk around in the world. We have to take a step back from the world and question, ‘How am I acting today?’ We have set up the world where so many people profit at the expense of another and with our generation — it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Through Pope Francis’ various stops in the U.S. — and his willingness to talk about debated issues while remaining true to the idea of caring for the common good of all creation — he transformed for me the idea that Catholicism is just something practiced on Sundays into a ritual lived out in the way we accept others.

When Pope Francis finished his address to Congress, he emerged on the Capitol balcony and said, “And I ask you all, please, to pray for me. And if amongst you there are some who don’t believe, or can’t pray, I ask you please, to wish good things for me.”

The hair on my arms stood up and a chill raced up my spine. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. As I stood alone in the crowd, I knew I wasn’t the only one who was blinking back tears.

Through that simple statement, Pope Francis recognizes that while we all question our faith, we are accepted anyway. That one statement reaffirmed that there was and always will be a place for me in Catholicism.

Read more about what the pope says (and why we care).

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